Written by Kiri English-Hawke when she was a schoolgirl, this short, insightful narrative affirms that the current generation of young people are still affected and troubled by the Holocaust of WW2 when ordinary citizens’ lives were scarred by an horrific and hideous conflict that made no sense. It is a remarkable achievement as it offers a very positive picture on the resilience of the human spirit in the landscape of war.
Like Faulkner, Salloum writes impressionistically and uses stream-of-consciousness narration, demanding that the reader do some work to put together the strands of the characters’ stories. While his main themes are race, and the Southern heritage while hers is poverty. In some respects, Salloum’s novel resembles John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in its celebration of people on society’s fringes.
The author of The Signature of All Things talks about her return to the novel, about shifting genre gears, about the impact of popularity and notions of success, the book’s epigraph, on achieving authenticity, her characters, on the spiritual aspects of her book, and lots more.
Millie’s plight alone should have had me in tears by page two, but Davis has drawn this character so skilfully that at no point did I pity her. Yes, I wanted to give her mother a slap for leaving her daughter in a shopping centre—but at the same time I understood why she did what she did. And that is the magic of this story: Everyone who has ever been torn asunder by loss will relate to these broken people.
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.