There are a small handful of authors who are widely acknowledged as the Greats of fantasy literature. With his highly influential, much beloved novel 'The Last Unicorn', Peter S Beagle is one of those Greats. So, when I saw that he has a new novel coming out this year, I obviously had to give it a try.
Summerlong is a slowly building, highly atmospheric read set in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, on a commuter island near Seattle. There, retired historian Abe Aronson lives a pleasantly cantankerous life, joined regularly by his girlfriend Joanna, a stewardess nearing retirement. Together, they have a wonderfully sardonic, yet very comfortable relationship, which has grown very close over the twenty years that they have been not-married and not-officially-dating (but sleeping together nonetheless). It's rare to see such a curiously uncategorised couple in literature.
One day, they go to their usual local restaurant, where a new waitress catches their eye. Lioness is special. She has a classical look about her, as if she belongs into antiquity. Somehow she shines and draws everyone's attention without meaning to.
It is Joanna who offers her a chance to stay in Abe's garage when Lioness complains of the cold of her current bedsit. And so Abe gains a lodger who leaves an impression on him, Joanna, and Joanna's lesbian daughter, and who appears to be on the run from something vague and undefined.
The novel is richly evocative and atmospheric, slowly building a sense of the unreal from subtle beginnings to ever more archetypal, mythical proportions. It's full of detail that adds to the atmosphere, but lean and not bloated with a single unnecessary word. The human relationships, dialogue, habits - they are utterly authentic, as if taken from real life.
If you like mythical fantasy, it is a wonderful treat. Even if that's not a genre you're familiar with, you'll struggle to find a more absorbing, beautiful novel this year....more
In summary: Vanished does a good job of being a coming of age mystery thriller. It is educational in the way it depicts Palestinian society, though understandably one-dimensional in its view of Israelis. It's worth a read for anyone who wants to know what living in Gaza must have been like in the recent past....more
I found Losing Israel very slow and quite meandering to begin with. The first quarter of the book is not very engrossing, which does not bode well for its chances at finding a large audience.
Once I got used to the nonlinear literary rambles, the book did become interesting. It never really moves beyond the back cover summary in terms of events, so whether you find it absorbing will rely heavily on how interested you are in getting a glimpse of another person's life and views. I would recommend the book to other people who have never themselves been to Israel or the Palestinian territories, but who want to understand the issues that cause the conflict in that area, and to readers wishing to glimpse the conflict through the eyes of a liberal Jewish Israeli Expat.
The book also stands out because it isn't biased and one-sided, unlike most things written about Israel and Palestine. Jasmine Donahaye interrogates the history of Israel through the microscopic perspective of her own family history, and then maps that onto the larger history. She goes out of her way to find truth and reality, and wrote as truthful a book as she could.
However, it is very much a book about the past, with comparatively little interest in the present, and virtually no interest at all in the future. It's good background reading about 1948, but won't help anyone trying to imagine a different future for Israel or the Palestinians, and to me, that was a little disappointing.
In summary: if you like steampunk, Victoriana, history, geek culture, comic books, postmodern storytelling and/or a cute aesthetic, then The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is well worth your time....more
Brief summary: The book reminds me of Ann Leckie's and John M Ford's writing. If you enjoy both (and especially, the latter), then Too Like the Lightning is likely to be a special treat for you. It's packed full of ideas, but very demanding. My own tastes are a bit less high-brow, so I found the lack of resolution in the plot as frustrating as the utopian philosophising was rewarding....more
In summary: It’s a fairly grim and serious novel about messed up and unpleasant people, with a heroine who chafes against the constraints of society as much as she self-loathes for her failure to be a “good girl". The first half is a slog through intrigue, the second half is pacey, but it's a book that seems to have been written for school classroom discussions rather than for being enjoyable to read.
In summary: Every Heart a Doorway is a story of longing, of not belonging, of friendship, of adolescence, and of murder. It's a novella that packs more ideas in its short length than many a full-length novel, while keeping the reader entertained with witty repartee and fast prose. Its main flaw is that it is far too quick: as a reader I wanted to spend more time in this world with these characters....more