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Friday, October 07, 2011

Among Others by Jo Walton

  Among Others is a YA novel.  It is an interesting read and will be especially appealing to those who love science fiction because Morwenna is a prolific reader and her favorite genres are SF and Fantasy.

In many ways, the novel is a reading list of SF and Fantasy titles from the 1970's and earlier.  Mor's discovery of a  reading group becomes a sort of lifeline for this teen who must endure life in an unpleasant boarding school after losing her twin sister.

Not limited to a fondness for SF and Fantasy, Mor also loves T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets and is thrilled when she is able to buy her own copy which she reads on the train as she returns from Cardiff..  She says that she "got drunk on the words."  (Eliot can do that--make you drunk on words.)  She goes on to say:
"I'm so glad I have my own copy.  I can read them again and again.  I can read them again and  again on trains, all my life, and every time I do I'll remember today and it will connect up.  (Is that magic?  Yes, it is a sort of magic, but it is more just reading my book.)"

Damn, I love that quote!  And I love T.S. Eliot!

The novel contains magic, but a strange kind of magic that Mor explains as being very different from that in her favorite books.  More primitive, more elemental; less understandable.  And is the magic that of fairies or witches, or is the magic in this novel more symbolic of growing independence?

The book is a bit slow and digressive.  It is a coming of age story with an emphasis on the importance of books (and of  sharing beloved books with other sympathetic readers).  The novel can't be taken literally, and yet, many of us will recognize the truth it contains with a powerful resonance.

I don't think I liked it as much as some have; at least, not in relation to the plot.  What I did love was the recognition of loving the same books and acknowledging the crucial role these books have played in enduring and rising above the difficulties in life.  Books are a haven for many of us just as they are for Morwenna.

  There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.
           --Marcel Proust
Other reviews/ opinions:  Of Books and Bicycles., The Written World, Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat, Things Mean a Lot, The SF Site Featured Review,

Fiction.  Coming of Age/SF/Fantasy/YA.  20ll.  304 pages.


  1. I think I enjoyed the idea of this book more than the plot of it. It made me really enjoy it, don't get me wrong. :)

  2. The plot and the bad mother didn't do much for me, but the books, did!

  3. I thought the plot had some problems, but I did enjoy all the book obsessiveness. I think you sum up the strengths of the book very well.

  4. Rebecca - It was worth the time for the book obsessiveness alone!

  5. When I finished this book all I could think of was how much I loved it and mainly it was our main character. I totally understood her book obsession but you are right, looking back the plot with the evil mother, etc. didn't really pan out as much I expected it to.

  6. Iliana - It is hard not to love her love of books!

  7. This was one I really loved, and for the reasons you point out. As a boy who great up loving science fiction but had no one to really share that love with, I related to and envied the protagonist so much as she finally discovers a group of like-minded readers, her karass. It was fun reading this and realizing that so many of us have found that in these online book blogging relationships.

    I actually started the book right up again, reading it aloud to my wife, as soon as I finished it the first time.

    Turns out Jo Walton is a pretty great reviewer too. I recommend spending some time on the Tor dot com website and reading her reviews. I don't always agree with her, but she writes with the kind of passion that more often than not has me wanting to rush out and buy the books she likes.