Signed Edition Sweepstakes
 
 

Find Books


Read the City


Win Free Books!


PowellsBooks.news


Interviews | September 2, 2014

Jill Owens: IMG David Mitchell: The Powells.com Interview



David MitchellDavid Mitchell's newest mind-bending, time-skipping novel may be his most accomplished work yet. Written in six sections, one per decade, The Bone... Continue »
  1. $21.00 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    The Bone Clocks

    David Mitchell 9781400065677

spacer

Customer Comments

Chris Johnson has commented on (8) products.

The Submission by Amy Waldman
The Submission

Chris Johnson, January 1, 2012

Waldman's book will appeal to both the mainstream and literary fiction reader. Big ideas moved forward primarily through plot and outstanding dialogue. Must read!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No



Out of Ireland
Out of Ireland

Chris Johnson, June 6, 2008

When I travel abroad I usually try to read books, especially novels, by local authors. Occasionally there is a book so good that I just can't believe it is not available in the US. I have been spending a lot of time in Australia recently, where the per-capita production of quality fiction has to be the highest in the world. On a recent trip to Tasmania, I picked up two books by Christopher Koch.

Koch, if he is known at all here in the States, is known as the author of The Year of Living Dangerously, a novel set in Indonesia and made into an excellent movie. As good as that book (and movie) is, Highways to a War and its companion volume Out of Ireland are even better.

At Port Arthur in Tasmania, you can visit the ruins of one of Australia's most feared penal colonies. One of the more intriguing sites at Port Arthur is a small, pretty cottage on the hill, where William Smith O'Brien was imprisoned. O'Brien was from an Irish aristrocratic family and participated in the Young Ireland movement, for which he was "transported" to Tasmania. Because of his aristocratic status, O'Brien did not serve with the common prisoners at Port Arthur.

Out of Ireland explores the convict history of Tasmania through the eyes and fictional pen of Robert Devereux, an aristocratic Protestant Irishman transported for his role in the Young Ireland movement. The novel is everything you might hope for in such a story. It includes horrifying depictions of life on the transport ships; the hopelessness of the convicts separated from their families, almost certainly for the rest of their lives; beautiful images of the wild Tasmanian landscape; and thoughtful depiction of the ethical quandary these aristocratic "prisoners" faced. In accepting a degree of freedom unavailable to the common convicts, are they implicitly cooperating with English tyranny, or simply making the best of a bad situation? This is the quandary that winds its way throughout this fantastic novel.

Read this book and share it with a friend. And keep your eyes open for other books by this great Australian writer.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)



Highways to a war

Chris Johnson, June 6, 2008

When I travel abroad I usually try to read books, especially novels, by local authors. Occasionally there is a book so good that I just can't believe it is not available in the US. I have been spending a lot of time in Australia recently, where the per-capita production of quality fiction has to be the highest in the world. On a recent trip to Tasmania, I picked up two books by Christopher Koch.

Koch, if he is known at all here in the States, is known as the author of The Year of Living Dangerously, a novel set in Indonesia and made into an excellent movie. As good as that book (and movie) is, Highways to a War and its companion volume Out of Ireland are even better.

Highways to a War begins with the disappearance of Mike Langford in Cambodia in 1976, after the Khmer Rouge takeover of the country. Langford is a famous war photographer with a dangerously romantic affection for southeast Asia and its people. The book is narrated by Ray Barton, an old friend of Langford, who undertakes to find out whether Langford is dead or alive. The story is told through Barton's narration, his interviews with Langford's colleagues, and transcripts of tapes Langford has sent to Barton for safekeeping. Through these devices, we get the back story not only of Langford's experiences in war-torn Vietnam and Cambodia, but also his childhood in Tasmania.

I am no expert on the Vietnam war, or the novels that it has inspired. But I simply cannot imagine a better portrayal of the daily life of soldiers, journalists, and citizens than what is found in these pages. The drugs, the adrenaline, the blood, the boredom, the hope, and the despair are all here. On top of all that, Koch weaves a web of intrigue that leaves the reader with a sinking feeling about the nature of Langford's disappearance, a feeling that makes the story's ending as unsettling and powerful as any I have ever read.

Read this book and share it with a friend. And keep your eyes open for other books by this great Australian writer.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)



Dirt Music by Tim Winton
Dirt Music

Chris Johnson, June 4, 2008

Australia is blessed with many, many great fiction writers, and Tim Winton is one of the very best. Dirt Music is a great example of a novel that can be read at whatever level the reader likes - a good story, yes, but also a love letter from the author to the landscape of Western Australia, and a meditation on loss and recovery. Without giving anything away, the ending of the novel was absolutely, breathtakingly right. When I closed the book, I could feel my heart beating.

"Dirt Music" is described in the novel as music played for the joy of it, on the porch with friends. If you go to Australia, look in stores for a 2-CD compilation on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Records, also called "Dirt Music," that includes music referred to in the novel and inspired by it.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)



Straight Man: A Novel by Richard Russo
Straight Man: A Novel

Chris Johnson, June 4, 2008

I can't agree more with the previous customer reviews! This is a very funny book that is at the same time very humane. Richard Russo's special talent is his ability to get the details of life just right. In this book, he is spot-on about academic life - the complexities of relationships between professors and students, between professors and professors, and between husbands and wives. (In his most recent book - Bridge of Sighs - his portrayal of junior high school is equally perfect.)

If you have anything to do with academia, you will enjoy this novel. If you don't, read it anyway!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(8 of 12 readers found this comment helpful)



1-5 of 8next
spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.