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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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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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
This is a story about twin teenage girls who escape small town life and head for the city. It is about identity and judgement and racism is on every page, much of it ostensibly black on black though the lynching of the girls’ father shows this colour preoccupation is far more than cosmetic in the context of 1950s Louisiana. There’s a lot in this small book.
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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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Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
I liked Less a lot.
Arthur Less is a white middle-aged, gay, American man walking around with his white middle-aged, gay American sorrows. Well, that is the character in a novel Less is writing. “It’s a little hard to feel sorry for a guy like that,” says a friend. True that.
But somehow we do! Arthur Less is a lovable white middle-aged, gay, American man. All the boys say he kisses like he means it. And Less is nursing a broken heart. He is confused and struggling to understand the depths of his emotions. His much younger ex, Freddy, is about to marry someone else. Less lets him go, because he loves him so much and doesn’t believe he can make him happy. Less leaves town to escape the despair of loss. Continue reading “Less – book review”