Schnitzler’s prose in Anthea Bell’s luminous translation can best be described as spare and poetic. Every detail seems not only important but necessary. There is a precision of scene and expression. Not a single word is wasted.
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Though The Narrow Road to the Deep North is very much a novel of war, and the impact of the war experience, it is also a love story. It is perhaps the love story itself – and the many manifestations of love, as it appears in the book, that affects the transformation. Love too is a permanent force, leaving its imprint, and changing us.
The cover illustration of Daniel Grotta’s Seven from Haven shows two appealing cats, one white, one black, posed with a tombstone. This picture captures the tone of Grotta’s seven short stories in this collection – gentle discomfiting tales of the unexplained, set in or near the Pennsylvania mountain village of Haven. The stories are intriguing, eerie and disturbing, and also have as themes big issues like civil rights, war, technology, and the bonds that link human beings.
All of the characters in this book are needy in one way or another, even those, like Keely’s mum Doris, who appear to be self-contained. These needs, some of which are complex and subtle, form a subtext that operates as a perfect contrast to the thriller-like action that escalates as the story progresses. The result is a beautiful, deep and engaging story that illuminates human frailty, teases out the nature of risk and compassion, and goes very deep into the heart of love, loss, and personal responsibility.
Fin Rising is the kind of novel that has something for everyone. It’s beautifully, poetically written, full of pathos and fun, and enough suspense to keep the reader fully engaged until the transformative, and very satisfying conclusion.
Though Street to Street often presents a bleak view, with university bureaucrats stifling creativity, talent thwarted and wasted, and beauty and love destroyed through lack of focus, it does seem to me to end on a very positive, and deeply tender note. The real richness of this novel begins and ends with language and the power that attentiveness to it has to overcome the foibles and day-to-day emptiness that seems to take hold of the two protagonists in this book.
The idea of a voyage as a way to truth, freedom and happiness is present throughout the novel. Glass, too, lends itself to metaphor, with Clotilde’s delicacy and the fragility of the marriage being just two examples. The dark underworld of Whitby echoes and reinforces the characters’ hidden emotions. Descriptions of craftsmen’s workshops, scientific curiosities, and street life let readers glimpse the lives and preoccupations of some Victorians.
The world of Maddaddam is harsh and often ugly world – particularly the Painballers – a group of criminals who have survived their Hunger Games style imprisonment a number of times and have lost their ‘humanity’ in the process. However, in spite of some pretty gruesome episodes, ultimately the story is a redemptive and satisfying one. The Craker’s naivety is charming, and beyond Toby and Zeb, the characters are delightfully Dickenesque – turning to fizz, flirting in scientific jargon, and cooking up a storm with weeds and lab-grown splices.
Laura Moriarty’s three earlier novels are well worth reading. My favourite of these earlier works is While I’m Falling. The Chaperone, however, is broader in scope and required more research than the earlier works. It is a maturation story which interweaves the themes of racial equality, adoption policy, human sexuality and women’s autonomy. The Chaperone will make readers question their assumptions and preconceived notions.