ihatehate, February 8, 2010 (view all comments by ihatehate)
Girl in Landscape is a beautifully written science fiction story about a girl coming of age on a strange new planet. The main character, Pella Marsh, finds her life drastically changing and many demands are put upon her by her family, her new home and by the very small community she has been brought to. Lonely and confused, she finds solace in the planet itself.
This story is unique and moving. One of my all time favorites!
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This is the third novel I?ve read by Lethem, and I may have to read them all. In this genre (he writes in several), Lethem creates what I?d call literary science fiction. Here (and in Amnesia Moon) the reader is immediately in medias res with little preliminary exposition and even less later clarification. This works only because Lethem is so skillful at evoking environments and social circumstances through spare, nuanced prose. Though their styles and concerns are not particularly similar, Ursula K. Le Guin?s most recent novels utilize similar techniques. The characters know where they are and why it is the way it is; the reader enters almost as an accidental observer, able to see only a small segment of a broader but obscured world.
Girl in Landscape is a bildungsroman in which the main character, the 13-year old Pella Marsh, comes of age on an alien planet, and in doing so, perhaps also signals a greater coming of age for humanity. Lethem deftly captures both adolescent angst and interpersonal complexity and shows the relationship between the qualities of the characters? psychology and expectations and their ways of seeing and understanding the world they inhabit. The landscape of the title is interior and exterior, physical and social, real and metaphorical. Overtly a tale of misplaced hopes and xenophobia, this is also a narrative of self-discovery and acknowledgement. I only wish the concluding sections had been about 20 pages longer and slightly more archetypal. Still, a terrific read.
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Vintage Books USA -
"Review A Day"
by Jill Owens, Powells.com,
"Girl in Landscape is, really, a perfect little book — innovative, intelligent, surprisingly moving (your heart will lurch a bit at passages you never saw coming), and utterly inventive, it also sheds new light on the loss of innocence and other sacrifices that come with becoming an adult. Whether or not you're a fan of Lethem's other work, this book should not be missed." (read the entire Powells.com review)
"One of the most original voices among younger American novelists....Jonathan Lethem's imagination [is]...marvelously fertile."
"Complex, scary and finally moving." Atlanta Journal & Constitution
by Publishers Weekly,
"[T]his lyrical, often far-fetched meditation on the founding myths of the 21st century remains thoroughly rooted in an emotional world much closer to home."
"A cool, quirky, and oddly compelling coming-of-age story that raises questions that linger long after the book is read."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[I]ngenious and unsettling....Wonderful stuff. One waits eagerly to learn where Lethem will take us next."
One the irrepressibly inventive Jonathan Lethem could weld science fiction and the Western into a mesmerizing novel of exploration and otherness, sexual awakening and loss. At the age of 13 Pella Marsh loses her mother and her home on the scorched husk that is planet Earth. Her sorrowing family emigrates to the Planet of the Archbuilders, whose mysterious inhabitants have names like Lonely Dumptruck and Hiding Kneel—and a civilization that and frightens their human visitors.
On this new world, spikily independent Pella becomes as uneasy envoy between two species. And at the same time is unwilling drawn to a violent loner who embodies all the paranoid machismo of the frontier ethic. Combining the tragic grandeur of John Ford's The Searchers and the sexual tension of Lolita and transporting them to a planet light years, Girl in Landscape is a tour de force.
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