Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Books – The Sea Singer, by Shome Dasgupta

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I knew very little about Shome Dasgupta’s The Sea Singer before I began reading it. The extent of my knowledge was that it was something vaguely to do with magical realism, was on Accent Press’s spring 2016 Young Adult list, and had an intriguing title. Whatever I was expecting, I was not expecting to be quite as blown away as I was. The Sea Singer is genuinely beautiful, strange and brilliant novel, one of the most original I have read. I remain a bit bemused as to why it’s being marketed as YA – for me it was just a brilliant piece of magic realism. It combines the matter-of-fact eccentricity of Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish with the magical beauty of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children with the matter-of-fact tone of Andrew Kaufmann’s All My Friends Are Superheroes.

The book tells the tale of March, who is born in the month of April in a small town in India. She quickly proves a rather unusual child. March cannot close her eyes. From the moment of her birth, she cannot sleep. She sits and watches the world, and then she sings. In fact, March sings so beautifully and impressively that her mother in fact spent the whole of her pregnancy fast asleep, because the unborn March was singing her lullabies from the womb. That is the kind of novel this is. It is very weird and very brilliant.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Throwback Books – The Egoist, George Meredith

Now The Egoist was sat on the metaphorical bookshelf of my kindle for rather a while before I finally picked up. I first heard about it when researching the bestselling novels of the Victorian period, and was intrigued by the fact I hadn’t really heard of George Meredith before. I was half hesitant, half excited. When it comes to popular Victorian novels that have slipped from today’s literary culture, you can never be sure whether they’re going to turn out to be an underrated hidden gem or one of those deservedly-forgotten novels.

I was not disappointed. I thoroughly loved this book.

George Meredith’s The Egoist, published in 1879, follows a self-centred young gentleman, Sir Willoughby Patterne, and his attempts to marry. At the start of the novel, Sir Willoughby is jilted by his fiancée, Miss Durham, when she runs off with another gentleman. He spends a few years travelling abroad, before returning older and, to his mind, wiser. He soon courts and becomes engaged to a young woman named Clara Middleton, and everything looks set for a happy marriage. Until Clara and her father come to stay with Sir Willoughby at his country estate in the weeks leading up to the wedding, and Clara begins to realise she may have made a terrible mistake.