Gabbing about Graphic Novels: The Park Bench…

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gabbing-about-graphic-novels

Today’s graphic novel is a ode to the humble park bench from Christophe Chaboute.  We received The Park Bench from Allen & Unwin for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Chabouté’s enchanting story of a park bench was first published to critical acclaim in France in 2012. Faber now brings his work to the English-speaking world for the first time.

Through Chabouté’s elegant graphic style, we watch people pass, stop, meet, return, wait and play out the strange and funny choreography of life. Fans of The Fox and the Star, The Man Who Planted Trees and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood will find this intimate graphic novel about a simple park bench – and the people who walk by or linger – poignant, life-affirming and brilliantly original.

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Target Age Range: 

Adult

Genre:

Contemporary, realism

Art Style:

Line drawings, cartoon

Reading time:

About twenty minutes in one sitting

Let’s get gabbing:

The Park Bench is a longitudinal look at the life and times of a simple park bench, as seen through the eyes of those who use it.

One might not expect a great deal of feels, as the young people say, to arise in a wordless story about an inanimate object, yet The Park Bench is chock full of poignancy and moments that are quietly heartbreaking. The book follows various folk as they interact (or not) with a simple park bench, from the young sweethearts who carve a memorial to their love into the bench, to the elderly couple who routinely use the bench to share a baked snack, to the homeless man who just wants to have a kip without being moved on by a recurrent policeman. Some characters seem to be bit players, with a very small story arc – such as the businessman who trudges past the bench on his way to and from work and the jogger who uses the bench as part of his fitness routine – while other characters’ stories unfold throughout the tale. The story of the homeless man is, I think, the most developed of the bunch and the ending to that story is both satisfying and somewhat irritating, although it does prompt reflection on the various uses to which one can put their life and the vagaries of changing allegiances.

This is a right old doorstop of a book, yet it took me a very short time to get through it, given its graphic novel format. I suspect it’s one that is meant to be flicked through again and again, to allow details that were missed the first time to come to the surface.

The ending of the park bench’s story is quite bittersweet and filled with the same sort of quiet rebellion and “coming full circle” that colour the stories of many of the characters with whom the park bench has a relationship.

Overall snapshot:

I enjoyed this one, but the sparsity of text and the need to look carefully at panels that alternate between mostly blank and filled with action may not be to everyone’s tastes.

 Until next time,

Bruce

 

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Thank Goodness it’s TBR Friday!

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TBR Friday

I’ve got a gently odd little offering for today’s climb up Mount TBR.  It’s adult fiction (memoir?) The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide and translated by Eric Selland.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another.

One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.

The Guest Cat is an exceptionally moving and beautiful novel about the nature of life and the way it feels to live it. Written by Japanese poet and novelist Takashi Hiraide, the book won Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, and was a bestseller in France and America.

the guest cat

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Probably about a year?  I can’t say exactly as I didn’t buy this one myself.

Acquired:

Received as a birthday gift

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

It’s a very slim tome, so of course I put it off under the logic that as it’s so thin I could pick it up and knock it over anytime.  Also, the sensible, grown up, adultness of the subject matter had me a tiny bit intimidated, even though I asked someone to buy this for me because I wanted to read it.

Best Bits:

  • It’s rare to find such a gentle story in which the content is so limited, yet still engaging: this is literally a man reflecting on his life with his wife and the next-door neighbour’s cat.  I don’t think there’s any massive, deep analogy that I’m missing.  It’s a pretty straightforward reflection on life, relationships and loss. And the habits of cats.
  • The writing is … sublime seems too committed a word, but  maybe majestic could be a good way to describe it.  Majestic without being arrogant.  Rapturous but at the same time, quotidian.  There’s an elevation to the writing which makes the ordinary events being described feel like something important.
  • The book is slim and can be read quite quickly.  Alternatively, the content works well for just taking things a chapter at a time due to the lack of exciting action.
  • If you have a particularly deep love for felines, you will probably delight in the detailed descriptions of the cat’s cute idiosyncracies.
  • There is a section at the back with some notes that give context to some of the events that might be missed or misinterpreted by non-Japanese readers.  I found this quite helpful in re-examining a particular event toward the end.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • The print in this edition is teeny-weeny.
  • Without spoiling the events of the book for you, by the end of the book, the man and his wife seemed a little too attached to the cat to the point that it was interfering with their ability to move on.  Literally move on, since they move house.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Considering it wasn’t my money that paid for it, yes.  Particularly since it isn’t at all my usual type of read, and therefore it is unlikely that I would ever have bought it for myself.

