BURIAL RITES by Hannah Kent

Twenty-eight-year-old Australian author Hannah Kent spent time in Iceland while in high school, chosen because she wanted to see snow for the first time. She fell in love with this island country south of the Arctic Circle, and returned several times to do extensive research on Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland, in 1829. Kent imagined the interior psychological states of various characters, especially the enigmatically alluring Agnes, and has successfully penned a suspenseful fiction tale that transcends the outcome. It reveals a complex love triangle and double murder, and a provocative examination of the religious and social mores of the time. Knowing the fate of Agnes prior to reading the novel won’t change the reader’s absorption of the novel. The strong themes hinge on the backstory and viewpoints that are woven in and reveal characters that go through a change of perception as the circumstances of the crime

April 10, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Debut Novel, Facing History, Iceland, Mystery/Suspense

THE MAID’S VERSION by Daniel Woodrell

THE MAID’S VERSION by Daniel Woodrell is a small book but reads like a tome, with such literate and beautiful imagery that I was enthralled. The book centers around the mystery of the explosion at Arbor Dance Hall in 1929. The explosion killed 42 people, many unrecognizable in death with their bodies broken up or burned beyond recognition. Alma Dunahew lost her sister Ruby in the explosion and for years has been trying to discover the answer to what happened. Those years have been hard on her with several of them spent at the Work Farm in West Table, Missouri, due to her psychic breakdown caused by rage and grief …

December 21, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Noir, US South

THE LUMINARIES by Eleanor Catton

Twelve men meet at the Crown Hotel in Hokitika, New Zealand, in January, 1866. A thirteenth, Walter Moody, an educated man from Edinburgh who has come here to find his fortune in gold, walks in. As it unfolds, the interlocking stories and shifting narrative perspectives of the twelve–now thirteen–men bring forth a mystery that all are trying to solve, including Walter Moody, who has just gotten off the Godspeed ship with secrets of his own that intertwine with the other men’s concerns.

December 17, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, 2013 Man Booker Shortlist, Man Booker Prize, New Zealand, y Award Winning Author

ROOM by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue is not afraid of making bold choices. Her first is the narrative voice she adapts in ROOM: that of five-year-old Jack, a young boy who was born and has lived his entire life in an 11-foot by 11-foot room. One might think the voice would eventually become cloying or overly precious or manipulative or downright tiring. But it never does.

September 18, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Commonwealth Prize, Contemporary, Unique Narrative, y Award Winning Author

THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Irene Sabatini

We meet the protagonist of THE BOY NEXT DOOR, Lindiwe Bishop, when she is just fourteen. The white woman next door, Mrs. McKenzie, mother of Ian, has just burned to death. Set afire. It is Africa in the 1980s and Robert–Bob–Mugabe has just taken his oath, “… his hand firmly on the Bible…and so help me God…Zimbabwe was born.” This is the stage set, at the intersection of culture and identity (personal and national), in the opening pages of this delicate and beautiful debut novel.

October 11, 2009 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, Coming-of-Age, Debut Novel, Facing History, Orange Prize, Reading Guide, World Lit