Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison

A young adult classic, product of the 90s and prototype for so many sassy teens coping with the hormonal obstacle course of adolescence. Young Bridget Jones or female Adrian Mole, child of hilariously inept parents and attempting to enter the state of graceful womanhood as unscathed as possible.

Georgia Nicholson is going back to school (snore) in a week. But she's just shaved off her eyebrows by accident and her cousin is hitting on her, which is both unexpected and disgusting. Plus her baby sister keeps pooing in her room and her pet cat Angus is spitting at her and trying to murder the poodle next door. Really inconvenient time to discover the Sex God in the greengorcer's that she's got to subtly and alluringly convince that she is the girl of his dreams.

We might not be the target audience any more, but any female human that went to school in the late 90s or early 00s will relate to this book, probably more than it would be appropriate to admit. The hair mascara, the Feng Shui, Zoe Ball, Big Breakfast, crop tops and PVC. All the things that you thought were forgotten for good. Getting through school with no phones and no Facebook, managing to survive anyway.

There are elements of this book that are universal to the secondary school: the constant running analysis and speculations about what goes on in the heads of the opposite sex- guessing and then second guessing; feeling crap about how you look when everyone around you looks so blonde or so thin, or so confident; being inseparable for your school best mate and falling out with them anyway; getting through boring assemblies and horrific lessons are all common to school-goers of any era. Worrying about the first big party, first proper boyfriend, first kiss...parents standing in the way of any of the above. Reading as an adult it reminds you how impatient teens are to grow up, and it's a bit sad to be able to see (from the learned perspective of 'the other side') just how daft that it. It makes you despair for your younger self, really and all the younger selves of everyone.

It's brilliantly funny, warm and easy to relate to in a real-life but crazy sort of way. The narrator is likable and her heart is in the right place, even if her brain has some catching up to do. Rennison really captures the agonising uncertainty of growing up- the drama, the conviction that you're the only person that such bad things have ever happened to in the history of the world and the quandaries of life when everything is happening for the first time for everyone, and so it really is the blind leading the blind. Her style has been copied often and never really beaten. Can you really recommend a book that is as popular as this one? People already know it's good! It certainly had me laughing throughout, would very much be enjoyed by readers of Georgia's age (14) and for anyone else that has ever been that age in the past. I'd love to see how she ended up in 2014. What became of Georgia Nicholson?

Monday, 12 May 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog, by Anne Blankman

Set in Munich of the early 1930s, Prisoner of Night and Fog tells the story of Gretchen Muller, the daughter of the National Socialist martyr that sacrificed his life to protect Adolf Hitler from state bullets on the night of the  Putsch, Hitler's failed attempt to seize power of Munich in 1923. Raised in a family in Hitler's favour, Gretchen grows up to be a particular pet of the soon-to-be dictator, taken to concerts, dinners and other entertainment with her protector and cherished as a shining example of Aryan purity.

Gretchen has always accepted her family's politics, has been a follower of "Uncle Dolph" since his earliest days. She avoids Jews like she is supposed to, helps her mother run the boarding house like she is supposed to and accompanies her honourary Uncle whenever he wants her company. When she is approached one night by a reporter claiming that her father's death was not martyrdom but murder, she initially dismisses it as slippery Jewish lies. But the evidence is there and after it becomes too hard to ignore, Gretchen starts to question everything she has ever believed in and vows to bring her father's killer to justice.

The plot of this story is strong- it features some genuinely promising ideas that are appealingly original. A detective narrative set in Munich during the rise of the National Socialist Party is an excellent idea- I liked the concept of a murder mystery featuring one of history's most notorious characters as a suspect, even before he was known to be responsible for countless killings. The forbidden relationship between a Nazi poster child and a Jew adds an element of risky romance to the plot, as Daniel the Jewish reporter and Gretchen are drawn together during their investigation, conducting night time raids in the offices at party HQ and eavesdropping on plans for the dismantling and removal of Jewish populations from Germany.

The novel is obviously very well researched and pays close attention to historical details, though sometimes to the point where it feels like the author is sacrificing plot and style in favour of historical information provision. There are details that I didn't feel really helped to enhance the plot or characterisation and seemed to have been included solely to demonstrate the depth of research. Hitler's fondness for Poppyseed strudels, for example.