Where to now for this tome?

I will probably pass it on to someone who will enjoy it. Or possibly sell it at a Suitcase Rummage.

This is another chink off the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block.

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

Shouty Doris interjects during…Aussie debut novel The Bit in Between!

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Shouty Doris interjects

Doris has joined me today for Aussie author Claire Varley’s debut adult contemporary novel, The Bit in Between, which features two mildly confused twentysomethings trying to nut out identity, destiny and love in the Solomon Islands. We received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia as part of the blog tour for the book’s Australian release – thanks Pan Mac Aus!

As Doris is shelfside today, you can almost be guaranteed that a spoiler of two will slip out. I try to tell her, but you know how she is. You’ve been warned. But let’s get on.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.

Immediately.

Inexplicably.

Irrevocably.

With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with ‘happily ever after’.

the bit in between

Now I know that I have a blanket policy of disliking romance books on sight – it comes from having a heart of stone, you see – but I do like to give an affirmative response when asked to review new release contemporary Australian books. This is mostly because I like to keep at least half an eye on what many people are picking up when they wander into a bookshop. So while I was interested in the Solomon Islands setting and the sun-dried tomatoes, particularly, I did have a certain sense of trepidation on entering this story, given that it is advertised as a love story of sorts.

I was happy to discover, however, that The Bit in Between is much more a story about relationships than romance. Phew. Oliver and Alison are an unusual pair, who sort of fall into a spontaneous relationship as much out of a shared sense of ennui as anything else. Oliver is a semi-successful published writer who hates what his publisher did to his debut novel, while Alison is adrift after an unsuccessful relationship with an attractive, narcissistic quasi-poet. I will admit that I didn’t particularly warm to Oliver at all throughout the book, but I became quite fond of Alison by the end.

Shouty Doris interjects

I didn’t like Oliver either. He needed a good kick up the backside with a pointy-toed shoe. Lazy sod. Instead of moping about and whinging about having writer’s block he should have spent his time getting a haircut and a real job. A bit of gainful employment and he wouldn’t have to worry so much about his girlfriend leaving him.

And that Alison! What a nincompoop! What on earth possessed her to take a fancy to that Ed character to begin with? And once she’d escaped from his tedious, self-absorbed clutches, why on earth would she go back?! Young people nowadays! It wouldn’t have happened in my day.

Ahem. Hold on there, Doris. I hadn’t even mentioned Ed yet.

Shouty Doris interjects

Well hurry up then. None of us is getting any younger. At my age, I’m lucky if I make it to the next commercial break.

Yes, well. Once the happy pair decamp to the Solomon Islands, the planned setting of Oliver’s anticipated tour de force, we are introduced to two characters who have the potential to be the most annoying creatures in contemporary literature. Rick is a loud-mouthed, thrill-seeking, hard-drinking American working for an NGO, who befriends Oliver and becomes an entrenched feature in the lives of the two Australians. Ed is Alison’s aforementioned ex-boyfriend who arrives in the Solomons unexpectedly and creates a fair bit of havoc (as well as some truly dreadful poetry).

Out of the two, I much preferred Rick. His interactions never failed to provide a bit of comic relief and I particularly enjoyed his plans to make his (as yet unnamed) band a sound to be reckoned with in the Pacific region and beyond. Similarly, his bout of malaria was quite amusing in both its outrageous enactment and the fact that one couldn’t help but indulge in a bit of schadenfreude. Ed, however, was just a pain in the proverbial. I have to agree with Doris, in that I didn’t find the storyline between Alison and Ed convincing at all, especially considering Alison’s personal growth throughout her time helping local women in the Solomons.

Shouty Doris interjects

A waste of space all round – both the storyline and the bloke.

The part of the book that I enjoyed the most was the inclusion of mini-narratives about minor characters – taxi drivers, passers-by, shop assistants – that gave a hint of these characters’ back stories and provided a bit of an interlude during transitions in the main story.

