Alex Preston offered this review of Nobel prize winning author, Kazuo Ishiguro: "...a profound examination of memory and guilt...an extraordinarily atmospheric and compulsively readable tale, to be devoured in a single gulp....Game of Thrones with a conscience, The Sword in the Stone for the age of the trauma industry, a beautiful, heartbreaking book about the duty to remember and the urge to forget."
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We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.
When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.
Ian McEwan’s book is about the oddly utilitarian bargains we make about the things most dear to us, the terrible balance sheet of happiness and grief, of life and death. It will not surprise McEwan’s readers to learn that by the end of this brilliant book all debts are paid, and with interest.
This haunting novella by Julian Barnes traces the complexities of love and friendship over a long life, a life filled with self-deception. A death and a bequest trigger memories at odds with the comforting platitudes that have cushioned his adult life, memories that force him to re-consider how he's maneuvered away from the truth for so long.
Winner of the 2011 Booker Prize.
Kate Atkinson's Life After Life is a brilliant fantasy about a girl born at the beginning of the 20th century who has the ability to relive her life over again, retaining memories of earlier lives. Effectively, her life is a catalog of all the ways that we maneuver to evade our destiny: no matter how ingeniously she re-shapes her life to thwart one peril or another, there are certain absolutely intractable events that cannot be ameliorated.
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Winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, author Andre Alexis begins the story with a whimsical bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo to explore the nature of happiness. Granting human consciousness and language to 15 dogs brought together by chance, they watch to see whether any of these recipients of the gods' dubious blessing will die happy. The pack is torn between those who embrace the new world suddenly open to them, and those who reject the double-edged gift, clinging fearfully or loyally to their doggy lives. As we follow their short, impassioned lives, and experience their poignant deaths, we are being taught something about the nature of happiness that transcends the dogginess of the book. The book is an allegory about the Good Death, and about the choices and compromises that shape our lives, and thus our deaths.
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From Pulitzer prize winner, Anne Tyler, a story about letting go. A widower imagines that he has come to terms with his wife's sudden death, until her ghost arrives to resume their old conversations, to pick up where they left off, to resolve their unresolved issues. The widower is the publisher of a series of "how-to" books, beginner's guides, and realizes that he himself needs to be guided, not only through her death but through the earlier steps of the marriage, where somehow he had gone astray.
Kevin Brockmeier's fantasy-adventure allegory takes us on a journey through death, life and the mysterious place in between. The setting is the imminent future, when the whole planet is embroiled in war. Those who have departed, but are still remembered by the living, reside in a futuristic afterlife…lending new meaning to the saying: the living will envy the dead.