2012 Book 126: Skios, by Michael Frayn (8/29/2012)
Reason for Reading: I’m trying to get through at least SOME of the Booker longlist before the winner is announced. This is one of the 5 easily available in the US, and one of the 3 which is available in audiobook format (since I seem to be limited in my ability to physically read books lately, this seemed the best place to start).
Dr. Norman Wilfred has flown to Skios to give a distinguished speech to a group of rich academics at the Toppler Foundation. Due to an unfortunate string of coincidences, he is whisked off to a villa while a con artist, Oliver Fox, takes his place at the Toppler gathering. At first blush, this may seem to be only a farcical comedy of errors. Fun is poked at the distinguished empty-headedness of academia, at silly assumptions people make when they don’t have all the information (which, of course, they never do), and at the openness of people to accept whatever is said–as long as it is said by a charismatic person. However, I can see why this book was chosen for the Booker longlist–upon a more careful reading this book has a much deeper undercurrent. It asks questions about identity and about chance Eureka! moments. I found the ease with with Oliver Fox moved into Norman Wilfred’s life almost believable because that IS how academia works sometimes. Sometimes, it IS more about how charming you are than about what’s actually coming out of your mouth. Sometimes it IS more about your name and about who people think you are than about who you ACTUALLY are. I understand that this book isn’t for everybody…but I’m a person who doesn’t generally read farcical novels, and I enjoyed this one immensely.
2012 Book 102: The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller (7/8/2012)
Categories: Speculative Fiction, Award Winner
Reason for Reading: This book won the Orange prize this year.
My Review 5/5 stars
On the outside, this book is a retelling of Achilles’ actions in Troy; however, Miller has incorporated deeper elements to the well-known story. The Song of Achilles is a celebration of Achilles’ humanity, rather than of his God-like martial skills. It is a touching love story between Achilles and his companion Patroclus. It is a story of forgiveness for human flaws. And it shows the reader that sometimes the best part of the story is forgotten in legends. Above all, it’s one of those books that sucks you right in…and then leaves you breathless when it’s over. Although Song of Achilles is technically fantasy, it is also a book that can be enjoyed by literary snobs and by people who don’t know much about Greek mythology. I loved it.