Thursday, January 08, 2009

Books for Grownups

One thing I noticed when doing my year end review was that last year, most of the adult books I read were nonfiction. I read very little adult fiction. I don't know why, that was just the way the cookie crumbled, I guess.

But, here are two adult fiction titles I did read:

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters Mark Dunn

The island of Nollop lies just off the coast of the South Eastern US. It is named after Nevin Nollop, the man who discovered the pangram sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Citizens of Nollop are fantastically devoted to the English language. Things get interesting when letters start falling off the Nollop statue in town. Is is old fixative? Or is Nollop striking letters from our lexicon from beyond the grave? Those in town think it's Nollop working in mysterious ways, so certain letters, and any words containing them, are now outlawed.

Told in, fittingly, in letters (of the correspondence variety) we follow the path of the Nollopians as they lose more and more of their language and fight to make their council see sense.

It starts out as a light-hearted, humourous premis, but it becomes gripping as citizens get more and more desperate, as punishments for using the forbidden letters are harsh and rebellion is mounting. But not in a scary way.

Overall, I recommend. It's for adults, but there are lots of young adult characters and I think many high school students (especially those that are already readers) will enjoy it.

Love Marriage: A Novel V. V. Ganeshananthan

This is a really concise, sprawling family epic. The chapters are all short vignettes, and I mean really short, some are only a paragraph long, and none are over a few pages. And contained in these episodic jewels is Yalani, the American born daughter of two Sri Lankan immigrants, the first in their families to have a Love Marriage. When her uncle, a high-up in the Tamil Tigers is dying, he moves to Toronto with his daughter, who will have an Arranged Marriage. Yalani and her parents go to Toronto to care for him and it is there that Yalani starts researching her family, so we get the stories of all of her relatives in multiple generations. The narration jumps through time and sides and of the family, and much of it is also a girl trying to balance being American with being Sri Lankan and trying to make sense of the war.

Ganeshananthan's prose is amazing, though. I love the way she clues you into time and space, such as referring to her mother as "Vani not yet my mother" to signify the story takes place before she (Yalani) came on the scene. Her use of capitalization is also something that I savored. (This sounds pretentious, but it's not.)

Several small gems of chapters add up to make one lovely book.

Full disclosure: ARC provided by publisher through LibraryThing's early reviewer program.


S. G. Kiner said...

"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.

Sean said...

I read "Ella Minnow Pea" last year around this time after one of those sites that purport to match you up with the perfect book (this one was based in the UK) decided that it would best fit my mood for something playfully intellectual nd intellectually playful, I suppose. I enjoyed it thoroughly. In a nice coincidence, I just read "Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" and "An Abundance of Katherines" back-to-back, not knowing on the way in that both would feature so much wordplay. It might be fun to put together a syllabus of YA and adult novels in which wordplay is central to the story ... Hmmmm ...