Shouty Doris interjects

I agree. All of the minor characters’ stories were more interesting than Oliver’s; I’ll tell you that for nothing. Even his ending was ambiguous – like the author couldn’t even be bothered to give him a definitive closing sentence. To be honest, I was hoping for the plane crash he was planning on writing.

That’s a bit harsh, Doris.

Shouty Doris interjects

I’d eject my own seat if I was stuck between him and Ed on a plane.

Well, your animosities for fictional characters aside, the ending to the story is quite ambiguous. I suspect that a particular interpretation is somewhat implied, but I was quite happy to deliberately ignore that interpretation and craft a much more satisfying (to me) ending in my mind. I think people will take what they want to out of the ending, depending on how they feel about the characters and relationships overall.

All in all, this was a strange beast of a read. It has elements of romance, social issues, personal growth, destiny versus decision-making, grief, loss, happiness, achievement and just a touch of something that could be magical realism. For all that though, the fact that I only really connected with one of the main characters made the read not all that it could have been. On the other hand, the variety of elements in the story, and the unexpectedness (unlikeliness?) of some of the events will keep readers on their toes in what will certainly be a great pick for those looking for a holiday romance novel with a bit of real life thrown in.

Shouty Doris interjects

Next time, there should be more about the women, who were the only ones doing anything meaningful, and less about silly blokes who couldn’t change a light bulb between them with an electrified light-bulb changing machine. Honestly, men just drag down a good story.

Present company excepted, of course, eh Doris?

Shouty Doris interjects

Definitely not.

Right. Fine.

Ignore the old bird, try the book.

Until next time,

Bruce

A YA (ish) Read-it-if Review: Hyacinth Girls…

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Welcome to a Read-it-if review for a book that has been on my Netgalley shelf for months and months and months that I’ve only just managed to get to.  Hyacinth Girls by Lauren Frankel, like The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, is one that I put off and put off because its publication date was so far off, only to find that I should have picked it up sooner because it is well worth chatting about.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Thirteen year old Callie is accused of bullying at school, but Rebecca knows the gentle girl she’s raised must be innocent. After Callie is exonerated, she begins to receive threatening notes from the girl who accused her, and as these notes become desperate, Rebecca feels compelled to intervene. As she tries to save this unbalanced girl, Rebecca remembers her own intense betrayals and best-friendships as a teenager, when her failure to understand those closest to her led to tragedy. She’ll do anything to make this story end differently. But Rebecca doesn’t understand what’s happening or who is truly a victim, and now Callie is in terrible danger.

This raw and beautiful story about the intensity of adolescent emotions and the complex identity of a teenage girl looks unflinchingly at how cruelty exists in all of us, and how our worst impulses can estrange us from ourselves – or even save us.

hyacinth girls

Read it if:

*you’ve ever been given a demeaning nickname

*you like adult fiction that is cleverly disguised as young adult fiction

*you’ve been clamouring for a book featuring young people and bullying, in which the characters are more than stereotypical, paper-thin, mean girls, and the adults have backstories too

Right off the bat, I have to acknowledge how unexpectedly noteworthy I found this story to be. When I flicked back to the blurb and found out that this was a “teen bullying” story I was preparing myself for the run-of-the-mill, mean girls scenario with cliques and rich bitches and everything we’ve seen before in a thousand movies and books. While the blurb gives the indication that this is a YA book, I think that this is actually properly realised adult fiction that features young characters and bullying, but focuses on deeper explorations of the characters, their motivations and relationships. [Interjection: Yes, I realise YA is “proper fiction” too, so no need to send the hate mail just yet]. I suspect that adult readers will get just as much out of this, if not more, than their teenaged counterparts and that is the mark of a good book all-round.

Hyacinth Girls is told in alternating points of view, beginning with that of Rebecca, who has become the guardian of teenager Callie after her mother, Joyce (Rebecca’s childhood best friend), was killed in an accident and her father committed suicide. The early parts of the story focus on Rebecca’s shock and denial when informed that Callie has been involved in serious bullying of a classmate. The story moves back and forth between the present day, as Rebecca tries her darnedest to clear Callie’s name, and Rebecca’s childhood with Joyce, her older cousin and his girlfriend.

