Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

November 2016, In My Reading Log

In the wake of my IFOA reading list and the literary prizelists of the season, my November reading felt relatively whimsical. Without duedates attached to the majority of my reading, it was a pleasure to slip into volumes which had sat untouched in recent weeks.

Each of these three volumes covers, in one way or another, […]

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Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am (2016)

In interview with Mark Medley in September, Jonathan Safran Foer discusses his new book, Here I Am, in such a way that it’s clear it feels distinct from his other writing for him.

Hamish Hamilton – PRH, 2016

Many of the attendees are carrying copies of his earlier books, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely […]

Page-turners and other gripping reads

What’s interesting about each of these novels is that none fits a traditional model in the suspense genre. Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door is the closest to a conventional thriller. But even her novel spends more time on characterization and atmosphere than many loyal genre readers would tolerate.

Nonetheless, she does rely on tropes to […]

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Harmless Like You (2016)

At the “Modern Families” roundtable at this year’s IFOA, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan explained that it only felt natural to build her characters with the seemingly endless details that comprise their lives, their selves.

Identity is clearly at the heart of her much-lauded debut, Harmless Like You, and a good part of that settles in the miasma of […]

Auđur Ava Ólafsdóttir’s Butterflies in November (2003; 2014)

Almost ten years after its original publication, Butterflies in November was translated into English from the Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon. (This was in 2013, by Pushkin Press, though the edition which appears below was published in 2014 by Grove/Atlantic.)

2003; Translated Brian FitzGibbon, 2013

It gained substantial attention with its listing for the Independent […]

Kate Taylor’s Serial Monogamy (2016)

“My books aren’t romances per se; they don’t even necessarily feature happy endings any more, they just conclude with hopeful moments that allow the reader to decide whether widows have the strength to go on or divorced dads find love for a second time.”

And there is nothing romantic about the idea of serial monogamy. One cannot […]

Storytelling or Chicanery: Trust in words

Sometimes, it’s clear who the bad guys are. Sometimes they’re clearly drawn, not only unsavoury, but also unprincipled.

Like the misogynists who people the Signy Shepherd series by Susan Philpott, in which women are rescued from life-threatening situations by other women working a type of Underground Railroad, called The Line. (Blown Red, 2015 and Dark Territory, […]

Bloody Summer 2016, In My Reading Log

Massacre, killer, murder: when these words appear on a novel’s first page, readers are fore-warned.

And, yet, the first third of Sara Taylor’s Boring Girls (2015) is a coming-of-age story.

“It was becoming more and more apparent that I had been right all along. No one could truly understand me, unless they got me.” Despite the ominous introductory pages, […]

Nadia Bozak’s Thirteen Shells (2016)

It’s with a subtle touch, but Nadia Bozak solidly roots the reader in time and place.

House of Anansi, 2016

This is not an easy task, because Shell only grows to the age of seventeen in Thirteen Shells — across thirteen stories, and childhood is inherently rootless.

So the details noted must be those within a child’s […]

Pauline Holdstock’s The Hunter and the Wild Girl (2015)

Despite its sedate and unassuming cover, Pauline Holdstock’s The Hunter and the Wild Girl begins in a rush.

Goose Lane, 2015

“With a shriek of splintering boards, the girl breaks into daylight and stands blinded, panting, sucking air as if it were a great hot soup, her chest heaving.”

This sentence and the following pages […]