A beautiful anthology of shorts – all of which explore the concept of loss. These are stories that will haunt the imagination and the memory long after you’ve finished reading, spanning an emotional scale which stretches from the poignant to the grief-stricken. Many address the heart-break of bereavement, or the break-down of relationships. Others steer into fantasy or whimsy – I’m thinking here, for example, of Jill Hand’s wonderful narrative, “The Shop of Lost Things.”
Really enjoyed this and hoping to read more from the creative people of Thinkerbeat in the future.
I kind of discovered Ali Smith’s work by accident. I was looking for something to read, and decided to try out a few of the Man Booker shortlisters from 2014. The minute I started How To Be Both, I knew I was going to be reading more of her work.
Boy Meets Girl was as eloquently beautiful a narrative as I could have hoped, and one of the most powerful modern reworkings of ancient myth I have yet encountered. It retells Ovid’s narrative of Ianthe and Iphis, the former transformed by gods into a boy in order to marry the woman she loves. Smith cleverly relocates the story in contemporary Inverness, where two sisters – Imogen and Anthea – battle with their own identity crises.
The tale is one of transformation and the empowering potential of change. In that sense, it is a joyous, riotous and rebellious narrative, which celebrates our capacity to change ourselves, the community around us, and ultimately the world we live in. It’s also a story about the power of stories – of the way in which, in order to grasp the opportunities that change brings, we hold onto narratives as a way of bridging the gap between our former selves and our new identities. But no one says that better than Smith herself, so I’ll finish this review with a quote from Boy meets Girl:
“… it was always the stories that needed telling that gave us the rope we could cross any river with. They balanced us high above any crevasse. They made us be natural acrobats. They made us brave. They met us well. They changed us. It was in their nature too.” (160)
I still can’t quite believe that this was a first novel. It read far more like the work of an author who already has several great works under his belt and has finally decided to produce their “real masterpiece.”
In fact I’ve already read Cloud Atlas and the 1001 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, so perhaps I was inclined to be biased. But I never expected anything quite so lateral in terms of narrative structure, so intricate in terms of plotting, or so profound in terms of concept.
It’s a book that I immediately wanted to rediscover as soon as I’d finished it. Part of the fun of reading Mitchell’s work is the way his stories interlock. It almost becomes a compulsion to trace all the little overlaps and twists which precede and follow from one narrative to the next. But what makes the experience of reading Ghostwritten even more rewarding, is the growing awareness that all these little points of literary triangulation add up to something so much bigger. Something really big.
This is, after all, a novel about the relationship between contingency and fate – about the way we structure our lives around narrative to give them meaning, about our inability to see the hidden points of connection, and ultimately I guess about our ability to tweak those points in order to radically change the world we live in. It’s a story which is global in scale, but never loses sight of detail, a book in which each character’s perspective sucks the reader into an entirely new reality which, fractal-like, functions as a miniature of the whole story.
Just absolutely loved it. Can’t get enough of Mitchell’s work. He has to be one of the most significant writers of modern times.