Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
Yes, yes, yes. Can Barbra Kingsolver write yet another ground-breakingly brilliant novel? Can this intellectual powerhouse of a woman, at 67, write convincingly as a troubled, drug addled, abused orphaned boy? And finally: how on earth does she do this – is she a shape-shifter? As to the question: do you have to read David Copperfield first to understand Demon Copperhead? The answer is no. The book stands on its own, the nod to Dickens a realisation that the societal blindness of 170 years ago hasn’t changed. The bottom of the pile still stinks.
Hillbillies. They’re a bit of a joke, surely? It’s an historical term for unsophisticated, rural folk who live in the boondocks and marry their cousins. This story takes us there, into the hills of Lee County, Virginia, to the deprivations of trailer-life poverty and a boy, Damon, growing up hungry in a fully dysfunctional life. They try to own the word “hillbilly” but it still owns them.
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The Paper Palace, by Miranda Cowley Heller
This felt like an over-crafted book from the start. We get the climax scene (haha, literally) and then, in dribs-and-drabs, the day that builds up to it and the day that follows, jabbed through with a long (and perhaps irrelevant?) history of the protagonist, her mother, her grandmother, her father – so many back-story characters slowing down the read. I just wanted to skip over them and get back to the main plot.
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Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
The Lincoln Highway follows Amor Towles’ masterpiece that is A Gentleman in Moscow, which I highly recommend. That’s a hard act to follow and this new novel is bigger and more ambitious with a wide cast of characters, multiple viewpoints and a storyline that deliberately goes in the wrong direction. Where the Moscow gentleman was confined to one hotel for almost the entire book, this 580 page monster of a story roams halfway across America.
It is in the style of a classic 1950s American roadie and features a group of footloose young men and a couple of cars.
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Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owen
Go jumpin’ in this book, gonna get yo’ boots muddy. Ain’t no warming up. Git your ear in. Ma’s gone wearin’ her gator shoes. It’s a sho’-nuff mess.
In Where the Crawdad Sings, Owens transports you with a splash straight into the marsh on the Carolina coast where nature rules and life is determined by instinct and genetics. If you observe the marsh closely, the patterns of the fireflies and rituals of the preying mantis, we’re not so different to the critters.
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