Tag Archives: novel

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel


I added Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal to my list after reading Fiction Fan’s glowing review of this book last year, but started my own reading of this author with The Life of Pi, and found this to be such an enthralling and unusual story that I still think about the plot and the characters a year after finishing the book.


The High Mountains of Portugal is beautifully written and is in much the same style as The Life of Pi, with strange, impossible things happening throughout. These crazy events seemed perfectly reasonable and believable while I was reading, though.

The story is made up of three quite distinct sections, named ‘Homeless’, ‘Homeward’ and ‘Home’, with each set in different times but overlapping geographically, with each story set at least in part in the High Mountains of Portugal. The central theme of each story is grieving. Each section answers or raises questions for the other sections of the story.

The first section, ‘Homeless’, starts in Lisbon in 1904 with Tomas, a young man who is grieving for his father, his lover and his son, all of whom died within a week of each other. From then on, unless he is running from a dangerous situation, Tomas walks backwards to show God and the world that he objects to everything he loves being taken from him.

Tomas works in a museum and becomes interested in a religious artifact which he believes would redefine history if found. Tomas’ uncle loans him an automobile, teaches him (more or less) to drive and sends him out on his quest.

The second section, ‘Homeward’, tells the story of a pathologist who conducts an autopsy on New Year’s Eve in 1938. The pathologist’s wife visits him at his work and tells him how stories about Jesus Christ were used to instill and spread faith, then likens Agatha Christie’s stories to reading stories about Jesus. (Reading this sentence back makes me wonder why this book made such good sense to me while I was reading, but I assure you, it did. I might have to read it again to understand precisely how this worked, though). Anyway, after the pathologist’s wife left him to finish his work, he carried out an autopsy on a man whose wife was insistent on learning from the autopsy how her husband had lived. The autopsy was extraordinary, completely surreal but also completely believable.

My favourite section was the last, called ‘Home’. ‘Home’ is set in the 1980s and tells of a politician grieving for his dead wife. He moves from Canada to the High Mountains of Portugal with a chimpanzee that he rescued from a research facility.

Readers who are more familiar with Bible stories will probably get more from this book than I did, and readers of Agatha Christie will no doubt enjoy the second section, ‘Homeward’, enormously.

I preferred The Life of Pi, but The High Mountains of Portugal is an extraordinary story.




Filed under Author, Book Review, Martel - Yann

Ludmila and The Lonely by Paul Gallico


I found Ludmila and The Lonely by Paul Gallico to be slightly too soppy for my taste. I loved Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico and overlooked the soppiness in that story because I loved the movie starring Angela Lansbury as Mrs ‘Arris, but this time around the overblown sentimentality made me cringe.

Ludmila is a story about a poor little cow who doesn’t have much milk, who comes good and proves her worth to everyone after a miracle. The blurb on the back says the story is the retelling of “a charming pastoral legend of old Liechtenstein.” At least the story was short and the drawings by Reisie Lonette were sweet. (I know, I know, I’m such a cow for saying this. Moo to you too).

The Lonely is also a short story, and was the most unlikely match for Ludmila that I could have imagined. I expect they were only published together because of the suitability of their length.

The Lonely tells the story of Jerry, a young American man in England during WW2 who was forced by his superior officer to take leave. Jerry asked Patches, who was in the WAAF and who conveniently had leave due to her at the same time, to holiday with him in Scotland. The arrangement was that at the end of their holiday Jerry and Patches would wish each other good luck and go their separate ways, after their couple of weeks of ‘fun.’

This story was more complicated, as Jerry had a fiancé at home in the USA whom he thought of as a goddess. Patches was in love with Jerry, but like a good sport, hid her true feelings from him. In my opinion Jerry was an immature idiot, who needed a few more years to grow up before he launched himself on any woman.

Paul Gallico also wrote The Poseidon Adventure, the movie of which gave me nightmares for years afterwards. The scene where a character jumps and swings from a burning-hot wheel to open or shut something, I forget which, in order to save the other characters before falling into the fire below is something I have never managed to forget.

The Snow Goose is held up to be this author’s best work. I haven’t read this, but plan to some time.



Filed under Author, Gallico - Paul

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout


Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout was so interesting to me that I could not put the book down. The story uses characters from the novel My Name is Lucy Barton to create a world where the character’s stories connect and entwine with each others’ in surprising and interesting ways.

