sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

March 25, 2012

into the stacks: among others
posted by soe 1:44 am

Among Others, by Jo Walton

From the jacket: “Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled — and her twin sister dead.”

My take: It’s been three months since I read this book and still don’t know how to describe it. The basics are easy. The family who raised Morwenna are gone — dead, injured, or crazy — and she has just left a state-run orphanage when the system was able to track down the father who left when she was a baby. Her father is cowed by his three conservative older half-sisters, for whom he works and with whom he lives. These aunts have arranged for Morwenna to attend their alma mater. Morwenna goes — because her other options are far more unappealing — but making friends does not come naturally, as she and her recently deceased twin sister had no need for others. Gradually, though, Morwenna makes friends both in school and out of it, through a science fiction book club she joins. But are they really friends if Morwenna, who, by the way, also can see and communicate with the Fae, cast a magic spell to find them?

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t easy or basic. And my description makes it sound stupid and kind of boring, which is really not at all how I wanted it to sound, because it was a really enjoyable, meaningful book. But there’s just so much packed into it that I didn’t even mention (because then you’d never read it), but that kind of blows your mind apart as you try to sort out what’s real and what’s not and whose point of view to trust and whose not to. Is Morwenna giving you a straight-up account of the story? Or, like in Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader, does our narrator just think she knows what reality is without having the full picture because of a tragedy?

And that’s why I’ve been stumped by how to review this book for a quarter of a year. But I really did like it and wanted to share it with you, so let’s leave it at this:

Among Others is a love letter to remaining true to yourself, to the power of literature, and to finding … a family, a circle of friends, your karass, a cwm … your people. And if that sounds like something you can relate to, I recommend the book to you.

Pages: 302

Category: books. There is/are 3 Comments.

I love this book – and it gave me a new reading list the length of my arm!

But, yes, it’s kind of impossible to describe.

Comment by Jenn 03.25.12 @ 7:35 am

I read this book in January and reviewed it back then, and had a problem describing it too! lol I really liked it. It’s helped to rekindle my love of science fiction, though most of all, it’s a lovely book about teens and the power of books. I love that the author is Welsh/Canadian, too! lol

Comment by Susan 03.25.12 @ 9:21 am

@Jenn: Agreed, although sci fi does tend to be a bit too … male is the wrong word, as is masculine, so maybe masculine-wannabe … for my taste?

@Susan: See, and I totally left out how Morwenna has come from Wales, which is “wild,” to England, which is “civilized.” So many levels! It would probably be a great book club book.

Comment by soe 03.26.12 @ 12:27 pm