Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Among Others

Among Others
Author: Jo Walton
Tor, 2011
304 pages

I saw this book on the shelf of my local library recently, and decided to pick it up because (deep breath - I usually don't admit this) I was attracted to the pretty cover. Something about the reddish glow and the fairy dust, I suppose. When I started reading it last Saturday, I was drawn into a sort of mystical world that bridged the gap between humans and the supernatural (witches and fairies) in the year 1979. Turns out, I was born in the same year as the main character (I was 15 in 1979), and that made her instantly relatable. She could have been someone I went to school with.

"Mori" or "Mor" has recently moved from Wales to England to live with her father and his three strange half-sisters. The half-sisters are wealthy, having received an inheritance. They seem to be in their forties, and are all unmarried and childless . . . and a bit on the strange side. Just prior to moving to England, Mori lived with her twin sister and extended maternal family in South Wales. But there was an accident that left Mori with a bad leg and killed Mori's twin. We eventually learn that this "accident" was caused by the twins' mother, who was apparently doing some pretty serious magic at the time.

The supernatural element isn't the star of this show, however. Books are. Mori is a fanatic reader of science fiction, and also of classical works written by the likes of Plato and Virgil. Among Others is written like a diary covering several months, and during that time Mori reads and/or refers to dozens of books. One review called Among Others a long song to librarians and libraries, and this is very evident in the relationships Mori develops with two characters, her school librarian and Greg from the local public library.

It's the books that help Mori make the transition from Wales to England, from her home with "Gramper" and her favorite Auntie, to her English boarding school and new sort-of home with her father and his family. Her Dad (she can't call him 'Dad' so she uses his first name) is also a voracious reader of science fiction, which gives them common ground. Science fiction will also provide Mori with a new circle of friends.

So maybe it's Science Fiction that's really the star of this book . . . yes, I think so. I kind of hate to admit that I've only read a handful of the books discussed. Maybe I should look more closely at that genre.

Whatever the case, Among Others is truly other-worldly. I felt like I was dreaming much of the time I was reading this very interesting "coming of age" story. And that was OK with me.

P.S. I love libraries, so it was kind of ironic that I checked out this particular book from a library. Our local library system (like a lot of others) has experienced some hard times over the last few years. I find this to be very disconcerting and I urge you to SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY!!!