Funny, because I didn’t enjoy My Name is Lucy Barton at all. I felt as if that story was too subtle, with nothing much happening to the characters in terms of their emotional growth. Anything is Possible was the exact opposite. So much happened that it was if a whole new world had opened up to me.

Anything is Possible is set in Amgash, Illinois, where Lucy Barton grew up, dirt poor and rejected by her peers. The characters are all loosely connected with Lucy in some way, although she only appears in one of the chapters. Some of these characters are happy, innocent and good, while others are sordid and depraved, with the rest falling somewhere in between.

Each of the chapters could almost be read as a short story, but the constant connections between the protagonist of each chapter add together until all of the parts together made a novel.

The opportunity to get to know Lucy Barton through the other character’s eyes was wonderful to me. She was variously shown as a poverty-stricken abused child, a sister, a successful author, a cousin, and as a shining light for a teenage relative to emulate. There was the same sense of wonder for me in getting to know each of the other characters too.

Amongst my favourite characters were Tommy, who was the janitor at Lucy’s school when she was a child hiding in classrooms to avoid going home, and Lucy’s brother Pete, who was emotionally undeveloped for the same reasons as Lucy but who was still a good, loving man.

I had no respect for a character who supported her wealthy husband’s immoral behaviour so that her lifestyle was not compromised, and disliked her and her morals intensely. The remaining characters fell somewhere in between being good, honest and true, and being nasty, rude and as earlier mentioned, depraved.

When I read My Name is Lucy Barton, I struggled to believe that Lucy was a writer. In My Name is Lucy Barton, we got to know Lucy as she recovered from a serious illness with her mother by her side. In this story, we learned that Lucy had written several short stories, followed by a best-selling memoir. The conversations Lucy had with her mother and other characters in this novel did not give me the sense that she was capable of writing well. In Anything is Possible, I enjoyed the chapter where Lucy actually appeared and interacted closely with other characters, but again her conversation left me with the same sense of disbelief that she was a good and capable writer.

I’m thinking of re-reading My Name is Lucy Barton, because after reading Anything is Possible, I’m wondering I missed the point in the first novel.

Anything is Possible is probably best read after reading My Name is Lucy Barton, although it does work as a stand-alone novel. Elizabeth Strout fans will enjoy this book.


Filed under Author, Strout - Elizabeth

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


I felt let-down by The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This book has been everywhere over the past year or so and my expectations were high.

The first half of the story was intriguing. I was caught up in the mystery, wondering what, if anything, had happened and trying to figure out which character I should believe and why. But then the story went off the rails with a series of unbelievable events and characters acting uncharacteristically. Not quite a train wreck, more of a failure to arrive.

The story is told alternately in the first person by three women, Rachel, Anna and Megan, in segments which go back and forwards in time. The girl on the train is Rachel. She takes the train to and from her place of work daily, looking out of the window at houses and imagining the lives of the people who live in them. On her evening train, she drinks all of the way home.

One day on the train Rachel sees something unusual happening in the backyard of a house she has become familiar with, and later, when a murder is reported in the household, she contacts the police to tell them what she saw.

Anna and Megan, who are connected in various ways with Rachel, also take turns at telling the story, but it is Rachel who tells most of the story. As an alcoholic who suffers blackouts though, Rachel’s version of any story is not always credible.

The story is a fast read. None of the characters are particularly likeable and their faults are worse than what most people would tolerate in a friend. Despite my disappointment with the plot, I intend to see the movie sometime and hope The Girl on the Train is a better movie than it was a book.


Filed under Author, Book Review, Hawkins - Paula

The Dry by Jane Harper


The Dry by Australian author Jane Harper came to my attention via a review by Fiction Fan, who often bears the responsibility for adding to my list of ‘want to reads,’ but over the past months I’ve seen this book everywhere; people are reading it on the train, there are displays in bookshops and interviews with the author in the newspapers. Most excitingly, when I picked up the Dymocks Top 101 booklist for 2017, I spotted the title at #17.


The Dry is set in Kiewarra, a fictional Victorian farming community. My guess is that Kiewarra is based on a Mallee district, maybe Kerang, or Ouyen, where the bakery is famous for their Vanilla Slice. Families up that way have owned their land for generations and they do it tough during droughts. In this story, the whole community is struggling financially and emotionally because of drought.

