Crossings – Alex Landragin

crossingsHow to even describe this book?

It’s actually three interlinking stories spanning time from the 1700s to WWII, from the Pacific Islands all over the world, ending in France. Or, at least, that’s how I read it. It may be different for you.

The preface explains two ways of approaching the story: the usual cover-to-cover way, or, the way I read it, the Baroness Sequence, that hops around to different parts of the story. And yes, you can read it on your Kindle that way. It’s quite easy, as the publisher has little “go here” links when you have to jump to a different page. Which manner should you choose? I don’t know since I only read the Baroness Sequence, but it made my brain explode in the best way possible, so I have to recommend it.

This book is perfect for people who devoured The Seven ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, or Ship of Theseus, or any kind of non-linear brain-ache, even House of Leaves. The characters at the beginning of the story introduce the reader to their gift of “crossing”, which is essentially souls trading bodies. These souls then have to hop into different bodies to escape murderers, or track down a lost love, or escape physical infirmity. I was delighted and enthralled the entire time. It was thrilling, engaging, and stimulating. I took eight pages of notes. If you read that and think, “Oh, YAY! I can’t wait to get started!” then this is the perfect book for you.

Many thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

Simon the Fiddler – Paulette Jiles

simon

Set in post-Civil-War 1860s Texas, the story follows Simon, a fiddler recently deserted from the Confederate Army who wanders through small Texas towns eking out a living playing fiddle in bars and public houses with his two companions, Doroteo and Damon. Simon falls in love with Miss Doris Dillon, a young Irish immigrant under contract as governess to Colonel Webb, a lecherous tyrant. Simon and Doris are separated, and the book spans Simon’s life trying to woo her from afar while dodging bar fights and alligators.

Jiles’ writing is sublime. She obviously does her research, but the story was never pedantic. The descriptions of the second-hand clothes the men wore riddled with bullet holes, the dust and grime that covered their hands, the heat and sickness pervading the small towns were absorbing. I was quickly immersed in the kaleidoscope of Simon’s life, each incident bringing twists and changes as he squeaked through one trouble after another. At the core of this novel is the volatile time period and the treacherous Texas environs. The book isn’t so much plot driven as it is simply an experience. Jiles captures the west in uncertain political times, describing the unpredictable lifestyle of the characters against a barren and often dangerous landscape.

Many thanks to LibraryThing and William Morrow / Harper Collins for the advance copy in exchange for my review.