About halfway through the book, the story switches to Callie’s point of view and the reader becomes privy to the “other side of the story” as it were. It isn’t too hard to see that Rebecca suffers from a sort of functional blindness toward Callie’s alleged behaviour and sharp readers will be pleased to note that their suspicions are confirmed in Callie’s telling of the story. Toward the end of the book, the perspectives change again as events come to a head and secrets and lies come back to haunt all the characters.

What I most appreciated about this story is that the characters are all deeply fleshed out. Each character has flaws and a back story and motives that are understandable and familiar, but not stereotypical. The book really explores the concepts of error and redemption through characters who are judged outwardly by their actions and characters for whom the judgement (and damnation) is self-wrought and internal. Hyacinth Girls manages to set itself apart from the crowd of “seen-it-all-before” books on bullying to really explore the people who engage in it, the people who fight against it and the people who unwittingly support it. I particularly appreciated the realistic fallout (or lack thereof) at the very end of the book, when the reader gets to reflect on the tumultuous events of the story and their impact on the lives of the characters in the context of a wider society of those who don’t have a personal stake in the lives of these particular young people.

Overall I think that aside from being a “bullying” book, Hyacinth Girls is just a really absorbing read.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

The Mirror World of Melody Black: An Adult Fiction, GSQ Review…

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imageIt’s time to unleash my psyche again as I deconstruct another book in a Good, Sad and Quirky review.  Today’s book is the second by Gavin Extence, author of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, which I reviewed a while back hereThe Mirror World of Melody Black deals with similarly difficult topics as that prior book and engages the same warmth and humour, but in a much-different context.  I (excitedly!) received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley.  Let’s begin.

When Abby crosses the hallway to ask her neighbour for a key ingredient in that night’s dinner, she does not expect to find said neighbour dead in his armchair.  As this unexpected discovery segues into the usual official processes that accompany such a death, Abby is interested to notice that, despite living in close proximity to her neighbour – Simon – his death, and Abby’s role in its discovery, bring up barely any emotional response for her.  From this point, Abby begins to explore, through her freelance journalism, why this might be so.  Is increasing urbanisation to blame for this isolation amidst a crowded city? And what do monkeys have to do with it? As Abby delves into this mildly intriguing  (for her) personal experience, her life begins to spiral out of control – from the heady, euphoric highs of hypomania, to the catatonic lows of depression.  The Mirror World of Melody Black explores what it is to be human – and to be crazy – in the context of modern, urban living.

 

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The Good

Before I even get to the content, I have to note that once again the cover designer for Extence’s work has outdone themselves.  After the beautiful green vista of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, we are now treated to this scintillating blue mosaic.  Gorgeous.  image

I think I can safely declare, after having read both Extence’s offerings, that I am now a confirmed fan of his work.  I really enjoyed the engaging first person viewpoint (Abby’s, unsurprisingly) that drove the story.  From the moment she forces (innocently) her way into her neighbour’s flat, I regarded Abby warmly and despite her incessant smoking (a filthy habit), wanted only the best for her.  As in his last work, Extence has once again managed to include a wide range of interesting characters as the narrative unfolds.  None of these is particularly well-developed, the focus being on Abby herself and her inner journey, but special mention must go to the slightly bemused, but ever-so-sporting Professor Caborn, and the no-holds-barred poet Miranda Frost, whom we should all aspire to emulate. Especially with the living in isolation with a couple of cats thing.

The book was just the right length too, I felt.  There are a number of distinct sections to Abby’s story and while they each change the tone and focus of the novel, Extence has achieved a nice balance with pacing so that the plot isn’t slowed down at any particular point.

The Sadimage

There were only two things on which I could metaphorically mark this book down.  The first is a personal quirk, for which the author can’t really be held responsible, but I will bring it up anyway.  Abby and her sister – grown women, both – refer to their father as Daddy.   There is nothing I find more annoying…well, actually there are plenty of things, but let’s just go with this melodramatic pronouncement for the moment…than grown people referring to their parents in such childish terms.  Particularly as Abby doesn’t dote on  her father, or have any kind of relationship with him really.  It seemed a bit odd to me that someone of Abby’s independent calibre would use such a term of endearment for such a man.  Personal quirk, but there you are.

