Life After Life
By: Kate Atkinson
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past.
Oh my goodness, you guys, I finally got around to reading this book! As some of you may know–either from various discussion posts or from seasonal TTT TBR lists–I had been meaning to read this. I picked up the paperback some two years ago, having been wanting to read this book since I first heard of it. The premise sounded really cool, like the movie Sliding Doors or, a book I read more recently, Cynthia Swanson’s The Bookseller (sort of, anyway; review). After sitting on my TBR pile for as long as it has, I finally picked it up to read 🙂
By: André Alexis
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.
— I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
I first heard of this book when it was shortlisted for the Giller Prize 2015 and then again when it won. The premise of the novel sounded interesting so I kept on the lookout for it, snatching it up immediately shortly after it won the prize before they ran out of stock or anything (in short, prevent a repeat of what happened with Sean Michaels’ Us Conductors (review)).
Old Filth (Old Filth #1)
By: Jane Gardam
Format/Source: Paperback won from #FerranteFever contest held by Europa Editions
Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the English bar. Yet through it all he has carried with him the wounds of a difficult and emotionally hollow childhood. Now an eighty-year-old widower living in comfortable seclusion in Dorset, Feathers is finally free from the regimen of work and the sentimental scaffolding that has sustained him throughout his life. He slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, Feathers approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away.
Borrowing from biography and history, Jane Gardam has written a literary masterpiece reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s Baa Baa, Black Sheep that retraces much of the twentieth century’s torrid and momentous history. Feathers’ childhood in Malaya during the British Empire’s heyday, his schooling in pre-war England, his professional success in Southeast Asia and his return to England toward the end of the millennium, are vantage points from which the reader can observe the march forward of an eventful era and the steady progress of that man, Sir Edward Feathers, Old Filth himself, who embodies the century’s fate.
I had heard of this book in passing but never thought much to look twice at it until I won a copy from Europa Editions back in the summer of 2015. The premise of this novel sounded really interesting as it dealt with a part of British society in the early 20th century that I wasn’t terribly familiar with, especially in association with the former Empire and the way it operated.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
By: David Mitchell
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, and costly courtesans comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland. But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken—the consequences of which will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings.
Omg you guys, this book has been on my TBR queue forever. Whenever I update my TBR lists (yes, I do keep a written list of the books on my queue), it’s always there, at the top (well, top 3), indicating that it’s been on the queue for a very long time. After years of listing it on seasonal TBR lists for Top Ten Tuesdays, I finally opened the eBook and started reading it 😀
The Tsar of Love and Techno
By: Anthony Marra
Format/Source: eARC courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley
This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.
I read Anthony Marra’s first novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (review), two years ago and absolutely loved it; it was one of my favourite books read that year. I had no idea he was coming out with this story collection until early this year when fellow bloggers were talking about it so I was pretty excited about it. I was fortunate to have been approved an eARC of this book by the publishers through NetGalley for review. This book was published on 06 October 2015.