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Category Archive for 'Experimental'

In this complex and compressed experimental novel, Brazilian author Beatriz Bracher conveys the secrets and innermost connections of the Kremz family as they live their lives over the course of four generations. Benjamim, addressed in the opening quotation, is the second member of his immediate family to have borne that name – the previous Benjamim, his uncle, having died under circumstances traumatic for the family. Benjamim has never learned all the details of his uncle’s death. All he knows is that it affected those he loved in major ways. Since many of these family members have now passed away, Benjamim has decided to ask family friends who were close to the events and to the people involved to tell him the story of the other Benjamim, to help him understand how his own life might have been different if the lives of those closest to him had been different. Helping him learn about the past and its effects on later events are Isabel, his grandmother, who is still active and important in much of this story; Haroldo, a lawyer, who was the best friend of his grandfather, Xavier; and Raul, a writer who was a classmate of Teodoro, Benjamim’s father. Each has a different slant on the events, the nature of the men who have dominated the action, and the questions in the younger Benjamim’s life.

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In a novel which defies genre, written in a style which feels like a cross between Wilkie Collins and Bram Stoker, Irish author Paraic O’Donnell creates a complex mystery set in London in the late nineteenth century. Fun to read, often humorous, just as often mysterious or violent, and filled with vibrant description of all kinds, The House on Vesper Sands stands out for its uniqueness among all recently released novels for the year. Providing gothic thrills at the same time that it also creates an intense picture of Victorian spiritualism, ghostly manifestations, and changing church practices, it is structured as a formal religious Requiem from 1893, at the same time that it features ironies and elements of humor which will provide some hearty laughs. And always, always, the author remembers that his primary goal with this novel is to entertain.

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Young main character Willis Wu spends the most important parts of his life at the Golden Palace, a Chinese restaurant/film studio in an unnamed time period in an unnamed English-speaking city. As Willis, whose parents were immigrants, lives his life there and in the broader enclave of Chinatown, his creator, author Charles Yu, explores Willis’s reality, quickly constructing level upon level of different “realities” and creating an experimental novel, often satiric, which includes the reader from the opening pages. Willis, an actor in a film being made in off-hours at the Golden Palace, is realistic in evaluating his chances at improving his role from that of Background Oriental Male to his ideal role, that of Kung Fu Guy, the hero. As Willis plays his part, hoping to make “progress,” the role of US immigration policy on his life and the lives of his family and friends becomes clearer. A unique novel dealing with the subject of immigration with irony, humor, and a sense of understanding for the victims and the lives they sometimes choose to live.

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Stories both new and old surround the often wild river which flows through North Yorkshire, exerting an almost incalculable force on the lives of the residents of the village of Starome. Good and evil, happiness and sadness, all begin and end with the unnamed river, which becomes almost a character in The River Within by Karen Power. A body is floating near the village, and it belongs to a resident and recent army recruit, on vacation, who has been friends with three other late teens in the village. Telling the story from three points of view – the victim, a female friend, and the mother of another teen – the relationships among these characters become clear. Dramatic events occur, and some critics have pointed out similarities between some of the plot and Hamlet. Those who love romances, dark melodrama, and psychological studies will have great fun reading this one, which celebrates the emotions, feelings, and self-focused behavior of many of its characters.

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Author Eshkol Nevo, a highly skilled and very popular Israeli author, takes a unique approach to this novel, simply answering typical interview questions without connecting them thematically – “What motivates you to write?” “What is your earliest memory?” “Do you have a recurring dream?” In the course of almost five hundred pages, his true purpose and his underlying themes emerge, especially regarding a writer’s connections with friends, family, and his own memories. The author soon discovers, however, that answering the interview questions unexpectedly raises additional questions within the author himself. Determined to be completely honest, while also creating “fiction,” Nevo obviously feels the inherent conflict between those two approaches to describing life, and as he slowly edges into some serious self-examination, his skills as a writer get a real workout. Ultimately, his scenes from a writer’s life, including, almost certainly, episodes from his own life, challenge him to maintain the true honesty he has promised himself and the reader, while also recognizing the hurt that such honesty can sometimes bring to those he loves and admires. Filled with insights into life in Israel, life within his family, and life within himself, the author has created a unique look at the writing life and what it means to at least one author, what he has given up for it, and what he hopes to regain from taking it back. Truly unique.

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