An excellent read for those interested in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and the transitions time has wrought. A somewhat melancholy, sad story, the tale nevertheless manages to present the pathos of the time without becoming maudlin.
In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert, famous for her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, presents a fictional early 19th century woman botanist. Alma Whittaker arrives at a theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest almost simultaneously with Charles Darwin, whose seminal work, On the Origin of Species, was published in 1859.
Stylistically, Kohler makes excellent use of interior monologue, alternating between Freud and Ida. The novel is presented in a poetic, intimate way that encourages readers’ intense emotional involvement. Kohler also makes effective use of “flashes forward”, interrupting the present of the story to provide tidbits of information about the characters’ futures. The novel is suspenseful. We wonder: Will the young woman give in to Freud, or will she assert her own interpretation of her feelings? What becomes of her and the adults who poisoned her teenage years?
Danny’s growth process through Barracuda raises questions about the nature of what it means to be a ‘good’ and self-fulfilled person, about marginality and the politics of difference – in terms of race, sexuality, and capability, about notions of ‘home’ and nationality (and not only with respect to migrants, though the migrant perspective is strong), how we make meaning in our life even when our dreams falter, the notion of privilege, and questions of class. All of these things are handled subtly and powerfully, through dichotomies that play out naturally through the course of the narrative.
Baldwin combines a breezy, easy to read writing style with years of classroom experiences to produce a well written work filled with short to a little longer sketches that offer a peek into the life of teachers and parents. While not every offering is meant to be humorous, the ones that are do bring a smile to the lips and giggles during the read.
I think it’s probably fair to say that Aaron Paul Lazar is one of the most readable of authors. His books are engaging, warm, and moving in a way that, if it’s a tad old-fashioned, still retains a modern sensibility and drama that comes from the real issues the work tends to address. I’ve been reading his mysteries for a long time now, and as someone who doesn’t tend to like genre novels, have always been drawn in by the way the plot is shaped by a deep sense of character development.
Without wishing it to sound anything like routine: another extraordinary novel from James Sallis.
This one, like many of his others, is hard to pin down exactly. Paranormal, science-fiction and metaphysical elements vie within a crime story a la Savage Night, about a hitman on his last job. Perhaps that catch-all label ‘slipstream’ will have to cover it.
Though solving the crime does certainly drive the narrative pace in The Lost Girls, this book is a rich, dense novel, that goes so much deeper than whodunit. As is almost always the case with Wendy James, her blockbuster, airport styled covers belie the fact that this is as much literary fiction as it is a crime novel, driven, above all, by character development and exquisite writing.
Kidd’s extensive historical research does much more than provide a backdrop to the story. The period details further the plot. For instance, the Grimke family acquires a state-of-the-art copper bathing tub on wheels, an innovation which allows a lying-down bath, and can be drained rather than dumped or bailed. When Sarah discovers Handful emerging from this tub in her room she feels, at first, that her privacy has been invaded. Then she realizes that “Handful had immersed herself in forbidden privileges, yes, but mostly in the belief that she was worthy of these privileges.
Hand in Glove is a different type of mystery that will make you wonder whether a comedy team such as Abbot and Costello wrote the script, acted it out in order to elicit the laughs readers will get when reading this book. The characters are quite different and yet all they want to do is solve the case but not before some other wild and zany things happen.