What books are we reading at Polari HQ this week?
How do you tell a story that’s as well worn as the darkening clouds of War in late 1930s Europe and the Nazi occupation of Paris? Create a narrator with a smooth, speak-easy American voice to carry you along, set the novel in the world of Weimar jazz dives and Parisian clubs, pepper the plot with a range of hybrid characters – literal half bloods many of them – and spice it up with a tensely unwinding story of jealousy and betrayal, that’s how. This is Canadian writer Esi Edugyan’s second novel and it’s beautifully written, incredibly engaging and she even has the nerve to include the great Louis Armstrong as a character! This was nominated for both the Booker and the Orange Prize, and she’s definitely a writer worth following in the future.
Andrew Darley – We The Animals by Justin Torres
Justin Torres’ debut has totally blown me away. In just 128 pages, We The Animals beautifully captures the lives and the unity of three brothers growing up in an often conflicted home. Torres has an ability to capture moments of joy and despair which transcend the written word. His style of writing communicates so much by saying very little. It doesn’t happen very often that I find a book as invigorating, moving or as inspiring as this. This is not a should-read; it is a must-read!
Christopher Bryant – Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
I’ve just started to read the eighth and last in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. I have a thing for reading kids’ books, but that said I agree with Phillip Pullman that this is a misleading category anyway. Artemis is a great creation, the child prodigy criminal mastermind who discovers the realm of the fairy people and sets about exploiting that discovery. It’s the fairy Holly Short who is my favourite of all the cast of characters. She’s the anchor to which the reader clings because she’s down-to-earth, and not a genius like Artemis (or the thoroughly camp and unconvincingly heterosexual centaur, Foaly). She does her best, and struggles with her limitations. And she’s funny. In fact, Colfer’s humour is one of the best things about the book. It’s so very tongue-in-cheek, and so very Irish. This last book sees the return of Opal Koboi, a deranged megalomaniacal pixie, who is out to end the world. I’m 100 pages in and I am absolutely in love with it.