Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Walk on the Wild Side: "How to Be Human” by Patricia Cocozza

How to Be Human by Patricia Cocozza begins with a woman finding a baby on the doorstep of the cottage where she lives, and from there develops into the growing relationship between this woman, Mary, and a fox she sees in her garden, which backs a woodsy area. 

Mary is a young divorced woman who got to keep the house in her divorce, and although relieved to be free of her controlling husband, a sense of loneliness now permeates her life.  The fox becomes an obsession for her and a menace to her neighbors. 

This fox is not only a wild creature but seems to sense what Mary needs, besides its  friendship. It begins to shower her with gifts. Gifts which Mary at first finds puzzling but later begins to look forward to. These tokens must mean something. Is this fox, her fox, trying to tell her something?

 Meanwhile, around her, her neighbors visit and squabble and complain. Her ex-husband seems to be lurking in the neighborhood. Her job is a trial and boring. More and more she longs to be done with everything and just spend quiet evenings in her yard waiting for the fox to appear. As she and the fox become closer you get the fox’s viewpoint for some of the events that occur.

What happens in this beautifully written story unfolds slowly and you begin to see how this charming, clever creature would captivate Mary, and the reader and the Militant Recommender, as well! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Our house is a very, very, very fine house: "Piranesi" by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi, a young man, and maybe one of only two people in the world, is our narrator and guide into one of the most unusual habitats ever created. His home is a house so big it contains an ocean, with its tides that come and go and affect the way he lives. This impossible house is filled with hundreds of rooms and in each of these rooms are tier upon tier of marble and stone statues.

These statues depict everything from a huge gorilla to a woman carrying a beehive, to a man removing a thorn from a child's foot to a room of Minotaurs. They are so lovingly described and in such detail you can picture each and every one as Piranesi makes his rounds, writes in his journals, cares for several skeletons and fishes in a sunken lake. It seems to Piranesi that he has always been here. There may have been a before the House but it is a vague memory that seems to be just out of reach. It doesn't trouble him as the House provides him with all that he needs.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, Piranesi meets with "the Other", his friend and mentor of sorts. The Other is an older gentleman with a trim beard and always well dressed and looking very dapper despite the chill and damp and the constant presence of the ocean.Sometimes he is so deep in thought, he becomes annoyed with Piranesi, other times he encourages his feedback.

The Other doesn't seem to love the House and its contents as Piranesi does. And where does he go the other days of the week? Piranesi is content living among the statues and the birds who often nest amidst these giant beings. Is there more to this world of sea and stone? Where do the birds come from or go to?  I will say no more! You will have to uncover these mysteries of the House for yourself!

This is a beautifully written book by the brilliant and imaginative Susanna Clarke who gave us the masterpiece Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. She has a unique ability to create a world you totally believe in and while completely different than Jonathan Strange it is no less magical!  Highly recommended! Thank you to Edelweiss for allowing me the pleasure of reading an advance DRC!!!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Don't You Forget About Me: "The Memory Police" by Yoko Ogawa.

Yoko Ogawa's The Memory Police is set in an unstated time on an unnamed island, the population of which live in fear under the supervision of the Memory Police. Under their martial law, anything at any time can be disappeared.These disappearances take many forms, from people to everyday objects to birds and flowers.

The narrator is a young woman, an author of novels that reflect her life and the world she’s grown up in. She lives alone in her parents home, both of whom have passed on. Her mother, a sculptor, was summoned by the Memory Police, and died soon after. Her best friend is an old man who lives on a rusting boat in the harbor. Other than him, her closest relationship is with R. her editor.

The author makes you care for these three characters and the comfort they find in one another despite the bleak and disturbing circumstances in which they live and the ever present menace of the Memory Police that might break down your door and take you away in the middle of the night or on a regular afternoon with everyone watching.

This was a really dark book, even for me! But I couldn’t put it down, either, because I had to know how things turned out. It has elements of 1984, as far as the Memory Police, themselves, and the self enforced brain washing of memories deemed dangerous for the state.

  Simple Minds say it best via the miracle of YouTube!