In the second part of our series reviewing the books shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, this week Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Real Life by Brandon Taylor and this week’s book of the week, The New Wilderness by Diane Cook. Over to Fiona…
This novel is set on a university campus and the story of Wallace, a young, black man studying on scholarship. Set over a few days, what happens proves to be pivotal for Wallace. The novel includes elements typical of classic, campus novels such as Catcher in the Rye, including coming of age, friendship, loneliness and isolation, and growing up. While it has these very classic elements, it is also very subjective and specific to the central character’s experience. We get to understand what it’s like for a young, gay, working-class, black male to be in the world now – we get to see the world through Wallace’s eyes.
It’s a very readable novel, engaging and emotionally raw which looks at issues, such as racism, in the eye. Taylor paints each scene carefully, and at the same time, the writing has an intensity and an energy not unlike the calm before a storm and I read it in a couple of sittings. It is both classic and current – students who spend every hour they can get studying and striving to succeed seems very of today. At times very painful, and sometimes ironic, with an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering about Wallace’s future, it’s a powerful novel that packs a punch or two.
Set somewhere is North America in dystopian future where there is no longer any vegetation in cities, meat is manufactured, and the pollution is so severe that children are dying. When research scientist Glen is given the chance to take his partner Bea and her sick daughter Agnes to The Wilderness State, they make the difficult choice to leave the city and live as nomadic hunter-gatherers in the uninhabited wilds of America. The story focuses on Bea and Agnes, both on their relationship as mother and daughter and their roles within the group. Bea is a fierce woman and a natural leader. Her daughter Agnes, similar in many ways, does not really remember life in the city and has adapted to her life in the wilderness, learning to read the people around her as well as the landscape and the animals.
The book is readable and enjoyable and gets more thrilling as it goes on. The author did a lot of research into how native tribes lived on the land, as well as the habitats that the characters find themselves in, and the wildlife is very vivid.
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