Personally, I found the prose itself to be more than a little clunky. I never really felt like Munich was conjured up around me, or even Germany for that matter, the setting was quite anonymous. The reader was not permitted to work things out for themselves, instead they were spoon fed exposition at every opportunity. Repeatedly, in some cases. Any reference to the Munich Post is followed with the paper Uncle Dolph hates the most in the World , the paper Uncle Dolph calls the Poison Kitchen, The paper so despised by Unle Dolph or similar. At one point, protagonist Gretchen discovers a dwarf like man (Max Amann) in the frame of the last known photograph taken of her father before his mysterious death. When this diminutive character is referred to (mere pages later) by Rudolf Hess, the author cannot help but describe Gretchen's thoughts:
"Dwarf? Gretchen remembered the photograph in Dearstyne's apartment of her father, Uncle Dolph and three other men heading into the beer hall minutes before they launched the putsch. One of them had been dwarf like. Was it possible that he knew what had happened during the automobile ride to upset her father?" 
This happens frequently throughout and it becomes tiresome quickly. The book would be a more engaging and satisfying read if the reader were permitted to occasionally connect the dots for themselves instead of Gretchen alerting them each and every connection, clumsily vocalising her plodding thought process. It would feel less repetitive and would help to quicken the pace early on in the book. Sometimes it's OK for the reader to have questions too!!

The charactierisation throughout the book varies hugely. Some of the Nazi Party's most infamous individuals are brilliantly drawn and others pop up occasionally, perform a sinister task and then mysteriously disappear again. The author adds depth to some of the lesser-known party members, such as Hitler's friend the piano playing PR man Hanfstaengl, who is actually almost likable...This was one of the novel's greatest strengths, the breathing of life into people familiar in the pages of books or in grainy hand-cranked footage. Blankman does an excellent job of demonstrating Hitler's slippery character, his manipulative and opportunistic nature, his psychopathic ego and his unpredictable moods as well as his charisma, charm and deceptively demure character. It's interesting to see off-duty Hitler in fiction, through the eyes of friends and family. The fervour of his ascent to power is captured well too- the absolute hold he had on the minds of his followers.

The other characters I struggled to believe in as much. Dreamy Jewish reporter Daniel and "everything I've ever known is a lie" Gretchen. I felt from the beginning that their relationship was immensely unlikely. Downright dangerous for him. If you were a Jew in 1930s Munich, why would you approach Hitler's pet and offer to do them a favour? In particular, I was disappointed with was the ease with which Gretchen shed every single prejudice and opinion she had ever held. Having been brought up in a party household by a father who was one of Hitler's earliest followers- having eaten Nazi propaganda for breakfast, dinner and tea for 12 solid years, it takes Gretchen mere moments to cast off her Nazi sensibilities and fall head over heels with a forbidden Jew. I'm not saying that this was the wrong thing for her to do obviously, but I would have expected a more gradual, conflicted transition. More convincing reluctance, more inner struggle.

A mixed bag, in summary. It's unfair to call it a bad novel, but I think it could have been vastly improved with a bit of extra editing and more vivid, evocative scene setting. Some of the exposition would benefit from ruthless pruning, allowing the reader some room to think for themselves. Also some of the historical detail could have done with being more seamlessly woven into the novel's setting or characters, so that they felt less of an interestingly relevant historical fact and more a part of the narrative. It's gripping enough, once the pace picks up about half way in, and it's informative, providing a brilliant version of Hitler's rise to power and the daily ins and outs of the quickly growing Nazi party. As ever, Hitler proves to be a fascinating character, and this book has done a good job of bringing his 'between Wars' years to life, including his surrounding cast of intimates and subordinates. It's kind of like seeing Annekin Skywalker before he becomes Darth Vader...the reader knows where its heading and just wishes the other characters did too.

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Undertaking, by Audrey Magee

Peter Faber, a Nazi solder on the Russian front marries a photograph in a ceremony conducted by an army chaplain. Hundreds of miles away in Berlin, Katherina Spinell marries a photograph of the soldier. They meet for the first time when the lice-riddled Peter is given honeymoon leave in Berlin. Leave for him, a widow's pension for her in the event of his death. Also the possibility of a new German baby to continue the empire, which obviously every German has the God-given right to produce. Expecting a marriage of convenience, both Peter and Katherina are surprised by the strength of their attraction to each other and the passionate intensity of their relationship. After his leave, Peter returns to the Eastern front with Katherina's promise that she will wait for him.