The Dry starts with the tragic death of three people in a family. On the surface, it appears that Luke Hadler shot his wife and primary school aged son before shooting himself because he couldn’t cope with the prospect of losing of the family farm. Luke’s baby daughter was spared and later found in the house, howling her little head off.

Aaron Falk was Luke’s friend when they were growing up and he returns to Kiewarra from Melbourne for the funeral. Falk is now an investigator with the Australian Federal Police, but as a teenager, he and his father were forced to leave town after the death of a girl whom he and Luke had been friends with.

When Falk is asked by Luke’s parents to investigate the murder-suicide he agrees reluctantly. Most of the people of Kiewarra remember him and the circumstances of him leaving town, and he is harassed and threatened by many of the townspeople, including the girl’s father and cousin.

Despite the harassment, Falk sticks around and teams up with the local copper, Sergeant Raco, who has also been poking about on the Hadler farm. Raco is a good bloke, happily married with a baby on the way and he is smart enough to have noticed irregularities in the case. Raco is also an outsider in Kiewarra but he knows enough about the dynamics of small towns to make the locals toe the line.

As Falk and Raco investigate the deaths, further mysteries arise about the death of the girl all of those years ago, particularly about Luke’s possible involvement.

The language in this book is spot-on, although Australians swear a lot more than this book would suggest. The evocative details which gave the story an Australian feel were also beautifully done, although I could have done without the image of the huntsman crawling around Falk’s hotel room; as an arachnophobe, I would have killed the spider with my shoe on its first appearance.

The country-town atmosphere also felt rang true. Everyone in Kiewarra knew most of their neighbours’ business and were quick to judge each other. They ignored issues which should have been addressed when they were afraid of their own livelihoods being harmed, but they also rallied around each other in ways which doesn’t happen in the city, where a person or family can be as anonymous as they want to be.

I have to admit that I had a feeling about how this story would end and was very excited when I was proved right. This did not spoil my enjoyment of the story in any way and I strongly recommend The Dry to others.

Force of Nature is the next book by this author featuring Aaron Falk and I cannot wait to read it.


Filed under Australian Author, Author, Book Review, Harper - Jane

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy


I didn’t think I would ever actually get around to reading The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. My edition has The Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let in a single volume of 724 pages and I had been saving the book up in case I ever broke my leg and couldn’t get to the library. The book has been hiding in the stash of books inside my bedside table for about 25 years,* and only came out when I was watching the television news a few weeks ago (sigh) and thinking about the things I would regret not having done if the world came to a sudden end.

Then, once I actually started reading The Forsyte Saga, I didn’t think I would ever get through the book. I seemed to be reading it day and night; on the train, in the lunchroom at work, in bed, while I was stirring things on the stove and not making so much as a dent in the pages. But the story was enthralling, and I kept reading and reading, and eventually my bookmark was sitting around the middle of the book. Mysteriously, I flew through the last half, in the same way that the fuel indicator gauge in my car sits on ‘full’ for 500 kilometres, then all of a sudden drops to halfway and then, less than thirty kilometres later, the ’empty’ light is flashing and I’m no way near a service station…

At this rate, my review of The Forsyte Saga is going to be about as long as the book, but that isn’t entirely incongruous as the story goes into a lot of detail about the Forsyte family of London, their lives and loves and their values.

The Man of Property starts off with an ‘At Home’ at Old Jolyon Forsyte’s house in London one summer afternoon in 1886, with a gathering of the Forsyte clan to celebrate the engagement of one of Jolyon’s grand-daughters to an architect called Bosinney. The Foryste family are upper-middle class and financially successful. As individuals, they are characteristically self-important.

Soames Forsyte is the main character in The Man of Property. He is extraordinarily interested in real estate (this is true of most of the Forsytes) and as such, includes his beautiful wife Irene amongst his property. Soames is desperate for Irene to love him and cannot understand why she is repelled by him. When Irene agreed to marry Soames, following a relentless campaign which took him years, he agreed to set her free if she ever asked, but Soames dismissed her request for freedom when it came.

Soames engages Bosinney to build a mansion in the country where he intends for Irene to live in isolation, hoping this will force her to love him. During the building of the mansion, Irene and Bosinney fall in love. When Bosinney dies, Irene leaves Soames, leaving them in limbo as Soames continues to love Irene and does not want to expose his private life to the scrutiny of the media should they divorce.

