As 2011 came to an end in a blur of essay deadlines and Christmas festivities, a tired, happy Ellie didn’t quite manage to keep on top of the book review blogging. Here is a summary of what I read in November and December:
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace (1999): A very different, quite brilliant collection of stories, mainly consisting of the titular interviews.
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht (2011): A deathless man, a bear man, and an actual tiger escaped from a zoo – the folkloric whimsy of this book drew me in, but the story and the main character lacked emotional resonance.
They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell (1937): A quiet, compassionate, beautifully told story about the effects of the outbreak of Spanish influenza in America towards the end of World War 1.
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (2009): Eilis Lacey travels to America from Ireland in the 1950s. A tender, understated story with an unsurprisingly great eye for detail.
Amongst Women by John McGahern (1990): A friend of mine described McGahern as “a rustic Colm Tóibín”. Reading this straight after Brooklyn, I can see exactly what she means.
The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark (1963): “Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions.” A promising start, and it doesn’t disappoint. Nice use of prolepsis, too. Oh yeah. I know about that stuff now.
The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda (2005): In the South African town of Hermanus, a man who communicates with whales finds himself caught between his favourite leviathan, Sharisa, and the beautiful yet shambolic Saluni, the town drunk. By turns playful, lyrical and deeply moving, this book reminded me how much there is to enjoy in modern African literature. More, please.