Friday, December 9, 2011

Best of 2011 Countdown: #16

Sweet Sixteen!  I hope Gianna gives me a car and brings me cake.


The Devil All the Time
Donald Ray Pollock

Of course The Devil all the Time made my list! From the author of the crazy good and critically acclaimed Knockemstiff, Donald Ray Pollock’s new novel is jaw dropping; it's dark, bizarre, disturbing, and incredibly good.
Set in Knockemstiff, Ohio (where Pollock grew up) the novel follows several characters from the 1940’s (just as WWII is ending) up until the 1960’s. The cast of characters include (and this is just a few characters) a husband and wife serial killer team who drive the highways looking for male hitchhikers, a preacher who is essentially a spider handler (and who knew that would be creepier than a snake handler, by the way), and then the centerpiece to the novel is a tortured World War II vet Willard Russell who seems to be (according to his son), “fighting the devil all the time.”
Donald Ray Pollock

Comparisons to Flannery O’Connor can’t be denied; Pollock is that good (and you may know that I loves my Flannery). The Devil all the Time is as dark as it is beautiful. If you read just the prologue you will get the immediate sense of Pollock’s enormous talent and unique modern voice.  


The Stranger's Child
Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst won the Man Booker Prize for his last book, The Line of Beauty, so there was a lot of anticipation for his next work.  Luckily The Stranger's Child lived up to the anticipation.  Also, I love the cover.  Covers matter to me. 

Alan Hollinghurst
The Stranger's Child reminded me of books like Brideshead Revisited (a favorite), The English Patient another favorite), Atonement (love it!), and The Children's Book (God I love that book).  Right before World War I, George Sawle brings his college friend Cecil Valance home for a vacation at the Sawle family manor house.  George likes Cecil...and George's younger sister Daphne likes Cecil.  Cecil writes a poem in Daphne's autograph book before the guys return to school.  When the war breaks out, Cecil the poet is killed and he becomes the legendary dead poet; what he wrote in Daphne's book becomes the poem school children memorize for generations to come.  Mystery surrounds the poem, Cecil, and the Sawle family, though.

Here is a story about literary legacy, love, and remembrance.  Hollinghurst is at the top of his game and solidifying his own literary reputation alongside writers like Ian McEwan and Peter Carey.

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