Ru traces the life of one woman swept from her home in the wake of Vietnam's war and taken to Quebec to rebuFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Ru traces the life of one woman swept from her home in the wake of Vietnam's war and taken to Quebec to rebuild her life without wealth and without a common language. As a young girl, our unnamed narrator lived in a peaceful, luxurious world until the Communists invaded Saigon and overturned the Vietnamese government. In the aftermath, her parents and two brothers escape to an overcrowded, muddied refugee camp in Malaysia and later make the dangerous sea voyage to Quebec, where our narrator becomes a deaf-mute girl in a country dominated by French- and English-speakers. As an adult, she returns to Vietnam for a three-year period and finds she's an outcast once again. Then, as a mother, she takes on greater challenges after her two sons are born, and she must learn to shape her love around her youngest son's autism.
Kim Thúy's narrative flows effortlessly between past and present, threading Vietnam's history with a young girl's stolen memories, while honouring the many people who helped the girl and her family reach a newer, safer future in foreign lands.
Ru caught me off-guard with its devastating details and its non-linear, poetic approach to capturing one woman's tumultuous life. I gravitate toward episodic narratives, and I appreciate well-crafted literary fiction—in Ru, Kim Thúy uses the ideas and memories of her protagonist to dictate the structure of the narrative itself, and connects brief moments throughout this woman's life in a thematic, stream-of-consciousness framework.
In the French-speaking world, Ru has won a bevy of Grand Prix across the board, and now, thanks to Sheila Fischman and the folks at Random House Canada, English-languauge readers can share in this remarkable work for the first time—and trust me, you'll want to do just that as soon as possible.
Ideal for: Fans of Canadian literary fiction and memorable immigration narratives; Readers who love non-linear, poetic writing or vignette-structured narratives; Readers fascinated by representations of the Vietnam war in fiction; Folks keen on exploring Quebec's tremendous (and contemporary) literary scene....more
Welcome to the future, where the apocalypse is a fixed point in the past. Most North American cities have beFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Welcome to the future, where the apocalypse is a fixed point in the past. Most North American cities have been wiped out by Malaspina, the Roving Glacier of Death, who unleashed its fury in the aftermath of global warming. Medical care is supplied by networked nanotechnology called the Bionet, and human nervous systems can now be hacked and re-programmed at the whim of underground DJs. And we haven't even touched on the Newman armies and human clones who aided the downfall of humankind…
In this post-FUS era, mysterious forces are drawing together an unlikely group of survivors for unknown ends. Abby Fogg is an anachronistic digital film archivist sent to recover an interview transcript from an aging pop star's personal collection. Al Skinner is a former mercenary of the Boeing Army and a recent "forgetfulness junkie, a man who's downloaded his memories to external hard drives in order to forget—but the past never stays silent for long. Woo-jin Kan is a gifted dishwasher with the Hotel and Restaurant Management Olympics medal to prove it. He lives with his foster-sister, Patsy, an obese "pharmer" subsidized by the government to grow various drugs and human tissue transplants within her fat. After Patsy's suddenly air-lifted from his life, Woo-jin is given the task to write a book about how to love people—but where to start?
Over them all hovers a mysterious man named Dirk Bickle who puts people in the right place at the right time—and all of it culminates in a full-scale replica of Manhattan under construction in Puget Sound. Just an average tale from the End of Days, no?
Blueprints of the Afterlife is bursting with plot and, sometimes, even calling it "surreal" seems an understatement. I loved the hard science behind the Bionet, the sinister edge to DJing, and the capabilities of downloading memories; however, I almost bailed on the book due to the first chapter. Dick jokes and excessive cursing can only take one so far. I worry that many readers would jump ship on this book after that intro, despite the fact that second chapter— Part One of Luke Piper's interview transcript—offers a fascinating, well-written antidote to Woo-jin's crass narrative. Also, gotta love the CanCon, even if most of it focuses on the nation's destruction by a sentient glacier. Nice to get a shout-out in a genre where few examples exist.
Overall, quite the tour-de-force when it comes to science-inflected, "End is Nigh" literature, though I do warn readers to proceed with caution (and not just because of the polar bears…)
Ideal for: Post-apocalyptic fans in need of an acid drop; Readers keen on discovering the space where hard science and surrealism collide; CanCon-aholics; Dystopian fans who like their narratives epic....more
Within the circular maze of black-and-white-striped tents, and against a midnight canvas of stars and white fOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Within the circular maze of black-and-white-striped tents, and against a midnight canvas of stars and white fire, circus patrons lose themselves in the unmatched wonder of Le Cirque des Rêves. But behind the smoke and mirrors lies a fierce competition waged between two illusionists, bound to the contest by their teachers' on-going gentleman's agreement. Celia and Marco have trained since childhood to compete in a "game" with no clear timeframe and no concrete rules. Unbeknownst to the players, this game allows for only one victor, and the circus will be the venue for a remarkable battle of imagination and endurance.
As the circus travels through Europe and then on to the world, the feats of magic spiral to fantastic new heights at each location. But the game absorbs the lives of all those involved in its waking dream—from the eccentric circus owner and the elusive contortionist, to the forlorn fortune-teller and the red-headed twins born into the venue. When Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, the duo transform the competition into a collaborative effort without knowing that the game must end in sacrifice…
Erin Morgenstern hypnotizes with her prose and offers a bright window into a world where mystery pervades and magic is entirely real. The Night Circus is comprised of short, quick chapters that are ideal for commuting readers, though the non-linear movement through the narrative might disorient at times (re: near the end where we jump between 1901 and 1902 in quick succession). Though, being a fan of Doctor Who, I enjoy those breaks from an "A to B" novel structure. I understand now why fashion designers and graphic artists have been captured by The Night Circus, given the lush attention to clothing and the overall style of the circus proper. An excellent book for October in particular, with a steaming cup of tea at hand.
