Spring is here: storks on the electricity poles, calves in the fields, and suddenly a million things to do around the house and garden. Full-time travel around the 50 countries of Europe was, in some ways, less consuming of time and energy than living in a small cottage in rural Serbia.
In any case, after a cold, dark winter exacerbated by Covid-19 restrictions, I’m not complaining. My reading time this month has been limited, but I still finished some excellent books:
Kindred by Octavia E Butler
This was my first book by Octavia E Butler, but I have a feeling it won’t be my last. This was a powerful exploration of race in America through the medium of one woman’s involuntary time travel between 1970s California and an old Maryland plantation in the days of slavery. When I’ve come across time travel in fiction before, it’s mostly been done voluntarily by white characters who are able to exist as human beings in the era they travel to, suffering only a few odd remarks about their clothes and speech. But when a black woman does it against her will and instantly becomes a piece of property to be brutalised at will by anyone with white skin, it takes on an entirely different dimension.
Island by Alistair MacLeod
Island is a wonderful collection of stories set on the rugged Canadian island of Cape Breton amid small, isolated communities of fishers, farmers and miners, mostly descended from Irish and Scots refugees fleeing English brutality on the other side of the Atlantic and still carrying their ancestors’ traditions and speech patterns with them. You can get a flavour of the book by reading my review of one of the stories, The Vastness of the Dark, or by checking out the more in-depth reading project over at Buried in Print.
I chipped in to the crowdfunder for this book last year some time and then forgot to update my address, so my copy bounced around the world for a bit before finally finding its way here. It was a nice surprise to receive it, and I enjoyed reading these essays on multiple different facets of trauma, art, and mental health. I plan to write a full review soon, but in the meantime, Lisa at ANZ LitLovers wrote a good one.
The Archipelago of Another Life by Andreï Makine
I read this one for a readalong being hosted by Words and Peace and Cas d’Intérêt. It’s the story of a young man who follows an older man into the Siberian wilderness and hears that, when the old man was young, he tracked a gulag escapee in this same wilderness. But the book is not really about the pursuit or who catches who: it’s about escaping from a dystopic world and trying to find something else, something better and purer, just out there somewhere beyond that line of trees. Highly recommended.
What Are You Reading Now?
I hope you had a good reading month in April and that it’s continuing so far in May. Let me know what you’re reading and whether it’s good!