This book handles the idea of trial by separation (and subsequent proving of the marriage bond) in an unusual way. Peter's promise to his new wife protects him, gives him a reason to drag himself outside in the morning and the courage to shoot Russian old ladies and drag screaming children from their homes because he's doing it to create a better world for his wife (and eventual child). But the reader is constantly aware of the fact that his marriage is a lie really, part of the Nazi agenda.

I've read narratives featuring Nazis before, but almost always these stories feature the politicians or soldiers. Magee writes of the ordinary people in Berlin, sitting out the war and hoping for the best. Not Katherina and her parents though. All fully buy into the Nazi ideals, swallowing propaganda as gospel and believing themselves entitled to whatever they like simply because they are German. They're vain, greedy and shameless social climbers. Her father, Gunther is an associate of the notorious Doctor Weinart whose mysterious nocturnal business involves raiding the homes of Jews and deporting them, taking the spoils for himself and his circle of friends. Katherina's family grab greedily at all the privileges and tidbits that the Doctor offers them, basking in their raised positions.

The style is sparse, detached. Functional. The narrative places the victims at arm's length so the shootings, pistol whippings and the cruel evictions are experienced through the eyes of the German soldiers, simply tasks to be done, obstacles to remove. They complain among themselves of the frustration and discomfort of being stuck in Russia, but it's mixed in with their intense feelings of pride and elation at the thought of being national heroes, expanding the reach of the great German Empire one meter at a time.

This novel made me wonder at the motivations of German soldiers (or pretty much anybody that decides to fight a war for a cause). Does an individual lace his boots and pick up his gun because he truly believes in the cause he is fighting for? Or does he eventually condition himself to believe in the cause to justify his war atrocities? To explain his behaviour and absolve his guilt? And with the Nazis in particular, did they ever doubt themselves? Did the party news of victory after victory, of triumph and entitlement ever seem even for a moment to be too good to be true? Peter and Katherina both suffer horrifically, and it's almost possible to feel sympathy for them at times. But their suffering does not change them as people, merely makes them bitter. They seem to really believe that they were right.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The eastern front from an Axis perspective is a voice that I've never experienced before and the dialogue heavy structure gave the narrative a detached immediacy. It was horrific at first, but the reader quickly becomes hard to shock. It's just the way of war. Peter and Katherina could be anybody. The narrative does not go into their inner worlds too much, but sticks to descriptions of their movements and widely-held opinions. It is not a very personal story at all and that is what makes it so thought provoking.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Bailey's Prize 2014: Thoughts and Predictions

The winner of the Bailey's Prize will be announced until June 4th in a fancy ceremony at the Southbank Centre, but there's always room for some speculation and predictions...

The judges are given the key criteria for the Prize – "accessibility, originality and excellence in writing by women". That's fairy broad. It makes predicting the winner pretty difficult. Each book is undoubtedly excellent. But which is best? It depends who you ask and what they like.

Over the last 6 weeks, I've been on a mission to read them all. It's the first prize shortlist that I've ever read in its entirety (prior to the announcement of the winner at least) so I have never truly been able to objectively view a shortlist. I honestly think this is an incredible selection of titles. It's truly diverse, featuring locations in India, Iceland, Nigeria, America, Ireland, Russia, Germany and The Netherlands. The authors themselves are American, Irish (x2), Australian, Nigerian and Indian-American- so even if the reader (like me) is not especially well travelled, this year's shortlist offers some fascinating looks into life in other countries and other times.

So who's going to win? And if they are going to win, what's likely to edge it for them? This is what I reckon...

Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent- (full review here)

If Burial Rites wins, it will be down to the accessibility of this novel. Broad enough to appeal to Nordic Noir fans, as well as crime fiction and historical fiction readers, it offers something appealing to all at the same time that it offers something perhaps less frequently experienced in these genres. It's beautifully written, and frames a tragic story of loyalty and persecution with some incredible and original settings.

If it misses out, it will be because whilst it is an engaging, tragic read, on the whole it is not really doing anything enormously new.

