Posts Tagged ‘Joan London’

Some Fiction From the First Decade of the 2000s (2000-2009) That is Too Good to be Forgotten

 

Below are ten works of fiction from the early 2000s all about which I became enthusiastic and which led me to put these writers in my Must-Read category.

 

‘The Other Side of You’ by Salley Vickers (2006) – Salley Vickers connects the great works of art, in this case the art of Caravaggio, with the conscious daily lives of her characters in a compelling way. Her novels are definitely literary, yet are as light as a soufflé.

 

 

 

‘Ludlow’ by David Mason (2007) – Here is a novel-in-verse but not with the subject matter you would expect for a novel in verse. The coal miners of Ludlow, Colorado go on strike in 1914, one of the cruelest, bloodiest chapters in the history of American labor. The verse novel strategy works brilliantly to describe scenes that are not always pretty.

 

‘The Beauty of the Husband’ – A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos by Anne Carson (2001) – In lyrical lines that suggest the movements of tango dancers, Carson describes scenes from a doomed marriage. This is a modern take on the intimate cruelties of marriage.

Three minutes of reality

All I ever asked

She stands looking out at rain on the roof.”

‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai (2006) – I read much of the work of her mother Anita Desai, and daughter Kiran Desai carries on brilliantly. ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ has depth, emotion, hilarity, and imagination; what more can you ask for?. But why hasn’t Kiran Desai published any fiction since 2006?

 

 

 

‘The Known World’ by Edward P. Jones (2003) – By focusing on a black slave owner, Edward P. Jones avoids turning this novel into a morality play of good and evil. There is no one preaching. The matter-of-fact tone only intensifies the reader’s reaction to this story.

 

 

 

‘Black Swan Green’ by David Mitchell (2006) – This is David Mitchell’s lightest most engaging novel, and it is my favorite of his work.

These jokes the world plays, they’re not funny at all.”

 

 

 

‘Gilgamesh’ by Joan London (2001) – A teenage woman and her young child take an amazing trip from rural Western Australia to Armenia and back. This is a blunt and beautifully written novel that deals with life’s tough truths.

 

 

 

 

‘John Henry Days’ by Colson Whitehead (2001) – Even before ‘Underground Railroad’, Colson Whitehead wrote wonderful novels. This novel is more humorous and thus more fun for me than ‘Underground Railroad’. Sometimes it seems writers lose their lightness as they get older.

 

 

‘Lush Life’ by Richard Price (2008) – Richard Price is the excellent writer of novels that take place on the streets of New York. He lived in a housing project as a child and knows all about the city street life. He has branched out to writing for TV and the movies, but I have followed his written fiction from the beginning.

 

 

 

‘How the Light Gets In’ by M. J. Hyland (2004) In 2004, M. J. Hyland was the new female novelist who burst on the scene with this her first wonderful novel and got much of the attention and some awards. After reading this novel and her next, ‘Carry Me Down’, I put her in my must-read category. However she has not published a novel since 2009.

 

 

Generosity’ by Richard Powers (2009) – A likable and passionate novel about the search for happiness and the Happiness gene. And you thought our state of mind was the result of happy or sad events in our lives?

 

Happy Reading!

‘The Golden Age’ by Joan London – Why We Read Novels

 

‘The Golden Age’ by Joan London   (2014) – 221 pages

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I have often thought about why people read novels or, more in particular, why do I read novels.  I came up with the following reason. Reading a really good novel can be transformative for me just like a few of the people that I have met during my lifetime who have changed me. ‘The Golden Age’ is one of those really good novels which had this profound effect on me. Why I feel such a need to transform myself is another question.

Joan London is a transcendent old-fashioned novelist, and that is a glorious thing.  She writes about people being heroic in desolate circumstances.  Take the following lines about the nurse Lidja who works at the children’s polio hospital called The Golden Age:

“Everyone knew that Lidja would not give up on you.  She bent their fingers and wrists, twisted their torsos, stretched their legs, brought their heads down to their ribs.  They learned not to whimper or to complain.  She presided over their momentous occasions – the first time they stood alone, the first step they took.

The reward was Lidja’s smile and the way she said their name.  She made them feel like athletes training for a race.  They must fight, they must never give up, they were going to win!” 

The novel is mainly the story of the Golden Age makeshift hospital, its staff, and the child polio patients.

Thanks to doctors Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin I missed the terrible epidemics of polio by a few years.  In ‘The Golden Age’ the Gold family somehow escaped the Holocaust in their hometown of Budapest and migrated to Australia, only to have their only child Frank come down with polio six years later.  Frank is a rather precocious 13 year-old, and soon he falls in love with 12 year-old Elsa, another polio patient.

One admirable quality I find in Joan London as well as in several other Australian fiction writers is that she does not confine her characters to little tightly defined compartments where their every word or action can be guessed ahead of time.  Instead she allows all of her characters the freedom to be eccentric or unique or different from the others as they see fit.  Thus we get a novel of several unique independent people interacting with each other with sometimes unexpected results.  This is true for the patients at the hospital as well as the staff and the parents.  I find Australian novels in general more unpredictable than others, and that is a positive trait.

‘The Golden Age’ is a fine traditional heroic novel.  The characters in the novel not only persevere despite bleak conditions, they triumph.

 

(However I do have a complaint about the cover.  In the cover I did not use, the boy is at least sixteen, and Frank in the book is only thirteen. The cover I’m using isn’t great, but it is not so bad.)

 

Grade:   A 

 

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