Lize's Reviews > Among Others

Among Others by Jo Walton
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's review
Sep 05, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012, dys-fun-ctional-families, sci-fi, monster-mothers
Read from September 06 to 16, 2012

“I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.”

I hadn’t heard anything about this one until I noticed that it had beaten both China Miéville and George R.R. Martin in the Best Novel category at this year’s Hugo awards. Curious, I had it downloaded to my Kindle in just a few seconds, and it didn’t take long to completely charm me.

It’s set in 1979 in Wales and England, and is told from the point of view of fifteen year-old Morwenna Phelps, who is ferociously precocious and a voracious reader (of science fiction and fantasy especially.) I was twelve in 1979, somewhat of an age with the character, and had also read and loved a lot of the titles she mentions, which was great fun. The story begins as Morwenna is leaving Wales for England, to live with a father she barely knows following a car accident that killed her twin sister and left her with chronic injuries. Or was that what really happened? There are witches and fairies, a posh boarding school and a really monstrous mother, ghosts and household objects that contain a magic of their own:

“At home I walked through a haze of belongings that knew, at least vaguely, who they belonged to. Grampar’s chair resented anyone else sitting on it as much as he did himself. Gramma’s shirts and jumpers adjusted themselves to hide her missing breast. My mother’s shoes positively vibrated with consciousness. Our toys looked out for us. There was a potato knife in the kitchen that Gramma couldn’t use. It was an ordinary enough brown-handled thing, but she’d cut herself with it once and ever after it wanted more of her blood. If I rummaged through the kitchen drawer, I could feel it brooding. After she died, that faded.”

And everywhere, dozens of literary references, from Douglas Adams to Kurt Vonnegut, and a deep and abiding love of the transformative power of books, something I bet a lot of readers will identify with. I certainly did. Because that’s what this really is in the end—a big valentine to those of us who would rather read than do almost anything else.

Another thing I really enjoyed was that the author has managed to create a character who is believably fifteen; she’s as annoying as any precocious teen I’ve ever known, and can be a horrible literary snob with everything figured out, but you never get the sense that she’s got thirty-five years of life experience behind her, which was the trouble I had with something else I read recently.

I can’t believe I’m the only one of my acquaintance who has read this—fans of Charles de Lint and Peter S. Beagle should really enjoy this, but it would work for anyone who considers books to be a member of their family.
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8.0% "The 2012 Hugo award winner for best novel. I'm already beginning to understand why."
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Isabel (new)

Isabel This sounds interesting! Going to add this to my list of books to get.

message 2: by Skyring (new)

Skyring I loved it! I was more or less reading the same books at the same time. I serially devoured the high school library, looking for science fiction and fantasy and when I first cracked Lord of the Rings open on the school bus, it was magic. Pure magic.

message 3: by Erica (new)

Erica Color me intrigued!

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