Marina Lewycka’s We Are All Made of Glue
Viking – Penguin, 2010

Typically, I plucked this library loan off the stack just two days before it was due back. It had been sitting there for 19 days along with the other xx library books (now come on, you can’t expect me to admit that publicly) whilst I’d been slipping between four or five (or ten or twelve) other books, not especially tempted by this We Are All Made of Glue because I hadn’t (unlike nearly everyone else, it seems) read A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian.

And while I can appreciate the DIY motif of the cover art, admittedly neither that, nor the glue thing, worked to pull me in. I thought maybe I’d read a chapter or two and return it to a more deserving reader the next day, but I ended up reading the whole thing in two days.

Quote: “When Rip and I first fell in love, I sometimes used to imagine us as romantic characters in a great tempestuous love story set against the turbulent background of the miners’ strike, transgressing boundaries of wealth and class to be together. I was his door into an exotic world where noble savages discussed socialism while soaping each other’s backs in t’ pit baths. He was my door into Pemberley Hall and Mansfield Park. We were so full of illusions about each other, maybe it was bound to end in a splattering.” 25

Said splattering provides the impetus for the narrator to become far more involved in the life of an elderly neighbour than she likely would have if her marriage had remained intact. It’s this relationship that provides the bulk of the tension and humour in the novel and sustained my interest in the story.

But, ultimately, I think the appeal laid, for me, in timing: it was one of those right-read-at-the-right-time experiences and provided a pleasant distraction from more serious, demanding reads. Had I picked up the book on a different day, I don’t think I would have read it so eagerly, but, even so, I’m still curious about Marina Lewycka’s first novel which has garnered such extensive praise.

Zoran Živković’s Impossible Encounters: A Mosaic Novel (2000)
Trans. from the Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić
Aio Publishing Company, 2008

Okay, I admit it: I borrowed this book from the library simply because I loved the cover and the subtitle: A Mosaic Novel.

My favourite kind of stories are interconnected stories. I love finding a minor character in a collection take a major role in a later story in the collection. It brings the paged world to life and makes it irresistibly True.

And the glossy black cover, at once non-descript and bold, an inch or two shorter than most of the books on the shelf: also remarkable.

And then I noticed that the third story was called “The Bookshop”. I was hooked.

And you might think all this would add up to a cautionary tale. But, no: I loved this wee book of stories. And admittedly, it was not a true gamble because the Tantalizing Glimpse inside the cover informed me that Zoran Živković had won the World Fantasy Award for an earlier work.

But it was still a whimsical choice, about which I shall say only a little because it was such fun to discover it myself, but I will say that I thought I was in for a treat when a character in a story herein took note of a book titled Impossible Encounters and it just got better from there.

Has anyone else chosen a book recently just for its cover? Or been pleasantly surprised that something you’d planned to sample ended up being a full-read after all?