First, let me apologize for the radio silence. I have been a bit busy the last few weeks–lots to do at work, trying to finish a few projects before I go away on Thursday morning. Plus, I was experiencing that weird phenomenon called “vårtrötthet” or “Spring Fatigue”. I don’t know if anyone else in the world experiences this but in Scandinavia it seems like it’s the norm. When spring comes, after so many months of cold and darkness, we feel worn out by the light and the warmth (well, it’s not that warm yet but it’s warmer than it was). I have felt like a zombie. Which I guess is fitting since I’ve been watching a lot of “The Walking Dead” and reading Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches and Justin Cronin’s The Passage.
I finished reading A Discovery of Witches a few days ago and really enjoyed the world Deborah Harkness has created. Imagine a world where everything is perfectly normal on the surface–it’s just that normal humans have no clue they’re sharing space with witches, daemons and vampires. Enter into this world Diana Bishop, the last of the infamous Bishop witches. Diana has tried to live a life without magic since the death of her parents, but magic refuses to remain dormant within her. One day while doing research at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, Deborah finds a bewitched book on alchemy that’s been missing for centuries. Her finding the book triggers intrigues all connected with the importance of this book–which could explain the very origin of otherworldly creatures–and it leads Diana to Mattew, a vampire who isn’t all he appears to be. The story is fast-paced and intricate, with a nice romantic touch for those of us who like that sort of thing. I love how Harkness describes daemons as creative geniuses with a wild, unpredictable passionate nature. One daemon in particular plays a small role in the book but those glimpses the reader gets of him are enough to prick curiosity. I have a feeling he will be there in a bigger role in the sequel, which is due out in 2012. Be prepared: A Discovery of Witches is part of a trilogy.
The Passage is of a much darker nature. Steeped in the paranoia of the near-future, Justin Cronin’s 962-page novel deals with the collapse of society following a government experiment gone wrong. Three characters become interconnected in ways that no one can predict: Amy, a six-year-old girl who’s been abandoned by her mother; Anthony Carter, a prisoner on Death Row who is trying to figure out what really happened on the day that led to his imprisonment; and FBI Agent Wolgast, who is bound to Anthony and Amy via Project Noah and a strange feeling that something ominous is coming. And he’s right–there is something awful and insidious on its way and Amy is the only one who can stop it. This is the second novel by Cronin that I’ve read, the first being Mary and O’Neil which had a completely different feel but was equally engulfing. The language is lyrical and yet spare. And there are moments when The Passage feels so cinematic you’ll feel like you’re watching an apocalyptic epic. Intrigued? You should be…and don’t be put off by the length of the book–you’ll be hooked from the first page…
That’s it for now. On Thursday I am off to Matera, Italy for a writer retreat at Locanda di San Martino. Four days of writing and creativity in southern Italy…that’s exactly what I need to get rid of this Spring Malaise. I was in Matera two years ago for the Women’s Fiction Festival and fell in love with the city. I am looking forward to seeing a few familiar faces and being in the company of writers again. Many thanks to Elizabeth Jennings for organizing the “Brainstorming at the Spa” retreat.