|Among Others, by Jo Walton
||[Aug. 26th, 2010|05:20 pm]
papersky.Advance review copy provided by the author, who is |
I got to the line midway through the book, "I've never met anyone called Harriet in real life. I had a brief fantasy about her being Harriet Vane, because she'd be about the right age for that, except that Harriet Vane would be addressed as Lady Peter, and anyway she's fictional. I can tell the difference, really I can." And I stuck my thumb in the book and laughed so hard that I woke the guy across the aisle from me in the airplane and made the fellow beyond him stare. Probably if it wasn't for me the staring one would have been able to find all the words in his twenty-or-so-word word-search in the course of the three-hour plane ride, but I had to interrupt him with my laughing at Jo writing that in this book of all books, where a great many readers will feel absolutely sure that they know exactly which bits are fictional and which are autobiographical, and a great many readers will be wrong in their certainty (as for me, I aim for doubt as a permanent condition; it does me good here as in so many places). And I was only briefly distracted thinking of what kind of tragedies would befall a person that they could intently search for only twenty words over the course of three hours and, oh Lord help us, not find them, when my grandpa would have polished off the word-search, the jumble, the crossword, the sudoku, several chapters of the book he was using the puzzle page as a bookmark in, and had a good nap and a good think and drunk some coffee and leaned across the aisle to tell me a very terrible joke besides. But the problem is I don't know which very terrible joke, that's only one of the many ways having a Grandpa-shaped hole is not nearly so good as having a Grandpa.
This is a digression. But a relevant one. Because Mori Phelps has a sister-shaped hole all through this book. She knows she is not one person, she is half of twins, and the other half is gone, and the difference matters, and it will always matter, and part of what this book is doing is Mori learning that it won't always matter in the same way. And I needed that. She also has a Grampar, and aunts, and like that; when I am complaining bitterly about lack of grandparents and aunts and like that in books, I will have another exception. There will be somebody for me besides Noish-pa now. This is a great relief.
I am also feeling like I am forever comparing things papersky writes to things pameladean writes, but I think that where Lifelode is like The Dubious Hills, Among Others is more counterpoint to Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. In some ways it's doing the same thing but completely opposite. That is to say, they're both about young women who are passionately involved with books, very specific books, and for whom a circle of kindred spirit friends is key to the text, but plotwise/structurally they go more or less completely opposite. But in both cases I think you have different but still really good experiences if you have or have not read the books the characters have read. And if you haven't you can write them down and go find them. I did that with Tam Lin in college. It made for a very pleasant January when I was supposed to be learning FORTRAN, but you don't have to learn FORTRAN, you just sort of do FORTRAN, so there was plenty of time for Janet's things instead, and I expect some of you will have bits of your lives like that, when you can just read Mori's books instead of what you're supposed to be doing, and it will be highly companionable.
I loved this, in case it wasn't clear by my going on about the sorts of things I love in it. It does the sorts of things I love well. I stayed up later than I ought finishing it, when I didn't finish it on the plane and then had dinner with my folks and Grandma and then had to unpack and make the computers work again and things.