Ines of my Soul, by Isabel Allende. I don’t usually read historical fiction – at least, not such recent historical fiction! My mum raves about Allende; most of her other work is contemporary literature, so I’m unlikely to read it. This one, though, is about Ines Suarez, a real Spanish woman who heads off to South America in the 1500s, following her husband. She ends up going to Chile with the conquistadors, when they conquer and settle there. It’s written as though it’s a memoir – old Ines interrupts the story of young Ines at various points, and she speaks directly to her daughter at a number of points. It’s a really fascinating story on a number of levels. There is, apparently, very little info about Ines, so this is very definitely a fiction, but I understand that Allende did a huge amount of research beforehand, so the conditions she describes (at the very least) will be based on fact. Then, old Ines reflects a lot on the whole idea of memory and writing autobiographies, throwing doubt on her own memories at various points, so that’s an intriguing philosophical line. And the writing – well, I read this in a couple of days, which I often do, but her prose is simple delightful to read.
Flood, by Stephen Baxter. Not my favourite Baxter, but still pretty good. The world is flooding… and no, it’s not a global warming polemic. Time span is 2016 to 1052. Some good characters, and interesting social and political reflections.
Chaos Space, by Marianne de Pierres. The sequel to Dark Space, this follows a number of characters – some of whom have finally met up, so their stories start meshing, which makes it all a bit easier to keep straight. There is a lot of weird stuff going on in this universe, and a lot in the background which is only just being revealed in this, the second book. It’s a fairly awesome space opera, although some of the characters tick me off. Still one of the most intriguing aspects is that her main character is Latina; it made me realise just how Anglo a lot of the future is projected to be (at least in the stuff I’ve mostly read; maybe that’s just a reflection of me).
twenty-six lies/one truth, by Ben Peek. About the weirdest book I’ve read in a long time. 26 chapters, each with ten or so entries; each chapter has entries starting with the same letter. It’s roughly “autobiographical” – although like Ines, Peek has a lot to say about the unreliability of memory, and when you pair that with his many entries on fraudsters and hoaxes of the literary world, it’s clear he’s sending up the whole idea of autobiographical ‘truth’. It also reminded me of Eddie Burrup, the male Aboriginal artist who sold a lot of paintings and was then revealed to be the female, white Elizabeth Durack; she’s a distant relative. Anyway, twenty-six lies is confronting, absorbing, and disturbing – mostly in a good way. I read it in a few hours. Half way through I realised it doesn’t have to be read in a linear fashion, but I’m stuck in my ways so I just kept turning the pages. And, at the end, I realised that in fact it does work linearly – there are revelations towards the end that change the way you think about the rest of it. You could read it haphazardly, it would just change your reception of some of the things Peek reveals, although it wouldn’t spoil the story as it would your bog-standard narrative. I also like the cover – typewrite art by Andy Macrae, and the art by Anna Brown, which I recognised from the Nowhere Near Savannah webcomic Peek and Brown collaborated on.
At the moment… Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light, by Mort Rosenblum. I had thought this would be more about the history of chocolate, and it does have some of that, but it’s actually more about chocolate today – the chocolate masters, the chocolate producers, the scandals, the individuals, different perspectives around the world. It’s made me realise that I am in no way a chocolate connoisseur, and probably never will be – living in Australia, and not having the money to spend on it! It’s brilliantly written… and I think I will go back to it right now.