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Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles

“It was, at the beginning, a quite invisible catastrophe”

When Julia wakes up one Saturday morning following a sleepover with her best friend, she has no idea of the disaster that will change her life forever.  This ‘quite invisible catastrophe’ is the slowing of earth’s rotation, which means the 24 hour day is gradually getting longer until day becomes night and night becomes day.  It is against this backdrop that Julia must face that painful transition from childhood to teens.  Everything changes for her, from her family stability to her friendships; her confidence to her perceptions of the adults around her.

The Age of Miracles is a heartbreaking, unique coming-of-age story that was just utterly sublime to read.  It was easy to imagine the slowing actually happened and it really made me think about how we would cope in that situation in terms of international political response and the effect it would have on our relationships and day-to-day lives.  I could definitely identify with Julia’s feelings of loneliness and isolation, and it was interesting to imagine whether her relationships would have been different without the outside force of ‘the slowing’ or if the changes were an inevitable part of growing up.  I definitely think it was the right decision to have a young girl as the protagonist rather than focus on an adult perspective.

I don’t usually read reviews of a book once I have read it, but I happened to come across some when I searched on Google to find out whether The Age of Miracles is going to be made into a movie.  I was happy to find out that it is, to be directed by Catherine Hardwicke, as it could be such a glorious movie in the right hands.  I picture an atmospheric masterpiece, similar in style to 2011’s Another Earth.  Anyway, back to books!  One review I saw was critical of The Age of Miracles from a sci-fi perspective, but for me it simply isn’t a sci-fi book, and if it had been marketed as that then chances are I wouldn’t have read it, as sci-fi is not a genre I tend to seek out.  Yes there is a science-fiction element in the book, but ultimately it is Julia’s coming-of-age story that is at the heart of it, and this is done superbly well by Karen Thompson Walker.  It is certainly one of the best debut novels I have ever read, and it left me with a lump in my throat, (and okay maybe a few tears were shed too).  I look forward to what is next from this wonderful author.

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The Literary Owl rating: 9/10

Read with: your favourite childhood sweets to help reminisce about the trials and tribulations of growing up.

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Book Review: The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill

This review was first published on 60litres during the summer of 2011

There is nothing better than reading a book set in the place I am travelling.  This California-based book was even more special than that, as I bought it from the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.  As well as falling head-over-heels for the bookstore, I am in awe of the beauty of this book.  Set in the 1970s, it tells the story of Inez, raised in the suburbs by her flamenco dancer-turned-Real Estate Agent mother.  Taking centre stage in her life, and the story, is her bohemian father, Paul, who lives in San Francisco, refusing to conform to society’s norms.  He has clear flaws, and certainly couldn’t be accused of being a responsible father, but you can’t help but admire his stance on issues such as money not leading to happiness, and the freedom of individuality.  As well as the complex and interesting characters throughout the story, the book details a fascinating snapshot of life in the supposed carefree 1970s.  It’s story of relationships, family, and the trials of adolescence and finding one’s place in the world.  Having read the book, it is now ready to be passed to a book exchange, as I always do while travelling, but I am having trouble in passing this one on as I am waiting for a book exchange I feel is truly deserving of this masterpiece!

The City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

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The Literary Owl rating: 4.5/5

Read with: A (very) large glass of Californian rosé wine

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