Among Others

Monday, August 8, 2022

Among Others
Jo Walton, 2011

Hugo Winner - 2012

Premise: Mori was a twin. Mori lived in Wales with her mother and her relatives and the fairies. Now facing boarding school in England due to the demands of her father's family, she must navigate her family, the world, her responsibilities, and first love—alone.

This shouldn't work. It's a fictional diary chock full of references to novels from the '60s and '70s. The fantasy is delivered mostly with an incredibly light touch. 

It's amazing. I adored it.

I love the voice. She's authentically a bookish teenager who can debate the morality of a sci-fi novel in one breath, make fun of an adult's fashion sense in the next, and despair both over a cute boy and a deep family trauma. The magic she's experienced is explicitly vague and coincidental, raising all sorts of fascinating questions both about reality and about ethics. 

The narration even felt just potentially unreliable enough to keep me guessing through much of the book. Due to the diary structure, the plot seems like it's meandering sometimes, but it's just as fun to read about her relationships with the girls at school as her attempts to contact fairies, etc. And everything serves the same ends - following along as she rebuilds her relationship with the world and everyone around her after a nearly unthinkable tragedy.

I wanted to go read all the books she's read (those I haven't already), and I feel like I know the characters well. It's just a fantastic book all around.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

Tracks

Monday, August 1, 2022

Tracks
Robyn Davidson, 1980

Premise: A memoir of one woman's solo journey across the Australian desert. 

I tried to start this book a few times, but the beginning didn't really hook me. This time, fortified by some recent recommendations on a forum for outdoorsy women, I pushed on and quite enjoyed it once the story picked up. 

I wish I'd realized earlier in the book that it was released in 1980 and took place in 1977. (I knew it wasn't a modern book, but I didn't realize it was quite that old when I started reading.) Aspects of the relationships between people and the political situations and people's attitudes make much more sense with that context.

I think I was initially frustrated because much of the first part of the book chronicles Robyn's struggles to prepare for the trip she wants to take, but it takes her a long time to actually make much progress toward her trip. Eventually, the narration acknowledges this (including her feelings of ambivalence, aimlessness, mixed feelings about actually taking a trip, etc.), and I felt more connected to her character. 

I liked her descriptions and impressions of the Australian wilderness and the camels she used to cross it. I liked her attempts to convey the altered mental state she felt making that journey, mostly alone.

Overall I liked the book, but I didn't love it.

3 Stars - A Good Book