Julie Christine's Reviews > Landfalls

Landfalls by Naomi J. Williams
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So recently set adrift by two novels with multiple points-of-view, each chapter taking me through my paces with a new voice, each novel leaving me parched for emotional resonance as though I were desperate sailor drinking sea water, I thought, 'No, not again," when I embarked upon this voyage with Naomi J. Williams and her debut Landfalls.

Okay, I'll stop with the silly seafaring metaphors.

But I won't stop raving about this unputdownable tour de force, crashingly good, tsunami of a novel.

Williams offers a kaleidoscopic view of the ill-fated Lapérouse expedition of 1785-89, which saw two frigates filled with over two hundred men attempt a circumnavigation of the globe for the glory of science, human endurance, and the maritime prowess of France. With each chapter the kaleidoscope shifts, offering a different perspective—from seaman to scientist, Tlingit child to French castaway. Several of the chapters were published as short stories and in many ways this novel is a collection of individual works, as Williams leaps nimbly from voice, perspective, and style. Yet with each landfall, the threads of characters' lives are woven through the narrative, connecting each part to all those which precede it and the underlying tension of a well-paced thriller holds you fast. The author frames a daring, complicated structure and shores it up, page after page, with a gripping, marvelously inventive, and historically solid story.

The scope of Williams's research is breathtaking yet, like modern masters of the form Mary Doria Russell, Hilary Mantel, David Mitchell, you are drawn naturally, unresistingly into a distant era by flesh-and-blood characters. Heartstrings are pulled in the opening pages and are never released, until the gasping end. There is humor and irony, violence and tragedy, longing and despair. I greedily devoured the pages of a dreamlike obsession with a child bride at a Chilean outpost, gasped at the crystalline and savage beauty of Alaska, burned with anger over sadistic priests on the California coast, mourned love found and lost during the heartbreaking Siberian journey of a translator and his devoted bodyguard. The scope of history and setting, of character and voice and emotion, is nothing short of astonishing.

This is simply the best of what historical fiction can be: a voyage of discovery that speaks to the imagination and the heart, swallowing the reader whole like a literary whale.

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Reading Progress

September 2, 2015 – Shelved
September 2, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
October 13, 2015 – Started Reading
October 13, 2015 – Shelved as: australia-new-zealand-south-pacific
October 13, 2015 – Shelved as: european-setting-multiple-countries
October 13, 2015 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
October 13, 2015 –
page 46
14.6% "Heavens. Why aren't more people talking about this novel? 46 pages in and I'm calling it at 5-stars."
October 14, 2015 –
page 102
32.38% "Forcing myself to set this aside and get on with my day. Utterly captivating. May be year's best debut."
October 15, 2015 –
page 156
49.52% "Oh, that autumn fog along the Pacific Coast. Deadly to ships and sanity . . ."
October 16, 2015 – Shelved as: best-of-2015
October 16, 2015 – Shelved as: france-french-theme-setting
October 16, 2015 – Shelved as: read-2015
October 16, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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message 1: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth fantastic review. you've listed some of my favorite authors. I have been looking for just this book. also, I sure LOVE your reviews. thank you!


Julie Christine Elizabeth wrote: "fantastic review. you've listed some of my favorite authors. I have been looking for just this book. also, I sure LOVE your reviews. thank you!"

Elizabeth- I could hug you! Thank you so much. This book. Just so good- I hope you enjoy!!


message 3: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie Beauteous review, as always, Julie. The book does sound fascinating. I'm realizing (after Twain's End), that historical fiction isn't a genre I love, though. Will have to think about. But fun to see your unabashed enthusiasm!

(Btw, still plan to comment on your sad experience with The Life and Death of Sophie Stark. I don't feel bad that you hated a book that I loved. It happens!)


Julie Christine Debbie wrote: "Beauteous review, as always, Julie. The book does sound fascinating. I'm realizing (after Twain's End), that historical fiction isn't a genre I love, though. Will have to think abou..."

