Jesih is from Slovenia. Natural aspects of this country, along with the author’s own thrust toward existential questions, serve to inform the poems in the book. He takes notes while walking, while reflecting, and brings the reader along for the journey. One gets the sense from his poetry that Jesih is a peripatetic wordsmith.
After You has many strengths, including an important theme and a compassionate, capable central character who follows her instincts in the face of unsolicited advice. Well structured, with much dramatic tension, After You can stand alone, independent of Me Before You. Significant information from the earlier novel is worked smoothly into the narrative in a way that maximizes suspense.
These are close and moving readings that provide depth and personal insight into the narrative framework, the themes that pivot around mental illness and hunger, and the characters that become Wright’s partners through her own recovery. It’s not a facile recovery though. The memory of hunger is almost as acute as the hunger itself.
The theme of surrendering self is just one topic explored through thoughtful dialogue and prose. The characterisation of a sensitive topic demonstrates how it is possible that horrendous things happen, and even people living under the same roof don’t realise what’s going on. We see first-hand why victims sometimes can’t speak out until many years after the event.
To me, Go Set a Watchman is a worthwhile work, although I wish Ms. Lee had been more precise about the historical context and had made Jean Louise a little less naive. Stylistically, the novel is dated, but that makes it authentic to the place and time in which it is set. Given the shocking instances of racial violence in the United States this past year, it would seem that Go Set a Watchman is relevant to our times.
It’s not just the characters that descend to their lowest level in this book. It’s also the medical profession, governmental welfare programs, and Mobil Oil where Gavin works scraping rust off pipes. However, Laguna never lets the characters – not even the most peripheral – slip into stereotypes. The Eye of the Sheep is a tender and delicate novel, rich with sympathy and understanding, even when it becomes almost unbearably dark.
The Book of Strange New Things is like no other book I’ve read. It’s exquisite, sad, uplifting and doomed all at the same time. I wish that the ending was different, and know, somehow, that nothing else that would do. This is a book that will remain with me, working its way under my skin like the Oasan atmosphere.
Danny’s growth process through Barracuda raises questions about the nature of what it means to be a ‘good’ and self-fulfilled person, about marginality and the politics of difference – in terms of race, sexuality, and capability, about notions of ‘home’ and nationality (and not only with respect to migrants, though the migrant perspective is strong), how we make meaning in our life even when our dreams falter, the notion of privilege, and questions of class. All of these things are handled subtly and powerfully, through dichotomies that play out naturally through the course of the narrative.
There is so much diversity in the work presented – some of it written from the point of view of the migrant or even observer. The vantage point changes. The two editors, Julianne Schultz and Lloyd Jones open the book by orienting the reader, providing a kind of guide to modern New Zealand – from the indigenous history to the transition to the current polyglot nation “where all children learn Maori in school” and Auckland is one of the “most cosmopolitan cities in Australasia, boasting 160 ethnicities…” Roberto Onell takes a Chilean perspective, looking eye-to-eye across the Pacific Ocean to his neighbour 9,700 kms away. His essay, “To a neighbour I am getting to know” is translated, as are a number of the pieces in the books, also reflecting the polyglot nature of New Zealand. Following Onell’s essay is Li Po’s poem, translated from Chinese by New Zealand poet Ya-Wen Ho.
John Cheever is a wonderful writer, and his novel The Wapshot Scandal contains observed life and imagined adventure, bringing together ancient rituals and bourgeois affections and habits, private desires and deceptions and public reputations, romance called to reconcile a reality that resists, supernatural suspicions that subvert reason, and mournful, surprisingly poetic interrogations, as Cheever examines family and communal life. The novel does not contain stories that offer easy comfort, though their intimate cruelty and sensual pleasure and melancholy do entertain.