A Girl is A Half Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride- (full review here)

If it wins, it will be for reinventing the modern novel. Its originality is staggering and its fragmented, jerky prose (is it even prose??) creates such an immediate narrative effect that it's an unforgettable reading experience. The narrator does not tell her story, she shows it. It's brave, unique and incredibly personal and the unnamed narrator is such an arresting, tragic character.

If it loses out, it will be because the style (which is so unique and effective) could alienate some readers, and as accessibility is one of the three things to look out for, this could prove a stumbling block.

The Goldfinch, by Dona Tartt- (full review here)

If this wins, it will be because of the breathless, insane spectacle of this novel. It's brilliantly original, intricate and filled with incredible characters. The quality of the prose is astonishing, it's an absolute joy to read and the love and the craft that's gone into this novel is evident on every page. I could rave all day about its brilliance.

If anything is going to ruin it for the Goldfinch, it would be the size of it. The hardback is beautiful but enormous and I think many readers that would otherwise love this novel might be deterred by its sheer bulk.

The Undertaking, by Audrey Magee (full review here)

The prose is unique in that it is very dialogue heavy and quite dreamlike in its descriptions of frozen Russia and the horrors of the Eastern front. It's unusual to see an Axis perspective in WW2 fiction, and often narratives are more Western front that Eastern. It's accessible on a technical level as the prose is so readable, but it's incredibly thought provoking and the characters are so brilliantly anonymous and evoke a strange type of much so that it sometimes comes as a surprise to be reminded that they are big believers in the Nazi cause. It's accessible in that historical fiction readers would find it appealing and the romantic and political elements might score extra readers.

If it falls down on one thing it would be the dialogue style. While this is very well handled, a lack of signposting might be considered frustrating, and I can see why it could put people off. The plot could seem quite far fetched to some readers.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (full review here)

An honest, unique and well characterised story of race, loss and identity. The character's blog posts help to characterise and to increase the novel's uniqueness, as well adding substance to the style. The writing is beautiful, the characters are excellent and the plot is both believable and sprawling. It's an incredibly appealing novel, and really thought provoking, sensitively written without asking for sympathy or (I think) being preachy.

If it misses out, it could be down to an interpretation or fear of preaching. Sensitive subjects being tackled honestly and without apology will always be in danger of appearing preachy to some readers.

The Lowland, by Jumpa Lahiri (full review here)

A dreamlike, absorbing read about life in and out of India. The characters' relationships are expertly drawn up and the world feels real and authentic. It's an engaging narrative of tradition versus success and the conflicting sense of family loyalty under the strain of estrangement. Well written, but sparse in style.

Though it's enjoyable and stylish and the plot is engaging, the prose is lacking some of the lyrical drama of the rest of the list. It's works within the style of the narrative, but doesn't really hold up under direct comparison.

So- there are reasons why each of them might not win the Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction (and most of them I'm just Devil's advocating on). It really is a struggle to call. All of the remaining titles are unique and though some are more accessible than others, the reading is all the more rewarding for weathering the storm. They are all examples of excellence in writing full stop- it genuinely baffles me that the term "Women's Fiction" is usually used so restrictively, when there's such an abundance of diverse writing by women with such rich, evocative prose as these.

Gun to head though...When the criteria have been weighed up, and they all obviously meet the criteria or they would never have made it this far, I'm going with the Goldfinch. Purely because as I was reading them, it is the one that I enjoyed the most. It's the one I still think about and the one that I read most quickly as I couldn't get enough. It is also the only one that I feel like I want to read again.

The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker

Set in the immigrant neighbourhoods of New York City at the turn of the 20th Century, The Golem and the Djinni begins with the animation of the Golem on board a ship headed from the Old World to the New. Moments later her master, the man who chose the Golem's peronality, paid for and brought her to life dies, leaving the Golem alone and without papers, purpose or even a name in an impossible and unfamiliar place.  Masterless, the Golem finds herself burdened not only by her potentially violent and destructive nature, but also be the ability to hear the desires and prayers of everyone around her, desperate to satisfy and help them. Taken in by a Rabbi and hidden within the Jewish community, the Golem, named Chava by her guardian must try and hide her potentially murderous nature from her neighbours, try to disguise herself as a human and live amongst them.