I can't get my head around not reading historical fiction--it's too much a part of how I learn about and experience with world past and present. But it also makes no sense to spend precious reading time on things that don't delight or engage the intellect!

Oh goodness, I didn't hate Sophie Stark- I never would have finished if it bothered me that much. I just didn't connect with it enough to warrant a review (and I don't write negative reviews).

Thank you, my dear!


message 5: by Debbie "DJ" (new)

Debbie "DJ" Wow, fantastic review Julie! Hmm, someone sure can write.


Julie Christine Debbie "DJ" wrote: "Wow, fantastic review Julie! Hmm, someone sure can write." I can't help it, when a book is this good! I channel the writing spirit :D


message 7: by Debbie "DJ" (new)

Debbie "DJ" You sure do! So torn, as I love historical fiction, but just not interested in topic. What the heck, am adding. :)


message 8: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Ahoy there, I loved your sea-faring metaphors - they weren't overdone at all, neither at the beginning nor at the end;-)
The name Laperouse rings several bells for me so this book might be something I'd embark on in the future. A couple of years ago, I was on holiday in a little mountain village in the south of France, and in the local chateau museum there was an exhibition about the Laperouse expeditions because the owner of the chateau in former times had been one of the admirals sent out in pursuit of Laperouse. That bit of trivia only stuck in my mind because I was reading the first volume of Proust's Recherche at the time and not only was one of the ships called La Recherche, but Proust had named the street in which the woman whom Swann obsessed about lived, Rue de la Perouse, and I was struck by all those coincidences. Reading your review today is another coincidence because I've just finished Nabokov's story of obsessional love, Lolita, and couldn't help being reminded of the obsessional loves of both Proust's narrator and Swann himself, and since Nabokov's book turns on coincidence, I also couldn't help sharing this...


Julie Christine Fionnuala wrote: "Ahoy there, I loved your sea-faring metaphors - they weren't overdone at all, neither at the beginning nor at the end;-)
The name Laperouse rings several bells for me so this book might be somethin..."


Fionnuala,

Oh, how I love this. Laperouse being the madeleine that took you back to the south of France. Which was the village? Lapérouse was from Albi, so I wonder if the village wasn't nearby.

The Universe of Proust. It's been years since I've read À la recherche du temps perdu -- college -- how much I've forgotten. Someday, again.


message 10: by Claire (new)

Claire Wonderful review Julie, this sounds very tempting, if only I wasn't in a reading slump.


Julie Christine Claire wrote: "Wonderful review Julie, this sounds very tempting, if only I wasn't in a reading slump." Claire, I think you would love this novel. What this reading slump business? No!


message 12: by Fionnuala (last edited Oct 22, 2015 10:07AM) (new)

Fionnuala Julie wrote: "..Oh, how I love this. Laperouse being the madeleine that took you back to the south of France. Which was the village? Lapérouse was from Albi, so I wonder if the village wasn't nearby...."

Entrecasteaux - not too far from Aix...


message 13: by Claire (new)

Claire Julie wrote: "Claire wrote: "Wonderful review Julie, this sounds very tempting, if only I wasn't in a reading slump." Claire, I think you would love this novel. What this reading slump business? No!"

Well, not intentionally, just a slowdown post summer, hoping the cooler season will revive it though and a few good recommendations ;)


Julie Christine Fionnuala wrote: "Julie wrote: "..Oh, how I love this. Laperouse being the madeleine that took you back to the south of France. Which was the village? Lapérouse was from Albi, so I wonder if the village wasn't nearb..."

Ah, yes. No, nowhere near Albi! But still beautiful. Mmmm....


Julie Christine Claire wrote: "Julie wrote: "Claire wrote: "Wonderful review Julie, this sounds very tempting, if only I wasn't in a reading slump." Claire, I think you would love this novel. What this reading slump business? No..."

This would be the perfect antidote to post-summer blahs!


katrina Exquisite


message 17: by Flo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Flo This Is indeed a wonderful, sad, beautiful, thought provoking book and that it's her first novel--simply amazing.


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