The other thing about which I was mildly brought down was the fact that there is quite a significant section of the tale during which Abby is confined in a psychiatric ward.  As mental health and illness are one of our major interests around the shelf, we have read an awful lot of works featuring psychiatric wards, both fictional and otherwise, and reading about Abby’s time on the ward felt a bit samey, and did dull my enthusiasm just a tiny bit.  I do acknowledge however, that this is due to the fact that (a) I’ve read a stack of books about psych wards and (b) speaking from personal experience, there isn’t a wild degree of variety in the way that people experience such an institutionalisation.  So really, there was nothing wrong with this section of the book, I just found it a bit tiresome, having had the feeling that I’d seen (and read) it all before.

The Quirky

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The most unexpected part of this book for me actually appeared after the story had ended, in an author’s note, in which Extence details his own experiences with hypomania.  As interesting as his bizarre and ambitious ideas were during this period of his life, I was intrigued more by the fact that most of the people around him didn’t notice that his behaviour was indicative of some kind of mental disturbance.  (Although admittedly they could be forgiven for this on the banana point. Bananas are awesome).  I found this remarkably interesting because I have heard tell from professionals in the mental health field that it is not unusual for people to be in manic or even psychotic or delusional states for quite some considerable time before anyone close to them actually twigs to the fact that they are indeed manic, or psychotic, or delusional.  You fleshlings are so endearing when you’re pretending everything is normal when it so clearly isn’t.

The book also features Lindisfarne island, which you can google if it is unfamiliar to you. The island is quirky enough in itself to warrant a mention, but this was also one of the places that Mad Martha wished to go on her tour of the UK, but never quite made it.  To think, she could have been one of those pesky tourists mentioned in the book!

Overall, I’d definitely recommend having a bash at Extence’s new work.  If you have read The Universe Versus Alex Woods, then you’ll enjoy being drawn back into the world of a storyteller who does thought-provoking in an understated, yet impactful (is that a word?) way, with dry one-liners to boot.  If you haven’t read Extence’s first work, then let this be your introduction to an author that is now firmly ensconced on my auto-covet list.  I’d say auto-buy, but money is tight around the shelf since the fleshlings bought a mortgage, so I am now doing more coveting than actual buying.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

After Me Comes the Flood: Read it if…

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So it has come to this. My final review of 2014.  I wish I had something more epic for you, but unfortunately it’s just a plain old read-it-if.  Let’s get on with it quickly so you can get back to planning what incredible activities you’re going to get up to tonight to ring in the new year.  I’ll be in bed by 8, in case you were wondering.

Today’s book is one for the grown-ups – After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

One hot summer’s day, John Cole decides to leave his life behind.  He shuts up the bookshop no one ever comes to and drives out of London. When his car breaks down and he becomes lost on an isolated road, he goes looking for help, and stumbles into the grounds of a grand but dilapidated house.

Its residents welcome him with open arms – but there’s more to this strange community than meets the eye. They all know him by name, they’ve prepared a room for him, and claim to have been waiting for him all along.  As nights and days pass John finds himself drawn into a baffling menagerie. There is Hester, their matriarchal, controlling host; Alex and Claire, siblings full of child-like wonder and delusions; the mercurial Eve; Elijah – a faithless former preacher haunted by the Bible; and chain-smoking Walker, wreathed in smoke and hostility. Who are these people? And what do they intend for John?

after me comes the flood

Read it if:

* you like your literary fiction very literary indeed

* you enjoy novels based on characters with mysterious pasts, who are not very forthcoming about their motivations

* you don’t really mind when the blurb doesn’t give an accurate feel for what the story will be about

* you really, really like literary fiction

The keen-eyed observer may well detect a little bit of apathy in my read-it-if dot points today.  It must be said, that despite having very high hopes for this book, it just didn’t do it for me in the end.  About half way through I started getting the feeling that I had been seriously mislead by the blurb as to the goings-on in the story.  To me the blurb hinted at some sinister plot revolving around the main character – in reality, the characters don’t seem to have any particular intentions for John, the main character.  Well, apart from that of involving him in long, meandering conversations and cups of tea.  I think because I was expecting something very different from what was delivered, I felt much more disappointment with this book than had my expectations been otherwise.

