Sunday, January 8, 2012

Christmas Reading No. 1: Fault Lines

I read two books, a novel and a non-fiction work, this Christmas! Neither had anything to do with my history work, just read for enjoyment, interest, information, enlightenment, improvement, education, fun, delectation and pleasure.

The novel was Fault Lines by Canadian author Nancy Huston. I don't like novels that tell a story one damn thing after another and one of the challenges of the modern novel is to find ways to avoid this yet still engage the reader. Huston does tell her story in sequence but backwards in time.

This works very well, the story is revealed slowly in reverse as we go back in time from 2004 California to wartime Germany. Each of the four sections of the novel is narrated by a six-year-old, starting with the monstrous, precocious voice of Sol, who believes himself omnipotent, and idolises Bush and Schwarzenegger. We meet characters in this first section who we meet subsequently as six year old narrators.

I really enjoyed the book, the tension was built up expertly with every section revealing more about what had gone before and drawing you into the past of this family. It moves easily between California, Canada, Israel and Germany drawing out connections, some subtle, some not so subtle, between the past, the present and the future.

I really enjoyed it. It has won a number of prizes, was originally written and published in French, then translated by the author and published in English.

The author talks about the structure of the novel here on YouTube. A Guardian review here.

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