A FORTUNATE AGE
Bloomsbury, July 2015, RRP $32.99
I took up A Fortunate Age under considerable misapprehension as to the time period in which it is set. Somehow missing both the details in the blurb and the first line, which literally features the word “1998″*, I launched into it believing it was about my generation. I am 26 right now and was interested to “see what an author some twenty years my senior thought about it all. Would it involve angering stereotypes? Would I find it self-deprecatingly humorous? Despite very quickly correcting the flaws in my understanding, and after fighting a bout of cynicism about reading a book about 20-somethings in the late 90s, I decided to persevere. And admittedly, I expected to hate this book. I didn’t.
On the face of it, Joanna Rakoff’s novel about coming of age is not something I would have chosen to read. It is contemporary fiction, a genre I generally dislike, and once the immediate connection with myself had gone**, I expected I would despise the characters in all their trust-funded, New York whininess. Yet something in Rakoff’s confiding, urgent tone, which reminded me a little of 19th century novelists, kept me going. Though I found most of the characters irritating and some themes and elements troubling, I enjoyed A Fortunate Age. I enjoyed it rather a lot.
Bloomsbury Circus, May 2015, RRP $32.99
Rise is a small piece in the history of Scotland’s many and various failed nationalist efforts since 1707. Having concluded that rosy-cheeked young pretenders make poor generals, and that kilts and chest-thumping are best left to post-football pub brawls (or race riots), the modern independence-minded Scot has turned to the plebiscite as a method of experimentation*. Those of you familiar with Scottish history will probably see that this step is a bit dull, but for the best.
Despite misgivings about the author’s surname “Campbell”**, but moreso about the unlikelihood that I would enjoy this book, since I don’t generally enjoy contemporary fiction, I decided to give Rise a go. More interested in the political themes than the plot itself, I’m glad I did. However, though it is well-written and genuinely gripping, I was sadly correct in my initial assumption that the novel was not for me.