Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Books – Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

Published in 2004, Cloud Atlas is strange, clever and original novel. It is made up of six separate but connected narratives, spanning continents and centuries, from the early 1800s into the distance and dystopian future.

I’ve been meaning to read this novel for ages, and finally got round to it a couple of weeks ago. Having had it recommended to me by several people, and given vague hints as to what it was about, and having had the structure explained to me several times before I read it, I came to the novel with certain expectations. The structure certainly met those exactly. I’ve always been really interested in form (in both my writing and reading) and love novels with unusual structures. I also love multiple narrators, because I find voices and what you can do with different voices one of the most interesting things in literature. We get six narrators/main characters: Adam Erwing, Robert Frobisher, Luisa Rey, Timothy Cavendish, Somni, and Zachary. So as you can imagine the general set up of Cloud Atlas very much appeals to me.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Books - Rites, by Sophie Coulombeau

Before I begin, let me tell you how I discovered this novel. I did some work experience last year at the literary agency who represents Coulombeau, and read part of the book there. I then promptly forgot what it was called and spent about a year scouring amazon for a novel called ‘Roots’, until I managed to find the novel under its actual title, Rites, about a month ago. I’ve started with this story because I want to make clear that this is the sort of book you remember for a year, even when you can’t remember what it’s called.

Published in 2012, Sophie Coulombeau’s Rites tells the story of four teenagers growing up in Manchester. Fourteen years old and bored, they make a pact to lose their virginity at the same time, and formulate a complex plan to hide their actions from their parents. Fifteen years on, we hear from over ten different narrators the story of how it all went wrong.

When you give a brief plot summary like that, it sounds a little messed up. Which is the point, of course. But I just want to make clear now that this isn’t really a novel about sex, although the crux of the plot revolves around it. It’s not a coming of age story, and it’s not a teenage romance. It’s a story about being young and messed up. Or, more accurately (because the adult characters in the novel are hardly more grown up than their kids), it’s a story about being human and messed up. It’s also a story about truth – or, more accurately, a story about the lack of it.