Lily King explores the culture of the anthropologists of the 1930s as they raced to demystify the many unknown tribes in New Guinea. Inspired by the work of Margaret Mead, King explores the extraordinary work, personal sacrifice and risks taken by these anthropologists.
Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Anthony Doerr writes an enthralling story about love and empathy amidst the terrors of war and extremism. The story revolves around a blind young girl and her devoted father, who creates an exact replica of her town so that she can easily find her way.
The girl, Marie-Laure, had become blind by the age of six. Her father is a locksmith who works at the Museum of Natural History. As his daughter’s sight finally fails, her father builds her a model of Paris, and in this way she is able to navigate around the city. The Jardin des Plantes is their favourite place, and here Marie-Laure orients herself by counting drain covers and trees and streets, memorising routes and recognising the scents of trees and flowers.
In a parallel story, a young boy in Germany, Werner, an orphan, comes to the notice of the Nazis for his astonishing skill at fixing radios, and this leads to his relocation to an elite school aimed at providing skills for the Reich. Little Werner proves his worth and survives, even though the school is brutal and unrelenting.
When the Nazis arrive in Paris and begin to investigate the museum, demanding keys from Marie’s father, he makes plans to move to his uncle’s house in Saint-Malo. Despite her blindness, the girl is able to visualise the layout of the town when her father makes a small and detailed model of it. Months go by. Werner moves closer to the front as the Germans favour experts who can pick up radio transmissions from the allies. Life in Saint-Malo becomes increasingly difficult as the Germans take full control. Marie-Laure’s father is investigated and taken away, ending up in a German camp. Marie-Laure, virtually all alone with her eccentric great uncle now, joins the resistance and carries messages in baguettes. The Guardian
Donna Tartt has conjured up some critical controversy with her latest novel, The Goldfinch. While it has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014, the critics have been fighting over whether or not this book should be getting the accolades that is has. Read more about it in Vanity Fair.
But, controversy or not, it is a fascinating, enthralling story about Theo Decker. Theo’s troubles begin when, while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother, the museum is blown up by terrorists, killing his mother, while he barely escapes with his life, and with one of the most valuable paintings in the world, the Carel Fabritius masterpiece, The Goldfinch. His life takes on many twists and turns as he struggles to keep the painting hidden and ultimately find meaning for his own life.
Mink is a witness, a shape shifter, compelled to follow the story that has ensnared Celia and her village, on the West coast of Vancouver Island in Nu:Chahlnuth territory. Celia is a seer who – despite being convinced she’s a little “off” – must heal her village with the assistance of her sister, her mother and father, and her nephews. While mink is visiting, a double-headed sea serpent falls off the house front during a fierce storm. The old snake, ostracized from the village decades earlier, has left his terrible influence on Amos, a residential school survivor. The occurrence signals the unfolding of an ordeal that pulls Celia out of her reveries and into the tragedy of her cousin’s granddaughter. Each one of Celia’s family becomes involved in creating a greater solution than merely attending to her cousin’s granddaughter. Celia’s Song relates one Nu:Chahlnuth family’s harrowing experiences over several generations, after the brutality, interference, and neglect resulting from contact with Europeans. (source)
Based on the unrest in Caledonia, Ontario where native land was being used for a housing development, this novel explores the many characters and issues at stake at the time. It is a fiction in every sense of the word, so the political aspects are muted and don’t overpower the character development and storyline.
But even if the story were not a gripping exploration of town/reserve relations, Smoke River would be a glorious read just for Foss’s imagery, which conjures up a hot, humid Ontario summer that seems to shimmer off the page: “Finally it arrives, the slightest mutiny of scent: sweet clover seeds, germinating in the backhoed earth, an insurrection of moisture beneath the drained and filled pond, an invasion of pollens breezing in off the river.” That connection to the land, which Shayna and Coulson share, is another powerful theme that permeates the novel. (source)