Many novelists have retold classics from bygone eras. One thinks of Jane Smiley’s retelling of King Lear in A Thousand Acres and Curtis Sittenfeld transforming Pride and Prejudice into Eligible. The fun in reading adaptations lies in seeing how the characters turn out in a new setting, and whether or not the author retains the theme of the original classic.
Oliver Smuhar’s The Gifts of Life is a deep and entrancing novel, with its strong fantasy based plotline and elements of the coming of age genre. The rich and well thought out characters created clever relationships and delightful banter.
The life of the town centres around the pub, and the way in which the death provides a source for gossip, intrigue and transformation, but also in some respect brings the town together to support one another is charming. Cedar Valley is immensely readable and progresses in ways that are unpredictable but also smooth and natural.
The narrative presents a deftly crafted tale relating the journey of a young woman who manages to face, accept and overcome what many would believe to be an impossible childhood. Periods of normalcy are interspersed with periods that are anything but normal, receiving and unexpectedly having pets given away, or left behind, left on her own way too often by both her Mother and Wolf cause Fiona to do much of the raising of herself.
It takes strength of character to pursue, and create, human wretchedness in all its shapes for 360 pages. Like many unreliable narrators before him, Norman K ranges from obnoxious to villainous in his pretension, and The Diary of Norman K shows how uniquely we puts on airs, down to a style of speech best described by his “friend” Russell as “an Elizabethan aristocrat who had just woken up from a two-hundred-year coma.
Jasper Jones remains a nobody – the silent, disappearing hero in Charlie’s life, but he is also heroic – the catalyst to change and growth. Although there are dark edges to Jasper Jones, this is a wonderful, beautifully written, positive story of personal transformation which lingers with the reader.