Ideal for: All the kids who ever dreamed of running away with the circus; Readers who love modern fairytales and magic realism blended with a nice bit of tea; Romance junkies who crave an extra bit of magic in their stories; Folks with a soft spot for Halloween and the otherwordly....more
Jonathan Safran Foer (the fictitious character, not the author) is a young American Jew who travels to UkrOriginally published on Across the Litoverse
Jonathan Safran Foer (the fictitious character, not the author) is a young American Jew who travels to Ukraine in search of Augustine, a woman who may have saved his grandfather during the Nazi liquidation of the small family shtetl of Trachimbrod. Armed with an old map, several packs of Marlboro cigarettes, and endless reproductions of his grandfather's photo of Augustine, Jonathan sets out across Ukraine's countryside with a motley crew of Heritage Tour guides—his translator and soon-to-be comrade, Alexander ("Alex" or "Sasha") Perchov, Alex's "blind" Grandfather (who is also the driver on their trek), and the Grandfather's "seeing-eye bitch" (Sammy Davis Junior, Junior)—to uncover Jonathan's lost roots and to discover his own grandfather's salvation from the Holocaust.
I admit, any attempt to recap the general plot of Everything is Illuminated is almost impossible to write—Jonathan Safran Foer creates a narrative timeline that flows both forward and backward in time, and even quickens or slows in pace depending on the events of a given scene. He references and cross-references small moments or details throughout the text, all of which could easily be missed on a first reading of the book. In addition, Foer balances his text between deeply humorous scenes (i.e. the infamous vegetarian confrontation, Trachimbrod's town records, LIFE, AND THE LIFE OF LIFE), meditations on the difference between actual love and the misguided love of love, reflections on writing and the active construction of memory, and descriptions of those heartbreaking, sob-inducing moments (i.e. Yankel's protection of the young orphan, Brod, and his efforts to remember her in his old age; the creeping revelations regarding the abuse in Alex's family; and the Grandfather's tragic decision during the war that brought both evil and good into his world, etc.)—and while it seems like a broad spectrum of topics to tussle with, Foer does so with great care and an obsessive eye for telling details. I can only imagine how an undergraduate seminar might tease out the meaning of this novel, especially in the cases where a class would dedicate an entire semester to studying a single book. I would have loved to explore these pages in those excitable undergrad years, and I feel a reader could spend countless hours navigating this text with highlighter in tow, all in the hopes of uncovering new insights and missed layers of meaning…
Ideal for: Book club members who need to shake up their same ol' picks; Readers who are not afraid to weep in public (because you most certainly will, folks); Fans of experimental fiction, magic realism, and nonlinear narratives; Readers who gravitate toward historical fiction, especially relating to the Second World War....more
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller offers itself as a meta-textual love letter addressed to readers throughout the world. Italo Calvino directs his atIf on a Winter's Night a Traveller offers itself as a meta-textual love letter addressed to readers throughout the world. Italo Calvino directs his attention to the universal experience of the Reader, an individual who carries his own perspectives and experiences throughout a text and helps to build a narrative space in which a reader and a writer can interact. The Reader negotiates ten incomplete novels throughout his journey, and his frustrated efforts to find one uninterrupted narrative compels him to pursue the dangerous path of the ideal, romantic Other Reader as she explores what is unattainable within the written word.
Gosh—who knew textual criticism could be so damn sexy?
Ideal for: Readers craving self-consciousness and due acknowledgment within a text; writers intrigued by the construction of a novel and how potential readers might interact with a work; readers in need of a rigorous mental stretch. ...more
Pascale Quiviger creates a breathless, borderless world of narratives containing a host of women who fumble with the concept of creation. Whether theiPascale Quiviger creates a breathless, borderless world of narratives containing a host of women who fumble with the concept of creation. Whether their focus lights upon new life or buzzes around the act of writing, these characters must learn to accept the balance between creation and its inevitable destruction.
Each narrative thread in The Breakwater House lures readers down another dark corridor in the lives of Quiviger's characters, and the fine line between truth and fiction wavers in the half-light. Different women are drawn to the act of storytelling to both protect themselves and to shield the truth from delicate ears. Aurore spins elaborate tales to reconcile the violence in her past, and to protect her daughter from the truth. Suzanne makes time each Thursday for impromptu therapy sessions with her friend Gisèle where the women dance around their problems with light, gossip-drenched conversations. Both women pass this desire for stories on to their daughters, Lucie and Claire, with disastrous results.
The single through-line in this novels is a haunting one: "You will lose only what you can't let go of." The sentiment touches each character and takes on new meaning as it passes. Quiviger offers some complex ideas to mull over even as her writing scrapes out a magical illusion for readers to hide in.
Ideal for: Readers with a penchant for the supernatural and the introspective; fans of French-Canadian prose; literary snobs who like their ladies edgy and eloquent....more
This book defies the simple confines of genre, form, and narrative and offers a maze of writing to wander through. The shifting, disorienting presenceThis book defies the simple confines of genre, form, and narrative and offers a maze of writing to wander through. The shifting, disorienting presence of the house is mirrored through the physical layout of the book, an ingenious trick to lure readers into the text. It is interactive fiction at its finest and it will force readers to leave the light on for the long hours of the night.
The book will also inspire readers to reassess the general structure of their own homes, inducing a paranoia that perhaps there are pockets of darkness where none should be. Each creak in the walls will help stoke that general, inexplicable fear. Also, the desire to produce writing with ample footnotes is considered a symptom of reading said novel.
Ideal for: readers with a penchant for the paranormal; folks who welcome sleepless nights; multi-taskers; former undergrads in love with footnotes....more