Sunday, May 21, 2006

Book 34: Kindred

The novel is often shelved under "Fiction - Literature". The main hook of the novel would place it under "Science Fiction", but the author herself describes it as a "Grim Fantasy". If Kindred wasn't written twenty five years ago I would say that it reminds me of The Time Traveler's Wife because of the nature of the story. reality the Niffenegger book would reference this one.

Kindred is a masterpiece. I do not say this lightly. Dana is 26 years old and living in Maryland in the 1970's when she feels dizzy and finds herself alongside a river where she pulls out a young white boy and saves him from drowning. Then she is flung back to her house with her husband. She doesn't know what happened except that Kevin tells her that she just disappeared for a couple of seconds...except that she was gone for longer than three seconds and there is no explanation for the mud on her clothing. She is flung back again and again for longer periods of time. It turns out that Dana, a black woman, keeps getting sent back to the early 1800's to a southern slaveholding plantation to save the white son of the plantation owner (and slavemaster). There are also ties to her family involved as well.

Octavia Butler's grim fantasy is exactly that: grim. This is an astonishing novel but it is a brutal one. I have read former slave narratives written in the 1800's by former slaves and I have read some on the time period in both English and History classes. I've seen movies. But Octavia Butler brings home the brutality of the era and makes it uncomfortably real. Dana has to find a way to survive in an era and a location where her very presence marks her as a slave even though she is from the 1970's, long after the abolishment of American Slavery. It is through her eyes that we see just how wrong it is and just how easy it can be, too. How unthinking and how dangerous. Kindred left me stunned but I could not put the book down. This is a novel which would hold up well on second and third read throughs. I do not recommend many novels to people unless I can tailor the recommendation to the personal taste of the person. I would recommend Kindred to anyone.


Nick said...

See you've started reading two of my favorite books from last year (Memories of Ice and Beasts of No Nation). Iweala's novel is the greater one (wonder if they'll make a film out of that?) but Erikson's so epic that... man, was just about to go on another critical superlative spate. Look forward to reading the reviews.

Am now going to spend the summer (at least June) reading Hobb's Ship of Magic series based on your previous recommendations. Have read the Assassin and Tawny Man trilogies, adore them, but put off the middle one because it seemed 'lame' and 2500 pages is something of an investment made carefully. Also it might explain some stuff from Fool's Fate I didn't quite understand.

Amanda said...

(I really wanted it to be my turn to say that!)
Anyway, you were right, it was a fantastic book, and it brings everything home just like you said. =)

Joe said...

Nick, I love the Liveship Traders. I have Ship of Destiny out from the library and I hope I can get to it soon (not like I can't renew or just re-order it). I really think it is better than Farseer. It's completely different, but once I got into the story I was sold. Ship of Magic took a little while.

Erikson...I like Erikson and yet I am baffled by the series. I've never figured out how to review epic fantasy, in particular middle volumes.

Mo - I really think Kindred will be one of my favorite books of this year. Period.