Books around the world
Once again, we're back with the latest list of interesting books I've found on the shelves. And what a fascinating bunch I've found.
Nikolski, Nicolas Dickner:
Intricately plotted and shimmering with originality, Nikolski charts the curious and unexpected courses of personal migration, and shows how they just might eventually lead us to home.In the spring of 1989, three young people, born thousands of miles apart, each cut themselves adrift from their birthplaces and set out to discover what - or who - might anchor them in their lives. They each leave almost everything behind, carrying with them only a few artefacts of their lives so far - possessions that have proven so formative that they can't imagine surviving without them - but also the accumulated memories of their own lives and family histories.Noah, who was taught to read using road maps during a life of nomadic travels with his mother - their home being a 1966 Bonneville station wagon with a silver trailer - decides to leave the prairies for university in Montreal. But putting down roots there turns out to be a more transitory experience than he expected. Joyce, stifled by life in a remote village on Quebec's Lower North Shore, and her overbearing relatives, hitches a ride into Montreal, spurred on by a news story about a modern-day cyber-pirate and the spirit of her own buccaneer ancestors. While her daily existence remains surprisingly routine - working at a fish shop in Jean-Talon market, dumpster-diving at night for necessities - it's her Internet piracy career that takes off. And then there's the unnamed narrator, who we first meet clearing out his deceased mother's house on Montreal's South Shore, and who decides to move into the city to start a new life. There he finds his true home among books, content to spend his days working in a used bookstore and journeying though the many worlds books open up for him.Over the course of the next ten years, Noah, Joyce and the unnamed bookseller will sometimes cross paths, and sometimes narrowly miss each other, as they all pass through one vibrant neighbourhood on Montreal's Plateau. Their journeys seem remarkably unformed, more often guided by the prevailing winds than personal will, yet their stories weave in and out of other wondrous tales - stories about such things as fearsome female pirates, urban archaeologists, unexpected floods, fish of all kinds, a mysterious book without a cover and a dysfunctional compass whose needle obstinately points to the remote Aleutian village of Nikolski. And it is in the magical accumulation of those details around the edges of their lives that we begin to know these individuals as part of a greater whole, and ultimately realize that anchors aren’t at all permanent, really; rather, they're made to be hoisted up and held in reserve until their strength is needed again.
The teenage angst thing here is a bit off-putting but it has pirates so it must be a good thing.
Voltaire's Calligrapher, Pablo de Santis
Dalessius is twenty when he comes to work for one of the Enlightenment’s most famous minds, the author and philosopher Voltaire. As the great man’s calligrapher, Dalessius becomes witness to many wonders—and finds himself in the middle of a secret battle between the malevolent remnants of the all-but-dead Dark Ages and the progressive elements of the modern age. The calligrapher’s role in this shadowy conflict will carry him to many perilous places— through the gates of sinister castles and to the doors of a bizarre bordello; toward life-and death confrontations with inventive henchmen, ingenious mechanical execution devices, poisonous fish, and murderous automatons. As the conspiracy to halt the Enlightenment’s astonishing progress intensifies, young Dalessius’s courage—as well as Voltaire’s unique cunning and wit—are put to the ultimate test as they strive to ensure the survival of the future.
This one's surprising as this one didn't really register at first glance. Now it's got my full attention.
The Grift, Debra Ginsberg
What happens when a pseudo psychic suddenly gets the real gift?Marina Marks has been on the grift as a psychic since she was a child, forced into the business by a junkie mother who was always desperate for her next fix—and willing to use her solemn dark-haired daughter to peddle an extra buck. As an adult, Marina has earned a handsome living preying on the dreams and fears of her clients. She doesn’t believe there is such a thing as psychic ability, but she does believe in intuition. Her gift is the ability to gain the trust of her clients and subtly raise her fees as they become more attached to her and her readings.But when Marina moves her “intuitive counseling” business out of muggy, cloying Florida to the milder environs of southern California, her past follows her. As she takes on new clients—a trophy wife desperate to bear a child, a gay man involved with a closeted psychiatrist, and a philandering businessman who’s smitten with her—a former client resurfaces in an eerie way. Suddenly, Marina is in love for the first time, but it is a romance whose roots lie deep in her past and threaten her efforts to reinvent herself.As Marina’s life gets more and more entangled with those of her clients, she makes a startling discovery: she suddenly has the actual ability to see the future. After predicting a murder exactly as it happens, she becomes the sole suspect. Now she’s the desperate one—desperate to clear her name and to discover the meaning behind her visions.
Funny about this book, it's now available at a lot of bargain book shops around the metro. Though I'm not really partial to con stories, the cover's striking enough for me to check it out.
Atmospheric Disturbance, Rivka Galchen
When Dr. Leo Liebenstein’s wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her—or almost exactly like her—and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the original Rema is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love.With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey—who believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weather—Leo attempts to unravel the mystery of the spousal switch. His investigation leads him to the enigmatic guidance of the meteorologist Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, the secret workings of the Royal Academy of Meteorology in their cosmic conflict with the 49 Quantum Fathers, and the unwelcome conviction that somehow he—or maybe his wife, or maybe even Harvey—lies at the center of all these unfathomables. From the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo’s erratic quest becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the seemingly uncontestable truth he knows in his heart to be false.Atmospheric Disturbances is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind. With tremendous compassion and dazzling literary sophistication, Rivka Galchen investigates the moment of crisis when you suddenly realize that the reality you insist upon is no longer one you can accept, and the person you love has become merely the person you live with. This highly inventive debut explores the mysterious nature of human relationships, and how we spend our lives trying to weather the storms of our own making.
This one looks complicated enough, which is what I love in books like these.