Time for another installment of Off the Truck. Today’s unexpected links: covers where something is hidden, and the Man Booker Prize.
Something familiar about it. It’s a 2012 book described inside as “An eerie and compelling tale about the line between genius and madness, in which the tangled paths of love lead to unimaginable places.” Set at Cambridge, it’s the story of a man who falls in love with a woman, and spends time with her brother (the one who blurs genius and madness), and gets caught up in their lives. It makes me think of The Marriage Plot, and part of Great House. The cover shows a woman sitting on a stone wall with her feet dangling, shoes off; only the bottom half of her face is in the frame. The blurb on the cover, “Dextrously unsettling and deeply empathetic,” is from Eleanor Catton, winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize.
In Lydia Kwa’s The Walking Boy (M), the cover shows a face, but only from the eyes up. This one’s title intrigued me. Where does the walking boy go? Inside there’s a family tree, and a palace floor plan. This is the story of a child left in the care of a monk; a child known to others as a boy, but born of both genders. It is also the story of an Empress. Their journeys, set in 8th century China, are told by a female scribe. The book is described as lyrical, which carries more weight for me when the author is also a poet, as Kwa is. If she writes like Anne Michaels or Michael Ondaatje, this will be a novel to savour.
Finally, I also picked up Jane Rogers’ The Testament of Jessie Lamb (M). The cover shows a girl walking on grass, her arms caught in the wind, her back to us. This book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011, and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2012. Told from the point of view of female teenager Jessie Lamb, it’s set in the near future, where a virus is killing pregnant women. Jessie struggles to find her role in a collapsing society, and her scientist fathers questions whether she’s heroic or naïve. A review in Publishers Weekly called it “unconvincing,” while another in Booklist a “mesmerizing tale.” So is it worth a read, or not? If you enjoyed Handmaid’s Tale, Children of Men, Blindness, or The Blondes, you might like this one too.