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Category Archive for '2-2015 Reviews'

I for Isobel, written in 1979 and first published in Australia in 1989, focuses on a tough main character, a child who fills the novel with a kind of mental violence against both herself and those who “cross” her, as she endures a coming-of-age essentially alone. All her possible role models – parents, teachers, family, and contemporaries – damage her more than aid her as she grows up. “Her mother’s anger was [like] a live animal tormenting her,” and when Isobel says she knows her mother hates her, the reader will have no problem actually believing her – her mother does hate her, for reasons unknown. The one area in which Isobel is able to achieve some kind of escape and happiness is through books. Even as a nine-year-old, she is a voracious reader, and the reading gives her a kind of personal outlet, too, when she soon turns her attention to her own writing. As Isobel slowly begins thinking beyond the specifics of her day-to-day life, she comes to conclusions about the grand themes of life, death, friendship, creativity, and social responsibility. A classic novel by one of the grandes dames of Australian writing.

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A list of my Favorite Books of 2015, with links to the reviews and photos from those reviews.

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#1 on my list of Favorites for 2015! Powerful, climactic moments, both physical and emotional, pervade these stories, which are dramatic and thought-provoking in their emphasis on the various ways of looking at traumatic incidents while recognizing that there are always unknowns that creep into the reality of such events. The title novella is a classic, and three additional stories of varying lengths add to this unforgettable collection about points of view and the impossibility of ever knowing for sure what the essence of reality really is and why its interpretation differs among people who have participated in the same events but come to different conclusions. The stories come alive through McCann’s matchless ability to describe places and recreate lives through dialogue.

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Every six months or so, I like to check to see what are the most popular reviews on this site, and I’m always surprised by how many of the most-read reviews are for classics. New to the list are #6, #7, and #11.

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Hilary Mantel has never hesitated to say exactly what she means, and her descriptive abilities leave no room for doubt about exactly why she believes as she does. Though she is praised for her elegant turns of phrase when those are appropriate, she is equally skilled at stating, in no uncertain terms, her opinions about less elegant subjects. When Mantel’s recent short story collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher was first published in September, 2014, Mantel found herself on the front News page of the London Daily Mail, having done the unthinkable by imagining a story in which a man with Irish ties decides to assassinate the then-Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher had died only a year before the story was published, and the public and many politicians were outraged by this story. Mantel held her ground, telling the Guardian in 2014 that she “feels boiling detestation” for Thatcher and considers her an “antifeminist psychological transvestite who did long-standing damage to the UK.” In comparison to these remarks, the short story of “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher” feels almost tame, however dark or ill-advised it may have been. Death, marriage, infidelity, psychiatric ailments, the writing life, book clubs, and issues of adolescence, among other themes dominate these stories, but Mantel writes with a rapier in her hand, often turning a seemingly innocent scene into a scene of dark twists and sometimes ironic humor.

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