Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Brilliant Fiction You Might Have Missed

The Moo Cow is shredding the bunny slope in Oregon this week, so I thought I would leave you with a fiction complement to the non-fiction list I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

But then I got my ski-pants all in a bunch because there is so much good fiction out there. And I didn't want to write a useless list with no insight. "You should all read Memoirs of a Geisha!" Um, no. Yes, but... no.

Instead, I pulled out a diverse group of perhaps lesser-known works that I hope will inspire you! Let me know what you think and if you have others to add.

1. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Yes, that Neil Gaiman, of graphic novel series Sandman and film Coraline (among others) fame. This clever comedy of errors about the end of the world had me laughing and reading lines out loud to my husband the entire time. (NB: It's not a graphic novel.)


2. Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer. The gripping story of the daughter of a South African anti-apartheid activist. A fitting way to celebrate the life of the great Nelson Mandela.

3. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. I know, I know. Anglophile. Guilty as charged. But I simply swooned for this story of doomed love in the midst of World War I. I have a soft spot for historical fiction, what can I say?

4. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Set in Kerala, India in the 1960s, Roy's book peels away layers of a high-caste family's life to unveil a tragedy. Heartbreaking, and probably more so today for me, since much of the book centers around two young twins.

5. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. Most people have read or seen McEwan's Atonement, which is definitely on my list of favorites. I also loved Saturday, a great British post-9/11 novel. But fewer may know his earlier novel about the interplay of competition and genius between two friends. The ending left me with goosebumps. Brilliant.

6. The Silent Duchess (La Lunga Vita di Marianna Ucria) by Dacia Maraini. I only read this book in Italian, so I can't vouch for the translation, but it was incredible. The story follows an 18th-century Sicilian Duchess who is deaf and mute following a mysterious childhood trauma. Maraini is one of Italy's most well known writers and feminists.

7. The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong by L. Tam Holland. Full disclosure, this book was written by a friend, and I probably would not have picked up a YA novel without that being the case. Nonetheless, I truly loved this witty and well written story of a teen who goes in search of his family history. The strangest thing, though, was relating with both the 'kids' and the 'parents' in the story. I guess that's what happens when you reach the "sandwich" stage and are both a child and a parent. (For more on that topic, read this beautiful post by Brian Sorrell at Dadding Full Time.)

8. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. I loved this complex story of life in the Himalayas contrasted with the life of a new immigrant in New York. The novel deals with the issue of class in these two starkly different places and shows the consequences of small decisions. Years after reading it, I still think about certain scenes when I see overworked busboys.

And speaking of books, don't forget: The Brilliant Book Club is back on Monday, January 27 with our thoughts on The Good Mother Myth (Avital Norman Nathan ed.). Check back here or on our Facebook or Google+ pages.

The links included in this post lead to my Amazon affiliate account. Buying a book via one of the links means I get a teensy, tiny percentage that will not help at all with sending my child to college. But I thank you anyway. I was not compensated for recommending these books in any other way. All opinions are my own.

Old books image courtesy of Paul // FreeDigitalPhotos.net