Beth’s Book Blog
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
This magnificent story of a retired soldier turned itinerant newsreader in the American Southwest of 1870 is a poetic portrayal of a harsh world of frontier farmers confronted by difficult conditions, including Indian raids where families are massacred and children abducted. Retired Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through this territory and takes on the responsibility of returning an Alsatian child who has been rescued from her Kiowan captors to her remaining aunt and uncle in Texas. The ten year old girl is completely assimilated to the Indian life and the captain struggles to reach her. News of the World by Paulette Jiles was a finalist for the National Book award. It is a jewel of a tale by an author with an impressive and singular writing style.
El Paso by Winston Groom
Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump, has written his own account of wild adventure in the American Southwest in a completely different vein. El Paso is the sweeping saga of American railroad barons and their incursions into the politics of the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century. When the grandchildren of the tycoon known as the Colonel are kidnapped by the legendary Pancho Villa, the hunt is on. Complete with shootouts, daring escapes on foot and in the air, and even a passionate bull fight, this is old-fashioned historical fiction with flair and theater.
The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle
T.C. Boyle’s latest work, The Terranauts, is based on an Arizona experiment to create the perfect ecological biome for humanity as resources become scarce. It reads like a series of episodes from the Dutch soap, Big Brother, and is, in essence, a Swiftian satire on human behavior in extremis. Eight experts commit to living in this sealed environment for two years – a new Eden where human nature is once again sure to bring down the new ‘ ark of humanity.’
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
This year’s winner of the Man Booker Award is The Sellout, a satire on being black in America written by the brilliant and outrageous Paul Beatty. It is a tsunami of words, irreverent humor and tongue in cheek jabs at society as it recounts the life of its protagonist who ultimately is on trial for reinstating slavery and segregation in a suburb of Los Angeles. Not for everyone, this book turns political correctness upside down in a bruising and darkly amusing portrait of racism today.
The Crimson Skew by Philip Pullman
As I am apparently focusing on American fiction this month, I will also recommend the third and final volume of the Mapmakers Trilogy by S. E. Grove. For reviews of the first two books of the series – The Glass Sentence and The Golden Specific – see my earlier reviews. The Crimson Skew brings this tale of time slip, rather than time travel, to a satisfying conclusion. While the themes are complex, the author treats questions of time, social interaction and good and evil within the context of an exciting fantasy adventure which will appeal to readers of Philip Pullman’s trilogy.