I Who Have Never Known Men

820c00db7cb44f1596b72737377434f414f4141

Read 13/09/2019-20/09/2019

Rating 5 stars

Jacqueline Harpman’s I Who Have Never Known Men is filed under Sci-Fi at my local library. I’m not entirely sure why. There’s a vague hint that the characters, who are incarcerated in an underground bunker for the first part of the novel, are no longer on Earth. It felt more dystopian than Sci-Fi to me, more akin to The Handmaid’s Tale, futuristic and speculative.

The novel was first published in French in 1995. An English translation followed in 1997. Vintage has reissued Ros Schwartz’s translation this year with an excellent introduction to the novel by Sophie Mackintosh. She, too, suggests that it’s a Sci-Fi work, but also relates it to Herland. Mackintosh’s intro draws out the key strands of the story and makes a case for the significance of Harpman’s book far better than I can. We are agreed that it’s a masterpiece. Continue reading

Advertisements

Twenty Books of Summer readathon

image

I have 149 books that I own on my to read list. 78 of those are physical books that teeter in a pair of piles in front of one of my bookcases. When I read that Sandra (A Corner of Cornwall) and Paula (Book Jotter) are doing the 20 Books of Summer readathon hosted at Cathy’s blog 746 Books (I thought my to read pile was bad!), I decided this was the thing that I needed to focus my mind and get 20 of those books read. Continue reading

The Word Exchange

b00gyxe1zw.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 06/05/2019-16/05/2019

Rating 3 stars

The Word Exchange is a speculative science fiction mystery suspense that imagines a world in which electronic devices have become indispensable, replacing the need for deep thought or retention of information, to the extent that the people plugged into these devices are easy to manipulate. Sound familiar? It’s only five years old and already it feels as though the world Alena Graedon has imagined is more than a few steps closer to reality. Continue reading

H(A)PPY

1785151142.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 12/01/2019-17/01/2019

Rating 5 stars

I follow Nicola Barker on Twitter. She posts infrequently, but when she does it’s usually oddly satisfying pictures of her view from various London public telephone boxes or things she’s found while mudlarking along the Thames. There’s nothing in her feed that suggests she’s an author, and I didn’t know her as a writer until H(A)PPY was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018.

The blurb for H(A)PPY intrigued me. The reader is invited to imagine a utopia in which all knowledge is open, and doubt, hatred, poverty and greed no longer exist. Everyone lives within a System that nurtures and protects, part of a Community that nourishes and sustains. There’s no sickness, no death, no fear.

Sounds good? I wasn’t so sure. I like my privacy. I also like that it’s our differences and individualities that cause the negative things that Barker’s post-post-apocalyptic society has banished. I don’t know that I’d enjoy a world without individuality or opportunities to learn.

This is Barker’s twelfth novel. It seemed like as good a place as any to introduce myself to the writing style of the woman who is mildly obsessed with phone boxes.

It’s slippery at times, the tale she’s written, but it kept me wondering what was going on, curious to find out how it would end. I know how it ends now, of course. I’m saying nothing. I’m glad that I didn’t read any reviews, any judging comments, any opinion pieces before I read it. I imagine it might have spoiled the experience. I enjoyed it greatly. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. If you want to read it with no prior knowledge, don’t read any further here. My reading experience and my reactions to the book might take the edge off the pleasure of this unusual novel. Continue reading

A Closed and Common Orbit

147362147x-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 08/09/2018-16/09/2018

Rating: 4 stars

My friend Dip lent me this book, as she did the first in the series. She’s just read the third installment which reminded me that I needed to crack on with this one.

A Closed and Common Orbit picks up one of the story arcs from the end of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Ship’s AI Lovelace has been reset and its box fresh operating files installed into a Human kit body. Lovey is in a shuttle with Pepper, the tech expert and merchant, leaving the Wayfarer behind, and is now an illegal entity learning a new way of living. Continue reading