Three Books I'm Reading Now, 5/10/21 Edition
The Books I'm Reading Now
I'm listening to The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates's novel about slavery, with magical realism that offers a possible path to freedom; I'm reading The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz's upcoming novel about a has-been writer who steals a plot idea and emerges a bestselling author haunted by his secret; and I'm reading The Forgotten Kingdom, the second in Signe Pike's fantastic series set in sixth century Scotland (The Lost Queen is the first).
Which books are you reading and enjoying these days, bookworms?
01 The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates's The Water Dancer explores the relentless oppression and hopelessness of slavery, the resigned, broken existence of the imprisoned, the masters' willful brutality, and the spark to fight that persists in some who have been hurt and pushed down for generations.
The Water Dancer traces the life of Hiram Walker, a "Tasked" man (the word "slavery" is rarely used in the book) living and working on a Virginia plantation. His mother died when he was young, and he has no memory of her. But the white master of the plantation is Hiram's biological father, and composed young Hiram is set up as a companion to his foolish white half-brother (his father's heir). Hiram's lineage is acknowledged, and he shows himself to be far more intelligent and capable than his white brother, yet racial barriers are rigid and clear. He may not inherit, nor may he rise above his station.
Coates intersperses bursts of magical realism that promise an unexpected path to freedom, but in order to take advantage of these, Hiram must learn to understand and master his mysterious powers that allow for shifts in time and space.
I'm listening to this as an audiobook and this is a slow mover so far; Coates is taking his time building the story. The author also wrote the memoir Between the World and Me.
02 The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
This book is making me verrry nervous so far.
Jacob Finch Bonner (he added the "Finch" himself once his aspirations to become a writer became all-encompassing) wrote a well-received first book, but now his career has fizzled. He teaches writing at a third-tier university and isn't even working on anything new--not that any agents or publishers are interested.
An obnoxiously confident student cagey about what he feels is a slam-dunk bestseller book idea confides in Bonner about his plot. When the student abruptly dies soon afterward, Bonner banks on the probability that he hadn't trusted anyone else with details about his book. He decides to take a risk: he'll use his student's concept and aim to create a bestseller of his own. You can't copyright a plot anyway, right? RIGHT?
Do you think this terrible decision-making comes back to haunt Jacob Finch Bonner? Yes, bookworms. YES, IT DOES.
I received a prepublication copy of this book, to be published May 11, 2021, courtesy of NetGalley and Celadon Books.
03 The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike
This is Pike's second book in The Lost Queen trilogy. Set in sixth century Scotland, The Forgotten Kingdom traces the story of Languoreth, a strong, imprisoned queen; her twin brother Lailoken (the inspiration for the character of Merlin); and the complicating factors of bloodthirsty vengeance and war between Languoreth's husband and his allies and Lailoken's master and his own allies.
Family is pitted against family; those who worship the old gods clash against those who embrace Christianity; and political alliances falter and reform in unexpected patterns. The details of life at the time are wonderful, and some characters wield magic and hold mysterious powers.
This is epic. I loved Pike's first novel in this series, The Lost Queen, and so far this book is reminding me of The Mists of Avalon and Outlander.