The Final Passage
by Caryl Phillips
Tells the story of Leila, a young woman from an unspecified Caribbean island, her doomed marriage and later migration to England.
Phillips' style is very poetic. There are some flat-out beautiful descriptions of the sea and the colours of the island, which are later contrasted strongly with the monotone grey of London. The connection between the environment and the state of Leila and Michael's marriage is cleverly intertwined the whole way through - as they cast off to sea it seems their relationship has a breath of futurity, but then the weather and poverty of life in England begin to make it claustrophobic again. Here for instance: The sky hung so low it covered the street like a dark coffin lid. The cars that passed by were just blurry colours, and the people rushed homeward, images of isolation, fighting umbrellas and winds that buffeted their bodies.
. The book is much more focussed on tone than plot, however, and it ends quite abruptly. It is intentionally timeless, and it is a good exploration of the trials of emigration, but I think if it was less vague it would possibly have more authenticity and meaning. I enjoyed it though. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers
by Xiaolu Guo
Zhaung flies to the UK to learn English, then falls in love with an English man and discovers that the language of love is even harder to comprehend.
I absolutely loved this book. I loved Z. It's been a while since I read a female protagonist who is as smart, funny and bold as she is. I think this book might annoy some people because of the way it starts with deliberately broken English, but I am a word geek and I adored all the discussions about English vs Chinese words (there's a particularly moving section where Z and her English lover exchange the words for different plants). I am a sucker for romance, and I liked that it felt sort of clumsily natural and that there were problems
and miscommunications, because that is real love. This book also had really great descriptions of London (like The Final Passage): The morning wind is washing my brain, and my small body. This is a city with something really heavy and serious in its soul. This is a city which had big wars in the history. And, I feel, this is a city made for mans, and politics, and disciplines. Like Beijing.
Highly recommend this novel, I'll be checking out more of her writing asap. Legacy
by Larissa Behrendt
Simone is a young Aboriginal lawyer researching the legal arguments for Indigenous sovereignty. Her father is a prominent Aboriginal activist. The two have a troubled relationship due to his chronic infidelity. The novel explores the dynamics between all the people in Simone's life, as well as the legacy of Aboriginal dispossession. I have a heart that has been quick to fall in love with ideals ... but I’ve never been as willing to love realities
I struggled a little bit to get into this book because I thought some of the literary/historical references were forced in toward the beginning but by the middle, and certainly throughout all of the second part, the story really took off and I couldn't put it down. Again, Simone is a strong and sympathetic leading character, and it was great to see a female lead with such integrity. Behrendt is very talented at writing in more than one voice, she allows every character to have their say on the truth and to redeem themselves. I haven't read a book that was so good at heart for a long while. It is lighter than you might expect given some of the subject matter (not that it shies away from it or anything, just that it is the familial/romantic relationships that are the core of the plot not the political issues) and it is a great book if you just want something uplifting to read.