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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

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Customer Comments

heartofstingray has commented on (2) products.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Sweet Tooth

heartofstingray, January 5, 2013

Ian McEwan has always been hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes he moves and enchants me, and others, his novels leave me cold. Sweet Tooth is easily one of my favorites of his, perhaps because I had no expectations of it. I was interested simply because of its pedigree and because I wanted to read 2012's notable fiction, and with no prior knowledge of its plot or genre, I was thrilled and captivated. McEwan is an author I have always associated with a masculine voice, even when writing from a female perspective, and I was pleasantly surprised by how deeply he captured the point of view of such an intelligent yet haughty, romantic yet realistic young woman. Serena might be my favorite female protagonist of recent years. Yes, she is idealized, beautiful and too smart and well-read for her own good, but she is also so distinctly realized, the novel is rather like a diary or a conversation, a succinct dialogue of one, full of hopes and fears and lessons learned. At times, the novel reminded me of John Le Carré's The Little Drummer Girl, but Serena has a greater sense of autonomy than the protagonist of that work. Unlike Le Carré's Charlie, McEwan's heroine has an authentic and challenging voice, and she becomes much more than a passive observer or pawn for MI5. And for avid readers, the kind who devour any and all written word, Serena rings far truer than the academic, dependent protagonist of Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot. Sweet Tooth, despite its larger than life elements and nostalgic setting, is easily one of the most relatable books of the year.
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Every Day by David Levithan
Every Day

heartofstingray, September 11, 2012

Though I have very little experience with Levithan's work outside of his Rachel Cohn, this novel has turned me into a fan. "Every Day" is one of those novels I want to give to all my friends and everyone I meet.

The premise is a little science fiction, a little romance, and a little coming-of-age. It reminds me quite a bit of Ursula K. LeGuin and Margaret Atwood's character-driven works. A is a fascinating but flawed character, torn between always-sacrifice and pursuing personal romantic desires, and while the reader understands how ze loves Rhiannon, there are constant questions about how she can handle loving a person in constant transition. Levithan has written a beautiful, striking, trans-positive story of first love and its failings. While I wish there had been more physical diversity in the bodies, A inhabits, when I have reflected on the novel since I finished reading it, I think only of the bits I loved, the ones that made me cry, the pretty and the painful.

Not to spoil anything, but the last two central bodies of the novel are easily the most entertaining and provide the best promise of normalcy. As much as A is an essentially intersexed or trans character, Levithan does not get "preachy" about A's sexual identification. A is just...A, not a boy or a girl, but ze loves who ze loves, and does zer best to maintain the lives ze possesses.

My only decent-sized quibble has nothing to do with Levithan and all to do with the copywriter who contributed the book jacket: A never specifically identifies as male or female in the book, but the front flap refers to zer as "he." This wouldn't matter if A actually was a boy- or called zerself such- throughout the book, but the promotional use of male pronouns is problematic because it feels like a cheap attempt not to turn off readers or pigeonhole the novel as gay YA. It's a disappointment because the non-gendered nature of the text is one of the reasons WHY it should appeal to a wide audience, without the "super-girly" or "rough and tumble brofiction" connotations.

Marketing gaff aside, "Every Day" is a top contender for best book of the year, and its "Left Hand of Darkness"-meets-"Time Traveler's Wife" premise should appeal to anyone looking for new, engaging storylines and honest emotion in literature.
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