Meanwhile, a tinsmith in Little Syria is restoring a small and battered but still elegant copper flask. He is somewhat alarmed when a naked man falls out of it. Transformed and imprisoned in human form with an iron bracelet, the Djinni (not the wish granting sort) does not remember how he came to be in the flask. He is certain that a wizard trapped him in it possibly thousands of years ago in what is now known as Syria. The wizard is almost certainly dead, likely too the rest of his kind. Named Ahmed by the tinsmith, the Djinni cannot return to the deserts of his homeland in human form- he must stay in Little Syria and learn to adapt to his new life as best he can.

A chance meeting one night in Washington Square Park begins an unlikely relationship between the Golem and the Djinni, more alliance than friendship, based initially on neither creature's ability to sleep. Prowling the streets of New York at night, both are less restricted than in the day and explore the parks, roofs and boroughs of the city together. One made of clay and the other of fire, their difference draws them together. Their friendship evolves, as do the characters, as they learn more about what it is to be an American, what it is to be a human and their roles in the world.

I loved Wecker’s imagining of old New York and its teeming, busy immigrant population. Sometimes it's grubby and unappealing, but it's immersive and full of hope, industry and new starts. The cast of characters conjured from the streets of the Jewish and Syrian quarters were interesting, full of their own histories and motives and they all wove together brilliantly. The wealthy socialite on 5th Avenue, the social worker at the Yiddish arrivals hostel and the mentally damaged ice cream's such a rich case of characters adding substance to the New York of the past. The back story of the Djinni added another element to the narrative, full of Arabic folklore, guilt and tradition. Cheva doesn't have a back story, she's brand new. Is that better? Or is your history what gives you your identity?

I loved the blending of fantasy with the real-world historical setting and the introduction of mystical creatures from other cultures. The Djini from the Middle East and the Golem from Jewish Poland- I think we've had our fill of Vampires, Werewolves and angels, fantasy needs some new faces. They made excellent characters, full of flaws and personality and believable fears and desires. Cheva too measured, too eager to please and afraid of her own strength. If she is to live as a human she must learn to have fun. Ahmed is the opposite in every way; a slave to his own desires, headstrong and impulsive. He needs to be more careful if he is to keep his true identity secret. Their difference drew attention to the absurdity of the human species, their hopes and desires, which everybody has, and the traditions and habits, which are more unique to specific groups. Trying to blend into a crowd should be easy, but when it's a crowd as diverse and as mashed up as the new residents of New York it's harder than it sounds.

It's a complex but accessible novel about many things, and its themes complement each other, building up a complicated picture of life and belonging. Wecker explores the immigrant experience, rebirth, the question of whether to cast off the old or to maintain tradition, faith, the place of religion, identity, asks a staggering amount of questions. Is it better to conform and blend in, or to stay true but live in fear of discovery? And to say it's quite a chunky book where not a huge amount happens, it's a very swift, engaging read.

The Golem & the Djinni made me want to find out more about the more obscure folk tales and mythologies, and find out more about the lives of the millions of immigrant families that poured into New York at the end of the century. It managed to be realistically atmospheric, with veins of the fantastic running through it. If you were going to find mythical creatuures, where else would be more likely?


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is what one of its characters claims is impossible- an honest novel about race in America. It tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, two Nigerian teenagers that fall hard in love during their school years, becoming inseparable. They start university together, but due to the constant government strikes Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to finish her degree and begin her postgraduate studies in the United States, a destination that has always seemed almost mythically exotic to Obinze. They plan for Obinze to join her later, but a post 9/11 America is not a willing to give any young Nigerian men the benefit of the doubt. After failing to hear from Ifemelu for months and months, Obinze moves to England. Finding work in an Essex warehouse using a false identity, he resorts to an arranged sham marriage to obtain a visa and a NI number. 

Though the two characters spend the vast majority of the narrative apart, their connection is unmistakable. They are flawed, self destructive and misguided, but they are powerfully and permanently linked. We follow the paths of their separate lives, led on different continents. Both paths are blighted with poverty, depression and desperation that each of them endure and overcome alone, before they are reunited once more in Lagos many years later.

