Isolation Book Recs

While we collectively shelter in place, I’ll post one book recommendation a day, every day, until this whole weird nightmare is over. Expect a mix of new releases, old favorites, genre, literary, and plenty of YA and middle grade titles for the kids out of school.

Tuesday, March 24th

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

If you like sprawling, decades-spanning, coming-of-age stories, this one may well be for you. Set in Ireland (and later Amsterdam, and New York, and then Ireland again), The Heart’s Invisible Furies begins with a prelude – the banishing from her parish of a teen girl because she’s pregnant. On her own, she gets herself to Dublin, gives the baby up for adoption, and finds lifelong stable employment working in the tea room of the Irish Parliament. The story really begins with her son Cyril, the adopted child of a corrupt government official and a Virginia Woolf-esque novelist who remind him again and again that he’s “not really an Avery”. The book is divided into seven sections, each portraying a decade in Cyril’s life as he realizes he is gay, falls deeply in unrequited love with his best friend Julian, and bears witness to pretty much every Western tragedy of the second half of the 20th century. By turns funny, heartbreaking, insightful, and life-affirming, The Heart’s Invisible Furies will suck you in to the odyssey of its remarkable characters and a nation as a whole.

Monday, March 23rd

Circe by Madeline Miller

I loved Circe for many reasons but they mainly boil down to the fact that it’s an incredibly engrossing story told by an incredibly talented writer. A classics scholar and teacher, Madeline Miller does more than simply reimagine The Odyssey from the perspective of Circe, the exiled goddess/witch who turned Odysseus’ men into pigs. Rather, the novel is a fascinating portrait of the life of a character whose exile by the gods to a far-flung island awakens her own unique powers – and her humanity. The novel features some of the most well-known characters in Greek mythology – Zeus, Prometheus, Icarus, Medea, the Minotaur, and of course, Odysseus all play important roles – but its most compelling drama is that of Circe herself. Her ultimate choice between the world of the gods or that of mortals weaves an epic of female strength and defiance.

I also strongly recommend her novel Song of Achilles, a tale of the deeply powerful, fraught relationship between lovers Achilles and Patroclus that will absolutely wreck you (in a good way).

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