Words: Chelsea Haith
Room – Emma Donoghue
Donoghue explores the experiences of a young child who grows up in captivity. His mother was abducted as a university student, raped and forced to live with her son in a small room by her abductor. The novel concentrates on how the child and mother make sense of their world. This novel is not only heart-breaking and harrowing, it is also enlightening and a story about human nature and the dark places within us.
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
What reader could ever forget the thrill of the thought that a place such as The Cemetery of Forgotten Books could exist? The idea is toe curling and delicious; a hidden library of books and for the lucky few who enter through its doors, one book meant for each person. The Shadow of the Wind, its prequel The Angel’s Game and the sequel The Prisoner of Heaven are steeped in mystery and intrigue. The novels wind through the streets of Barcelona that today hold only the scars of the Spanish Civil War on its stonewalls and can only hint at the stories those stones could tell.
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
Not especially original, the post-apocalyptic landscape being a favourite for many writers wishing to delve into the ‘what if’ of human nature, The Road is exceptional in its execution. McCarthy’s novel feels grey and leaves the reader feeling as burnt and tired as the landscape the father and son trudge through. A masterpiece in apocalyptic writing, the landscape of the novel reflects the landscape of the writing, both contributing to a space that is dead and devoid of hope.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby
What is it like to be trapped inside your body, completely aware of your surroundings but able only to interact by blinking one eye? Bauby was the Editor of French Elle until his stroke in 1995, which left him with Locked-In Syndrome. He tells his story in this memoir which he wrote with the aid of a partner who would go through the letters of the alphabet in order of frequency of use (in French), blinking when his partner reached the correct letter. Bauby died two days after the book was published. It was later made into a prize-winning film of the same name, in French Le Scaphandre et le Papillon.
One Pill Makes you Smaller – Lise Dierbeck
Dierbeck takes eleven-year old Alice Duncan and thrusts her into a woman’s body in 1970s Manhattan, a world of sex and psychedelia à la Andy Warhol. Set both in the filthy apartment Alice inhabits and inside the mind of this eleven-year-old girl growing into physical maturity faster than she can emotionally understand, One Pill Makes You Smaller is suffused with pop culture, art and disco. Lost innocence is central to the novel and the references to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland are unmistakeable; New York and the art school are the rabbit hole, and Alice is lost in the tide of puberty, struggling to find herself and her way back to sanity.