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Natives and Exotics

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  93 ratings  ·  17 reviews
In the manner of W. G. Sebald's The Emigrants, Natives and Exotics follows three characters, linked by blood and legacy, as they wander a world scarred by colonialism.

Transplanted halfway around the globe in 1970, nine-year-old Alice, the child of diplomats, is ravished by the beauty of Ecuador, a country her parents are helping to despoil. Forty years earlier, Alice's n
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 10th 2006 by Mariner Books (first published 2005)
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Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Anyone who is living in a country not their own should read this.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
Not bad, exactly, just couldn't get into this. It's three different stories (and continents) packed into a relatively short novel, and the characters suffer for it. The author's love for the natural world does come through nicely, but the theme of humanity despoiling nature is heavy-handed. Might have worked better as an environmental nonfiction book. ...more
Jean Grant
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: literary fiction lovers, historical fiction
Recommended to Jean by: I was looking for books on the Azores and found this in fiction.
This is an aspirational book for me: brilliant but dense. What I adored were the pages set in the Azores--the astonishing portraits of reverent Mr. Clarence and the shaggy George.
From September 2005 School Library Journal:
Man’s attempts to subdue nature are at the heart of this novel about one multi-generational family’s experiences with “civilizing” the world. The novel opens with 9-year-old Alice traveling to Ecuador with her mother and stepfather, one of a slew of families who congregate there in the 1970s to help American oil companies reap the benefits of that country’s oil exports. Largely undeveloped until that time, Ecuador is thrown into political and social uph
Katy Cesarotti
Jul 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Alison weaves together three disparate storylines from the same family, dealing with themes of alienation, home, and origination. All of her characters express a profound love for nature, and this love is reflected in Alison’s rich descriptions and imagery. Because the storylines only tangentially intersect, I initially had some trouble connecting to the characters. Shifting between parts of the story was jarring, sending the reader catapulting across time and space, essentially restarting the s ...more
Aug 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: a-to-z-project
A to Z project, book 9
I suspect that when I was younger I might have been wowed by this book. It follows several generations of a family as they are transplanted to locations around the world: Scotland, the Azores, Australia, and Ecuador. They're all connected to the land: its geological changes and the movement of plants. It's elegantly written and laden with symbols. If I were to be so crass as to sum it all up (and I shall be) it reminds the reader that we are just a species like any other in
I have found some gems on the New Fiction shelves in my local library. This is one of them. Alison describes three generations of a family, each living in a different situation and part of the world and each loving and exploiting the part of the world in which they live and travel. Her descriptions of characters and surroundings are vivid and the stories are engaging. By the end of the book only one of the stories felt completed. The reader is left to intuit or create the lives of the other two ...more
Nov 19, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a really quick read. I only gave it three stars for three reasons: 1) there was an immense sadness that traveled throughout the this book. While I think the author tried to amend that in the end, it didn't make me feel any better. 2) I didn't like the way it jumped back and forth with strong divisions between lives. They were all intertwined. I would have liked that to be more strongly shown. 3) It wasn't nearly long enough!

Overall, a good book, but definitely not one that will go on my
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
lovely book! quite enjoyed it. tells the story of three different generations of a colonialist family in different periods of time. great-great grandfather in the azores, the grandmother in australia, and the grand-daughter in equador. particularly enjoyed the narrative and narrative voice of the great-great grandfather (wept, in fact) but all the voices of all three were engaging and interesting. i think it is really cool that my professor chose to teach it -- not an easy book to teach but so m ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
More a collection of novellas, linked by a multi-generational story and a meditation on colonialism of various sorts and how the natural world has been altered by human migration. The writing is lyrical and a pleasure to experience, and the exotic locales in which the human narratives unfold are surprising and places worth spending one's time in. The characters, especially the women, are also worth spending time with. ...more
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like philosophy, travel
This one of the best books I ever read. I loved the exploration of how people and land belong to each other (or vice versa), and how that relationship extends or doesn't to immigrants-- like can a person from Australia adopt a Latin American country? Can that country adopt her? Wasn't bothered by the generational jumping-- each generation presented different allegories on everything from the battle between man and God to what is home. ...more
Emily Mellow
Nov 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: story
This book was pretty good... It started out really great, but kind of petered-out. There were several loosely connected stories. I think I would have liked it better if it was just one big tightly woven story. I did like the writing and the topics: global travel, exotic plants, transgenerational stories.
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
I read this for my book club. I finished it only because it was a book club pick. The beginning was engaging, a young girl is uprooted from Austrailia with her mother and step father to South America. She falls in love with her new location. The author then leaves her completely to start what seems to be a completely new book idea that I just couldn't get into. ...more
Jun 09, 2008 rated it liked it
A bit dry in places, slightly uneven in storytelling, but overall a good adult fiction choice.
S. Renee
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I adore this author.
May 25, 2007 rated it liked it
It's a novel with a lot of gardening. I don't like plants. But I do like latin america, so that was neat. ...more
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Jane Alison was born in Canberra, Australia, and grew up in the Australian and U.S. foreign services. She attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and earned a B.A. in classics from Princeton University. Before writing fiction, she worked as an administrator for the National Endowment for the Humanities, as a production artist for the Washington City Paper, as an editor for the Miami New Times ...more

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