While I was sympathetic to Irene, there weren’t many pages I turned without wondering why on earth she had married Soames and brought all of this trouble on all of them. This question was eventually answered to my satisfaction, and the answer was certainly in keeping with the Victoria and Edwardian times of when the story was written.

In Chancery has Soames and Irene having been separated for 12 years. Soames still wants Irene, but he also recognises that he now wants a son too, and he has been spending time with a beautiful French woman 20 years his junior, with the intention of marrying her if Irene won’t have him.

Young Jolyon, Soames’ cousin, has been acting as Irene’s financial trustee and becomes Irene’s protector when Soames tries to force Irene to live as his wife again. Irene and Young Jolyon fall in love and when Soames divorces Irene, Irene and Young Jolyon marry and have a son, Jon. Soames marries the young French woman and they have a daughter, Fleur.

The last part is To Let, by which time Fleur and Jon are young adults, and unaware of their parent’s history, they meet for the first time and fall in love. Obviously Irene and Soames are unhappy about their children’s relationship.

There are a cast of thousands in the Forsyte family, and each of them have their own stories, trials and tribulations, but it is Irene, Young Jolyon and Soames who the reader spends the most time with and has the most sympathy for.

The family’s interest in real estate, particularly in Man of Property, is similar to the mindset of middle class Australians now. We talk endlessly about the price of real estate, we are mad about renovating, and we worry about new home buyers’ inability to save up for a house deposit in a rising market (the suggestion that young Australians give up their weekend smashed avocado brunches at fashionable cafes or their regular overseas holidays has been howled down as being unrealistic, fuddy-duddy advice) and we watch television shows promoting home ownership and renovations.

I nearly fell over when I realised there are another 463 (or some other equally ridiculous amount) of sequels to The Forsyte Saga, but once I got over the shock I found a copy of the next book to hide in the bedside table stash in case I ever get an infectious disease which prevents me from getting to the library.**

I believe there is also a movie, or an old television series based on The Forsyte Saga, but I don’t have time to watch it at the moment. Eventually, maybe, but at the moment I’m addicted to watching Beachfront Bargain Hunt and The Block.

*I have to hide my book purchases, because He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers thinks I have too many books already, and he shakes his head in a disappointed way when I come home with more. At least with The Forsyte Saga, I was able to say with perfect truthfulness, “Oh this old thing! I’ve had this for years!”

**Next to my super-secret stash of chocolate. You are all under strict instruction never to tell He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers about this hiding place.


Filed under Author, Book Review, Galsworthy - John

American Housewife by Helen Ellis


I finished reading American Housewife by Helen Ellis about three days ago and when I sat down to write my review realised that I couldn’t remember a thing about the book. Not a good sign, although I did like the book well enough while I was reading it. I love the cover though, with the classic red, white and blue colour combination, the stars and stripes and the winking housewife with her glamorous 1940’s rolled hairstyle.

Flicking back through the book reminded me that American Housewife was a collection of short stories. They were all fast reads, clever enough and entertaining at the time, but not one of them left me with a new idea or a moral ambiguity to ponder on later.

The back page said that the author has one of those wildly successful Twitter things, called @WhatIDoAllDay, which I’ve never seen or heard of because I don’t ‘do’ those Twitter things.

My understanding of those Twitter things is that you pass a comment in text about whatever you are thinking when you think it, exactly as you would to someone you were actually with, then, 4000 people read your comment and immediately say something back to you in text. In real life you would need to spend a large proportion of the day answering each of the people who answered your initial remark until one of you was able to bring the conversation to a polite close, but I don’t believe that happens in those Twitter things, instead, you say your thing and forget all about it, ignoring whatever everyone else says in return.

Come to think of it, I expect this Twitter thing was invented by a housewife somewhere whose husband never listens because he is watching football or a car show on the television and not listening to whatever she was ‘twittering’ on about… (Don’t tell me if I’m wrong, I like my version of the invention of Twitter better).




Filed under Author, Book Review, Ellis - Helen

A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks


Sebastian Faulks’ homage to P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells made such a good impression on me that I couldn’t resist A Possible Life by this same author.

Talk about chalk and cheese. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, though excellent, is a light, frivolous and fun story. In complete contrast, A Possible Life is a thought-provoking, serious look at human life. Both stories however, are beautifully written and left me feeling completely satisfied.

