THE BLUE BETWEEN SKY AND WATER
Bloomsbury, June 2015, RRP $29.99
The Blue Between Sky and Water is one of those rare novels that takes devastating themes and events, but fills them all with a sense of hope. Set in Palestine during and after the Naqba, up until the mid-2010s, the novel could very easily have been many things. While its bias is obvious*, Abulhawa avoids diatribe and sentimentality in building her story of a family and a country torn apart.
ARCHIPELAGO OF SOULS
Picador, June 2015, RRP $32.99
Archipelago of Souls appealed to me at first glance. Its main character, Wesley Cress, arrives as a soldier settler on King Island and provides an instant link to my own family history. My father and his brothers and sisters grew up for the most part on King Island after my grandfather took land there as a soldier settler himself. Though the book is set probably 15 years or so before my family arrived there, I couldn’t help wondering if the (in)famous Kelly Quirk might make an appearance somehow. That’s the power of half-remembered family legend, I suppose.
When I was 18 or so, we took a family trip to King Island to look at the old farm, which had been sold on to another family some decades again. We went in June or July, for peak wind effect, and spent a few days in family reunion. I never met my grandfather. I’ve heard some of his ludicrous stories, tales about his … let’s call them “adventures” on the island and his youth, of his alcoholism and his time during the war. My dad and my grandma, Na, also died when I was five and 14 respectively; and on the island I felt very connected with them despite their absense. So the cold trip on the isolated island remains a powerful memory. King Island is part of the family mythology.
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.
WHEN THE DOVES DISAPPEARED
Sofi Oksanen, translated by Lola M. Rogers
Atlantic Books, May 2015, RRP $27.99
When the Doves Disappeared is a thoughtful glimpse into Estonian life during occupation by Nazi Germany, and the subsequent USSR rule. It is a study in the meaning of political conviction; passion; loyalty; and love, amongst many other things. Estonian-Finnish poet Sofi Oksanen’s second novel, it is both espionage thriller and literary reflection, with a gripping plot, elegant language, and carefully crafted, deeply flawed characters.
THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR SALE
Granta, June 2015, RRP $29.99
E.C. Osondu second story collection, This House is Not For Sale is a collection of short stories surrounding the residents of the Family House. It is a slim volume that packs a punch, provoking thoughts about the nature of truth and story. Characters and events take on a mythic quality as they are related by the unnamed, unidentified narrator.