Reading instead of writing: on the bookshelf @allonymbooks

Once in a while, allonymbooks will round up some of the reading material that has been providing distraction from other (more lucrative) activities. The best of the magical realist novels will also go to the new webpage for the blog, drawing together a sort of ad hoc reference point for magical realist novels that don’t fall obviously into other genres. Suggestions for reading are always welcome.

This week on the Kindle:

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (Available at Amazon UK for Kindle and paperback and US apparently only in paperback as Midnight Riot)

This is a clever, fast-paced crime novel which might very precisely also be described as magical realism, if only because it juxtaposes very effectively the daily grind of the Metropolitan Police of London with a magical dimension in which extraordinary things occur. Our hero is Constable Peter Grant, whose brief interview with a ghostly witness to a murder results in him being apprenticed to a senior officer with magical insight and powers, within a Met that, at least at some quite senior levels, acknowledges the presence and influence of magic in the city. Aaronovitch weaves an almost geeky delight in the history of London, in this case focussing around the rivers that flow through it, with a clever plot that draws out very realistic aspects of everyday life in London, from tourists to the smoking ban, from racial identity to opera. Several well-known and not-so-famous parts of London have cameo roles and Aaronovitch brings everything together neatly at the end, while also establishing strong characters for future novels in the series.

The Thief of Time by John Boyne (Available at Amazon UK and US for Kindle)

Narrated with wit and charm by the eponymous hero, Matthieu Zéla, this magical realist novel zigzags across three centuries through the 250 years of his long, long life. We meet Matthieu’s wives, his lovers, and his seemingly endless line of nephews, all named Tommy, as he interweaves the story of his first love with first hand witness of notable episodes from European history, and with a biting satire of the contemporary British media in which he now dabbles. As with many magical realist novels, Boyne does not seek to explain the ‘magical’ elements of the story, they are simply presented with the same effortless factual accuracy as his portrayals of the French Revolution, the Wall Street Crash, early sound Hollywood and the set of a modern soap opera.

And weighing down the allonymbooks satchel with good old-fashioned paper:

Bluestockings by Jane Robinson (Available at Amazon UK and US in paper only)

This fluent, intelligent narrative is typical of the excellent social history we write in the UK, telling the stories of a number of young women with ambition to be educated equally to their brothers, fathers and cousins. The book is part of background reading for a future Evie Woolmore novel, and is well summed up by a line Robinson quotes from Professor Henry Sidgwick, founder of Newnham College at the University of Cambridge. Sidgwick was a passionate advocate for the education of women, but was heard to remark that his college would not be taken seriously for its girls “looked far too lovely to be clever”.

And on the ‘To Read’ list:

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (for Kindle UK and US)

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (for Kindle UK and US)

The Telling by Jo Baker (for Kindle UK and US)

Please do share your recommendations with allonymbooks. Comments always welcome.

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