A Possible Life is made up of five separate stories which are tied together by the theme of self-awareness, something which manifests in this story as the main characters in each story wanting to be someone else, for various reasons. Several of the locations used in these stories touch very lightly on each other and a religious statue which shows up in several stories, but otherwise I could find no other connections between the characters in each separate story.

The first story is called A Different Man and follows the life of Geoffrey Talbot, an ordinary, cricket-loving Englishman. Geoffrey is middle class, attended an ordinary school and lived an ordinary life as a teacher until WW2, when he became a member of an ‘irregular force’ in France, delivering messages and aiding the French Resistance until he was captured by the Germans. After the war, Geoffrey was unable to forget the terrible things he was forced to do as a prisoner and he spent time in a mental asylum before taking up teaching again. Reading about Geoffrey’s sad and solitary life after the war left me feeling in despair, until the day he decided that he had lived his life for long enough.

The Second Sister is the second story and is told by Billy Webb, whose family were so poor during Victorian times they had to leave him at a poorhouse. When Billy’s father was able to bring him home again, Billy made the most of his opportunities and when he was able, brought a girl from the poorhouse home to live with him whom he eventually married. As Billy became more affluent he also took on the responsibility of his wife’s sister and her mother. One of these women motivated Billy to become a better and different version of himself.

Everything Can be Explained leaps into the future, to Italy in 2029 and tells the story of a young girl whose parents adopt a boy about the same age as the their daughter. The boy and girl grow to know and love each other but a tragedy separated them when they were teenagers. The girl grew up to be a scientist who discovered a particular link in the brain which explains why humans have a soul, and are “burdened with the foreknowledge of their own death – a weight no other creature had to bear.”

A Door into Heaven is the shortest of the stories, and tells of a poor Frenchwoman who worked as a nurse for a relatively well-off family. I felt the least connection with this story or character, who was the least self-aware of all of the characters in this novel.

The last story is titled You Next Time. This story is told in the first person by a successful musician in the 1970’s who fell in love with a young woman on the brink of her own stardom.

I felt that each story in this collection could have been expanded into a novel. What each character was prepared to give up to live a different life was fascinating.

I’ll probably give myself a longer break before reading another book by Sebastian Faulks, as I’ve read Jeeves and the Wedding Bells and A Possible Life within a few weeks of each other, but know I will enjoy and be challenged by whatever I read next by this author.






Filed under Author, Faulks - Sebastian

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion


I devoured The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, but was less interested in the characters and their fates by the time I read the follow-up to this story, The Rosie Effect. By the time The Best of Adam Sharp came along, I was excited to read a new stand-alone book by this author.

The first half of The Best of Adam Sharp is a sweetly nostalgic story. Adam Sharp is nearly fifty and living in the UK with his long time partner Claire at the beginning of the story. Adam is an IT specialist who only needs to works six months of the year. He is also a singer, a pianist and a mad-keen music trivia wiz. When he was in his twenties, Adam travelled to Melbourne, where he fell in love with an actress from a television soapie, Angelina Brown.

When they met Angelina had only recently separated from her husband. When Adam had to leave Australia their romance came to an end, but he spent the next 25 years thinking about her and what might have been, especially when he heard particular pieces of music.

Adam’s nostalgia and imagination ramped up when out of the blue he received an email from Angelina, which said just one word; “Hi.”

Of course he answered her, and their emails quickly become flirty. Needless to say, Adam didn’t tell Claire that he had reconnected with his long-lost love from the other side of the world. Adam and Angelina spent hours online reminiscing about their shared past.

Things eventually came to a head with Claire, who was on the verge of selling her company and moving to the USA for her career. Adam and Claire broke up and within a week, Angelina invited Adam to spend a week with her and her husband at their holiday home in France.

Off Adam went to France, which is where things got weird. The first half of the novel was sweet and nostalgic, although I felt sorry for Claire, but in the second half of the story I felt as if the author was living out a sleazy, personal fantasy where he meets up with his old, hot girlfriend, who is now a hot, middle-aged woman. For me, this half of the book lost touch with reality.

The story is very readable, but I felt let down by how far the characters went in the second half of the story. I believe Australian actress Toni Collette has optioned this book with the intention of playing Angelina in the movie.  I expect The Best of Adam Sharp will become a successful movie with an excellent soundtrack, but suspect the sections I found creepy and sleazy in the book will be much the same on the screen.



