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The Colony by Audrey Magee
Two summer visitors create considerable unrest on a small island in Ireland. Mr. Lloyd from England is a painter; Jean-Pierre Masson from France is a fierce defender of the local language and has been coming to capture it from the few native speakers left and present it to the world. Young James has artistic talent and wants to learn from Mr. Lloyd. His mother has trysts with both men but is still in deep grief over the drowning death of her fisherman husband. Interspersed with the ongoing story are chilling news bulletins from the Troubles; all those citizens murdered by both sides. The book’s title is multifaceted: Ireland as a colony of England; the colonies of sea birds, and the colonization of Algeria by France—Jean-Paul’s unhappy heritage. Beautifully written.
Ducks by Kate Beaton
Subtitled Two Years in the Oil Sands. To pay off her student loans, the author went to where the money was in Alberta. The camps are brutal, especially for the few female workers, and the mines are an ecological nightmare. (Hence the title: ponds killed the myriad flocks that landed on them.) Misogyny abounds, some bosses are mean, workers are demoralized. Beaton tries her best but it’s uphill all the way. This graphic novel conveys the experience—well, graphically. Beaton is brilliant and I was willing to hang out with her in such a grim environment but relieved it was only on the page for me.
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
Vanya’s magical string of pearls can transform her into a fetching, demure princess. She uses this persona to great effect as she steals in an attempt to raise enough money to free her from servitude to her godmothers, Fortune and Death. She stole those pearls from Gisele whom she grew up with, when she was her servant (and friend). Now she’s to be married to a warlord and is desperate to avoid that fate. A Junior Prefect has arrived to investigate the spate of robberies. What else could go wrong? A lot! This YA fantasy has great character development as well as imaginative action. I was transfixed.
This Story Will Change by Elizabeth Crane
Subtitled After the Happily Ever After. 15 years together—a good track record, you’d think. But when her husband told her he wasn’t happy, she knew in her bones it was over. So from the lovingly remodeled (by that husband) upstate cottage to a fortuitous apartment back in the city with a surprising bonus: a friend who needed a place to bunk with his teenage daughter. Told in first, second, and third person depending on the chapter, which shifts point of view deftly. Funny, poignant, and insightful in turn, this memoir is a fine example of what a poet called “making honey of all my old failures.”