Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Among Others

Among Others
Jo Walton
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (January 18, 2011)
4/5 stars

In Among Others, the focus is less on fantasy and more on the magic of books and reading.

We went down the hill to the bookshop, sort of automatically, as if that's the way our feet wanted to turn. I said that to them.
"Bibliotrophic," Hugh said. "Like sunflowers are heliotrophic, they naturally turn toward the sun. We naturally turn toward the bookshop."

It is 1979.  Mori is a Welsh teenager who has run away from her crazy mother and as a result has been sent to live with her father in England. She attends a boarding school, where she is very much the outcast, and fills her journal with discussions of books and authors and wistful wishes for friends. When she joins a book club at the local library and finds kindred spirits among other readers, she finds a new joy in life.

Written in the first person point of view, as a journal, the lyrical and well written prose of Among Others is a joy to read. Walton has great talent at turning an ordinary world into a magical one through her descriptions and narration.

All the discussions of authors that I've read and not read was also a delight. I laughed over discussions of books familiar to me, hearing myself in those discussions. Furthermore, I've now got a list of others to read, based on Mori's insights, that I might not have read otherwise.

Oddly enough--I am a fan of fantasy fiction--the fantasy element was difficult for me to enjoy. Walton painted her world so real and mundane, that when the fantasy elements were interjected, it felt like an imposition, as if she had torn apart the fabric of this world and sewn in a piece from another world. It didn't mesh properly. For me, the magic was Mori's life in books. The fairy magic almost seemed pretend, and I honestly felt cheated at times when the story moved from the "real world" discussion of Mori's friends and fiction addiction to Mori's dealing with the paranormal.

I wouldn't recommend this book across the board, to all bibliophile or all fantasy/sci fi readers. I think it's only going to find it's niche with those who are both devout bibliophiles as well as being fans of sci fi and fantasy novels.

This was my first time reading a novel by Jo Walsh, but it certainly will not be my last. If her other novels are as well written, I may have found a new favorite author.


  1. This was my first experience with Jo Walton as well and it was one wonderful first experience. I consider myself an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, but I was stunned by the number of books mentioned that I have yet to read. Then again I was also inspired to add several books to my 'to read' list.

    I didn't mind the magical elements, because I enjoyed the whole 'is it real or is it not real' aspect of that part of the story. I felt Walton did a good job of not straying so far into that realm that it felt like yet another Harry Potter clone, or something similar.

    I've heard some people clamoring for a sequel, but I for one want it to just remain the one book. I think the real magic of it is the way Walton captured the spirit of what it is like to be a passionate lover of books and to want to have others around to share that passion with.

  2. I didn't think of the "is it or isn't real" aspect, Carl. I trusted Mori so much in the other parts of her life. . . That makes great food for thought! This is a book I plan to reread, as I need to read more of the authors Walton talked about so that I can be part of the discussions too(!!). Now I want to reread it with that thought in mind. I really did enjoy this--and it was reading your review that prompted me to read it. :D

  3. I turned around and reread it right away, mostly because I wanted to read it aloud to Mary. She really enjoyed it to. I must admit that I tend to always take the 'its real' option when it comes to stories. So when I read it I chose to believe what was happening to Mori was real, though I did keep my mind open a bit for the idea that it might not be. I feel the same way about Pan's Labyrinth, for example, or say Inception. I prefer to believe in the magic.

    I suspect after I've read more of the books she mentions that I will want to reread Among Others again.