I was really drawn into the worlds and the characters of this novel, not just the star crossed lovers but the vibrant cast of supporting characters- the boisterous African-American cousin Dike, the enigmatic General, the hunky intellectual professor ex boyfriend and the inquisitive but depressing Africans that staff the American braiding salon. The care and craft that went into depicting the supporting characters and grim detail of the surroundings did a really effective job of setting the stages in Nigeria, England and America. The reader really understands that there are all kinds of lives and times tied up in the events of Americanah and that though the experiences of its characters are intensely personal, the types of discrimination, the various struggles and difficulties experienced by each of the characters feels universal.

One of the concepts that I found most intriguing about this book was the cultural and social differences between being an African and an African American. Ifemelu points out that whilst a Nigerian might have been running for political office in Nigeria, an African American during the same period would have been sitting at the back of the bus and drinking from specially designated water fountain. The theme of personal and cultural identity runs thickly through this book, and it manifests itself in many ways, including (surprisingly) through the multiple hair styling options available to black women and what each decision potentially says about its wearer.

I loved the blogging element of this novel- I devoured all of Ifemelu's posts, feeling outrage and disgust on her behalf and ignorance and shame on my own. Every reader must wonder if they've ever had a conversation with another that's inwardly provoked a similar internal reaction. What if you've said something annoying or obvious in trying to seem sensitive or interested? The posts were interesting and intricate and really gave the reader the opportunity to get into the head of the protagonist. Her explorations of contemporary race and identity politics were fascinating, heartbreaking and so honestly written. It would be easy for the author to take the opportunity to be heavy handed, judgmental or preachy, but they felt so genuine and valuable and depressingly every day. While social commentary and racial politics play an important role in the book, it's the credible characters and the perceptive, confident story-telling that takes centre stage.

I was absolutely bowled over by the prose in this book- it's simply a beautifully told narrative. A fairy ordinary but very personal story of loss, separation and new starts, narrated in a way that is beautiful, assertive and evocative. A fascinating insight into the minds and lives of others, filled with vibrant and memorable characters and unique voices full of identity. I honestly thought the Goldfinch had the Bailey's Prize in the bag, but now all bets are off.

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

I had waited and waited excitedly for this to come out in paperback for ages. Now that I've read it, I'm not sure what to make of it. I loved Stardust and The Graveyard Book, so I'm not new to Gaiman, though I have yet to attempt any of his chunkier offerings. TOATEOTL has all of his usual hallmarks; a clash between the real world and the fantastical, horrific monsters, the idea that childhood is actually a bit terrifying, a battle between good and evil and an unlikely but rock solid friendship between a male and female protagonist. His books always make the reader feel like magic is woven into the fabric of the real world so carefully but unless you are looking for it or are open minded enough to expect to see it, it will always be invisible.

The narrator, who's name is not given, returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of a relative. Whilst in the area, he visits his old home's location, the house itself long since demolished. He continues down the lane to the farm that he remembers at the bottom, and the pond that his only real childhood friend Lettie Hempstock (the oldest 11 year old in the world) swore was an ocean. Sitting by the side of the pond/ocean, he recalls a story that he thought he had forgotten, about worms, flappy monsters made of cloth, an evil au pere that took over his family and a trio of the most remarkable women that he had ever met. Gaiman is unbeatable when it comes to child narrators- it's incredible how accurately he inhabits the skin of children. His writing is so convincing that when he describes a child's unwavering belief in things in traits like loyalty and courage, it resonates with even the most cynical of adults. Such faith is lost by then.

At times this books is a bit uncomfortable- the misery of the narrators childhood is kind of heartbreaking, but this is Gaiman's writing at its best. The boy hates being a child, the absolute lack of voice and power cripples him. Uncaring parents, a mean sister, friends only in books and whole load of weirdness going down in the woods. He has the fears and feeling of responsibility of an adult, but the imagination and (lack of) resources of a child. Endless scope for terror and impotence. In some ways Ocean is an allegorical novel about how a child views the adult world and its sneaky adult complexities and inconsistencies.

The prose is wonderful as usual, characteristically fantastical and the novel features some brilliant, tough characters, but ultimately it failed to make any lasting impression on me. I loved the access that the author provided to the thoughts and fears of the narrator, it's easily what carries the novel beyond a simple series of events. I just didn't feel drawn into the book's reality and it didn't really stay with me once I put it down. I think this just wasn't the one for me, so it's on to American Gods next!