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The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver


I’m a big fan of Lionel Shriver’s writing, although her fearless approach to topical and difficult subjects often makes me feel uncomfortable. She writes about ideas that some people might agree with but wouldn’t bring up in general conversation because of the fear of being judged. Her latest book, The Mandibles: A Family, 2027-2049 made me feel equally as uneasy as anything else of hers I’ve read.

I read We Need to Talk About Kevin years ago and still get cold shivers remembering the family and events of that book. The characters in A Perfectly Good Family made me realise that my family are not the worst ever, (although I do believe that all families are somewhat dysfunctional). Big Brother made me question how much can I do for my own family, in terms of leaving them to manage (or mess up) their own affairs.

The Mandibles: A Family, 2027-2049 is similar to other books I’ve read by this author, in that the dynamics of a family are at the heart of the story.

The story starts in 2027, when the younger generation of the Mandible family have been waiting for some time for their expected inheritance. Sadly for them, their 97 year-old patriarch, Douglas Mandible shows no sign of dying and when the US economy fails, everything the family expected to inherit is lost except for the family silverware and a few trinkets. A new global currency called the bancor became the almighty in place of the American dollar, and the American people, including the Mandible family, are suffering.

Douglas divorced the mother of his children many years before the story started, and married a much younger woman, Luella. Douglas’ daughter Nollie is a best-selling author who no longer writes because in 2027, nobody buys books – blame the internet. Nollie had been living in France but after the US economy crashed realised that Americans abroad were no longer safe, so returned to New York to move in with her niece’s family.

Douglas’ son Carter was in his 70’s and hanging out for his inheritance. He and his wife Jayne were financially comfortable, at least in 2027 when the story started, but they wanted to live in absolute luxury before they were too old to enjoy it. Carter and Jayne’s retirement didn’t go according to the plan, as Douglas and Luella were forced to move in with them once Douglas’ money was gone. Luella’s dementia adds an additional strain to the household.

Carter and Jane’s children, their son and daughter’s in law and their grandchildren make up the rest of the characters and by and large, most of them were also mad-keen to receive their inheritances. Willing, one of the youngest of the family, was the only person besides Douglas who understood from the beginning what was happening to the US economy, and who realised that they would need to lie and steal and cheat to enable their family to survive the hard times that were coming.

In an attempt to repair the economy, the US government wiped out their National debt, deemed Treasure Bonds worthless, and compulsorily acquired gold from US citizens  – not just shares or actual ingots, but wedding rings and gold fillings, which meant that rich people were hit very hard by the measures while poor people’s debts disappeared overnight.

Tourists began coming from other countries to the US to enjoy five star dining and life’s luxuries for less than the price of a soft drink at home, however the US eventually became an unsafe destination because so many visitors were mugged.

Spanish became the main language used in the US and a Mexican-born President is in the White House for most of the story. There are ongoing water and food shortages due an event which happened sometime between our present and this story’s version of 2027 which the characters call ‘Stonage,’ when the US’s electricity (and internet) were wiped out by terrorists.

Lionel Shriver has invented some hilarious slang for the future, including ‘Boomerpooper,’ as in; thanks very much Baby Boomers, because what has happened to us is all your fault, ‘Karmic-clumping;’ where if one thing goes wrong, then so will everything else, and ‘Shrivs’ for old people. There are no people in this version of the future with lactic or gluten intolerances, because people can’t afford these ‘indulgences’ anymore. There are no books, or print journalism, because anybody can say what they like on the internet. The lack of toilet paper is a serious problem. I’m considering stockpiling just in case…

I would be happier if the events in this novel don’t actually happen, but as one character says,

“Plots set in the future are about what people fear in the present. They’re not about the future at all.”

I skimmed over some of the character’s conversations about economics, but in some ways, not being interested in or understanding economics is the whole point of this novel. Those of us who can’t be bothered with or don’t understand finance trust other people to manage our country’s money for us, while we assume everything our governments and banks do is right and good. In this novel, the American way of life as we know it has ended because unsustainable financial practices used now have made the dollar in this version of the future worthless.

I did enjoy the irony of this plot, but struggled reading so many mini-essays about finance and economic theory. As always though, Lionel Shriver left me with plenty to think about.




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