Expanding My Ideas
I make good progress with a self-imposed reading marathon, and really wish I was fluent in Italian.
Issue 15, Saturday 5 February 2022
New and Forthcoming Titles
Just a few new books caught my attention this time around:
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
This looks intriguing. Solomon wrote a very interesting SF novella a couple of years ago called An Unkindness of Ghosts, which I quite liked. Sorrowland looks good.
Solomon’s most powerful work yet. Vern, a pregnant Black teenager, escapes the secretive compound of the cult she was raised in and gives birth to twins in the woods. Thriving there despite a sinister presence she calls “the fiend,” Vern becomes aware of something else growing in her body, unsettling its rhythms and forcing her to take her children on a long, difficult journey in search of support. Like its heroine, “Sorrowland” refuses comforting half-truths in favor of furious integrity.
Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi
In the 2050s, Earth has begun to empty. Those with the means and the privilege have departed the great cities of the United States for the more comfortable confines of space colonies. Those left behind salvage what they can from the collapsing infrastructure. As they eke out an existence, their neighborhoods are being cannibalized. Brick by brick, their houses are sent to the colonies, what was once a home now a quaint reminder for the colonists of the world that they wrecked.
The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzie
Australia has some terrific crime writers. And here’s a debut novel from another, which sounds very good.
In Northern NSW, heavily pregnant and a week away from maternity leave, Detective Sergeant Kate Miles is exhausted and counting down the days. But a violent hold-up at a local fast food restaurant with unsettling connections to her own past means that her final days will be anything but straightforward.
Other Book News
Official biography of Terry Pratchett to be published
A Life With Footnotes, by the late author’s former assistant and friend, has been authorised by Pratchett’s estate and is due to be released in September
I’ll definitely be buying a copy of this when it comes out.
Completed since last issue
Seven books read in the two weeks since last issue. Pretty good rate of reading!
The Expanse: Books 1, 2, 3 by James S. A. Corey
As mentioned last issue, at the beginning of the year I set myself the challenge of re-reading Books 1 to 8 of The Expanse series before I allow myself to tackle Book 9, the final. It’s pretty challenging, since each book is about 600 pages long, but I managed to read the first three of them in January and have been enjoying the process. At that rate I should be able to start on Book 9, Leviathan Falls sometime in May. Onward and upward!
Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill
I’m afraid that I was disappointed by this. It’s been given great reviews, won several awards, and my co-host Perry nominated as one of his best reads of 2021 on our podcast, but neverthless I struggled to finish it.
It’s ostensibly a crime novel (it won the Ned Kelly Award in 2018), but it doesn’t fit comfortably in that genre for me. It has an unusual concept, that of two very different characters, each of whom is a writer who thinks that they are writing a novel in which the other character is the protagonist.
Clever idea, I guess, but I found the actual story very tedious, and the “mystery” of the murder in one of the threads was pretty slim and its resolution unsatisfying. The ending of the book is a definite downer.
As a technical feat, yes, it’s impressive, but the end result did very little for me. Your mileage, of course, may vary (and it seems like I’m in the minority here, so it’s likely!)
The Lost Daughter (La figlia oscura) by Elena Ferrante
I’ve been wanting to start reading Ferrante’s works for some time, and I was prompted to begin on this one because it’s the basis of a new movie directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal and starring Olivia Coleman.
I really wish my Italian was good enough to be able to read this in the original, and I’m almost tempted to try it (my local library has a copy in Italian), but it would be a big struggle. This was a good translation though, and gave me an impression of the simplicity and power of Ferrante’s writing.
Leda is a middle-aged woman living in Florence who sets off for a holiday on the coast. Her two grown-up daughters now live in Canada with their father, from whom Leda is estranged.
On the beach one day, Leda is fascinated by a young woman and her small child, a daughter, and how they interact with each other and with a battered old doll which the child, and sometimes even her mother, treats as though it were a real baby. They are part of a large family group which Leda observes closely.
As the story moves along we get an increasingly detailed insight into Leda’s past, and how badly she feels she has treated her own daughters, contrasted with the loving behaviour of the young woman and her child she sees on the beach.
At one point the child goes missing and her mother and the large family group panics before Leda locates her and brings her back. But at that point Leda does something inexplicable and hard for her to explain even to herself. I won’t give it away; but this is a deep psychological character study which was excellently done.
I hope to start reading through Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, starting with My Brilliant Friend (La mia amica geniale) some time this year.
Sweet Harmony by Claire North
I’m a huge fan of Claire North’s work, but I found this SF novella a little disappointing. It plays on the idea of being able to purchase software packages for nanobots injected into your body. And like anything subject to capitalism, it becomes a trap for those conned into purchasing too many such packages. Harmony is a young woman who goes further and further into debt purchasing one upgrade after another for her body. But then the bill becomes due…
Clever, but not as compelling as her longer books.
Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore
I’ve only just this minute finished reading this YA novel, too recently for me to write about it at length just yet. I liked it a lot, and will try to do a full review in the next issue.
Waiting on the Shelf
The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope: another project for Standard Ebooks, the fourth in the Barsetshire Chronicles series.
Stone Sky, Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe: a historical novel set in Australia’s goldfields, from the point of view of Chinese miners.
The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher: Disher’s latest crime novel.
And that’s it for another issue. Please feel free to comment and to share this post with your friends.