Unfortunately, instead of finding the characters deep, mysterious and fascinating, I found all of them to be reasonably tedious.  An exception to this was Elijah, the ex-preacher who has lost his faith – I did eventually tire of him too, but of all of them, he was the one I felt least antagonistic towards, mostly because he seemed to actually have a backstory that had some depth.

If you enjoy books in which characters have (supposedly) deep philosophical conversations and an atmosphere that hints of events being stopped in time, then you may enjoy this book more than I did.  For me however, it was all just a bit airy-fairy.

I received a digital copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley.

So that’s it for 2014. Thanks for sticking with me this far, those of you who have, and stay tuned for Friday – I’ve got an absolutely ripping little collection of short stories to share with you to kick off 2015.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Adult Fiction Review: The Bone Road…

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Morning me hearties! Today I have a book for the grown ups.  It was released a while back, and I remember picking it up at that time but for some reason I didn’t get very far into it during that attempt.  This time however, I received a digital copy from the publisher via Netgalley (thanks!) and I was hooked after the first few chapters.  I give you…The Bone Road by Mary Holland.

In The Bone Road, we are first introduced to Rhona and Jak as they attend to the burial rites of their mother and grandmother respectively.  In the culture of those who travel the Bone Road, the dead are placed in the ground beside the road and left to return to the soil, and become part of the road that gives life to the Wid and the Zeosil who travel and camp along it.  Rhona then, must decide whether she will continue her mother’s work as a divvy – a woman gifted with the ability to sense life in the unborn, and to predict whether the child will be born a Wid, a Zeosil or a Shun (unable to breed) – and how she will fulfil her mother’s death bed task.  With unforseen danger closing in all around, Rhona will have to use all her resolve to fight for her place in a changing society.

 

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Now, first let me say, this is a complex book.  I was trying to decide whether to give it a Read-it-if review or hand it over to Mad Martha for haiku-reviewing, but neither of those seemed to fit this story, so I’m just going to do a plain old review.  (Never fear though, emergency protocols have kicked into place since this event and the hasty formation of the Maniacal Book Club has occurred to deal with such odd books out in the future!).

There is so much going on in this book.  In fact, I have got so used to reading kid lit and lighter adult fare, that I didn’t realise how hefty a read this was going to be…but I really didn’t notice the time I was spending on it because I was so engaged with the story.

Basically, the book is told in a number of parts that span many years – initially, Rhona and Jak stop in at a major camp and Rhona takes the decision to form a life partnership with Matteo, a Shun, whom she has loved for many years.  In the culture of the Wid and Zeosil, Shun people are a sort of untouchable class, and Rhona’s decision causes shock and some measure of outrage in the camp.  The initial part of the book deals with this circumstance, as well as Rhona’s attempts to put to rest the task that her mother gave her on her deathbed – to find and warn a lander woman (a person living in a settled community) named Selina about “the Rider” and the dangers he poses to the stability of Wid and Zeosil society.  The second part of the book…well, I can’t tell you much because it would be a big spoiler…but it focuses on Selina and her attempts to take revenge on a person in her household who has wronged her.

Essentially, The Bone Road tells the tale of a society that is in flux.  The travelling culture of the Wid and Zeosil is coming under threat from landers who are gaining more power and control of the Bone Road.  New alliances and enmities are being formed between Wid, Zeosil and Shun, and new ways of thinking about the Shun are causing friction within the travelling community.  So amongst all the action, there is a tangible thread of social commentary running through the novel.  There’s also a fair bit of violence, a bit of romance, a bit of mystery….a bit of everything really!

I would recommend this book for those who like a light fantasy – and by that, I mean where the fantasy is in the building of a different world, rather than in magic and mythical creatures.  I would also say that this book would appeal to those who enjoy women’s lit (I’d say Chick Lit, but there’s almost a disparaging twang that goes along with that term…) and stories set in worlds in which women have a dominant role to play.  Finally, I’d say this would be a great choice for those who like novels that fully explore relationships – between individuals, and also between communities.

This felt to me like a long read, even though it comes in at under 400 pages, simply because there is a lot going on.  There’s a lot of cultural information that needs to be explained, which may account for some of that lengthy-feeling, but also there’s a lot of complex things happening.  It’s certainly a book to pick up when you have time to spare, so you can really focus on slipping into the world and the culture and taking it all in.

Until next time,

Bruce