Thursday, February 21, 2013

Primary Colours

I'd like to recommend two of my favourite novels from 2012: Red Rocks and The Yellow Birds.

Red Rocks is a children's book by New Zealand author Rachael King. It's aimed at about the ten to twelve year age group (I think) but could be happily read to or by, younger kids or older teenagers, and of course as with all well written children's literature, it is enjoyable for an adult to read as well.
Most tantalising for those who know Rachael King's history (coming as she does from a family numbering more than one or two well known New Zealanders) is that for some of the plot, she appears to draw from her own life experiences of living in a divided and then reconstituted family. She has great emotional riches to draw from and she transforms the bounty into a form that will resonate for those who have been through similar challenges and joys. So in part, this is an 'issues' book - and the bugbear of bullying also rears its ugly head in this story - but it is not just an issues book. There is also a marvellous fantastic and mysterious element woven into the narrative, an antipodean evocation of a Selkie story. I was reminded of Maurice Duggan's wonderful Falter Tom and the Water Boy (1957).

I shouldn't need to introduce my other favourite novel The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. I never thought I would even want to read a book on the subject matter of Americans fighting in Iraq and their return home afterwards. But having heard all the "fuss", the "hype", about how brilliant it was, especially for a debut novel, I picked it up in the bookstore (UBS Otago) and was immediately captivated by the beauty and clarity and poetry of the prose. Powers is a poet, and the reading experience is enhanced for me because of that. It's a heartbreaking and searing, and dare I say, important book.

"The Yellow Birds is the All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab Wars." ~ Tom Wolfe

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