Friday, 10 August 2012

All is Song & The Still Point

Title: All is Song
Author: Samantha Harvey

For Book #11, I'm going to talk about something classier and more literary. The first time I heard of Samantha Harvey was on the Culture Show in 2011. Five judges (or so) sat there debating about the best debut novelists of the year, and Harvey was one of them.

Her first book was The Wilderness, and it was a stunning novel about someone losing their life to Alzheimer's. Actually, this is shocking, but in my memory I mixed up The Wilderness with The Still Point, which is yet another beautiful novel. I also highly recommend that one! In fact, that will be Book #12). So ... it turns out I forgot what Harvey's first book was about. Oops. Anyway, I still remember her as a fantastic writer, and the book was a bittersweet story that felt entirely too real.

Now All is Song is not dissimilar: it is about Leonard and William, two middle-aged brothers, both still grappling with the meaning of life in different ways, but one of them is very much like a modern-day Socrates. William is a frustrating character to like simply because he questions everything around him to the point where you lose sense of the original question. The book is deeply philosophical, and it brings to memory all the things I used to read and learn in philosophy classes. Or in the Matrix: if you can see that the world is lying to you, would you rather live in the lie, or see the real truth? The red pill or the blue pill? Ok, so the book is totally not sci-fi, but it deals with the same issues about how complacent most human beings are with the world, how we just accept statements as facts just because it's what the majority of people thinks, and not because it's the absolute truth. 

All is Song is beautifully written. The narrative moves very slowly, but this is not an action-driven story, it's a thought-driven one. 

I thought that overall, The Wilderness was better (simply because I like the ending more), but this book is a good second novel. I can't wait to see what else is up Harvey's sleeves.


Author: Amy Sackville

I probably mixed up Harvey with Sackville because they were both first-time novelists. But my review is a bit different for this one ...
Read this book. Yes, read it! The Still Point is an inter-generational story about an arctic explorer who disappears on an exploration and leaves his young wife behind, and a modern-day tale about a slowly-disintegrating marriage. This is not a synopsis that would usually interest me, but it's so achingly and beautifully told that you definitely must read it if you like literary fiction. 
I read it one summer for a book club (I think), and in the heat of the summer, I felt the freezing cold depths of winter as described by Amy Sackville when she writes about the explorer stuck in the icy Arctic with no resources and almost no hope. That, I think, is a major sign that the book is amazing, as it gave me feelings and thoughts that I otherwise would not be able to have. 

The modern-day story is also equally well-written. You can feel the winter of the two character's marriage too, and the two stories meld together intelligently. Read it to understand what I'm trying to say!

PS: both the books have beautiful covers, don't you agree? 

PPS: Blogger's really annoying. I don't understand how 'normal' Arial can sometimes be one font size, and sometimes another. I've tried my best to stick to one font size for all posts, but it seems like it's not always up to me to decide font size! Sorry.

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