Thursday, June 5, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books

I've been tagged by novelist Clea Simon to participate in the wonderful Forgotten Books Project, spearheaded by the fantastic writer Patti Abbott. Writers choose a book that they have loved and that they feel has been wrongly forgotten or neglected. Every Friday, a writer writes up a brief review of the book (or it appears on Patti's wonderful blog) and then the writer tags someone else to do the next book. Brilliant, right?

And very, very hard to select just one book.

But, that said, one book i adore is After Life by Rhian Ellis. It's on my special shelf in my office, so I can dip into it at will. It begins with a thirtyish woman dragging her boyfriend's dead body out of her apartment and burying it, and guess what, the story gets even more tense and wonderful from then on. The heroine Naomi Ash comes from a long line of mediums, and she practices her craft in a spiritualist town, but After Life is about so much more than the business of being (or not being) psychic. yes, the details about mysticism and the rise of spiritualism are fascinating, but this book's poetic, evocative and wrenching heart is really after truths about the nature of reality, love and being human.

"A lonely life is a crime without witnesses," Naomi says, "Can you ever be sure what happens in it?" Naomi certainly can't, and although she buries her boyfriend Peter, ten years later, his bones wiggle to the surface, and an investigation begins. Between a terrifying reality, insistent spiritual visions (including ghostly walk-ons from Peter himself) and yearning hopes for a better future, Naomi navigates a jagged line to a conclusion that's shattering, suspenseful, and deeply satisfying.

This was truly one of those novels that made me yearn, "Why didn't I write this?" This writing is fluid and haunting. Ellis skips back and forth through time effortlessly and with great grace, the characters are so alive you can hear them breathing on the page. After Life is a psychological thriller that still surprises reading after reading--and what's higher praise than that?


pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks. Caroline. A wonderful review of a book I want to read right away.
Play again sometime.

Clea Simon said...

This sounds fascinating, Caroline ... and perhaps relates to your current project (if I'm not saying too much)? I loved doing the forgotten book so much that I'm doing it again this week, at too!

Caroline said...

Hi Clea, it's actually the novel AFTER the one I've started now. The one I'm doing now is about a murder in a 1950s suburb, but the one after is about --well, i don't want to say. At least, I think this is the order of things. Who knows?!!! I keep obsessing and moving from one project to the next. Does anyone else out there do that?

Rhian Ellis wrote this book in 2000 and as far as I know, she has only written a few short stories since, which I think is tragic beyond words.

rmellis said...

This is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever written about that book. Thank you! The "forgotten books" project is a wonderful idea.

I haven't quit writing. Just... finishing.


Caroline said...

Rhian! I'm so thrilled you found this post! I was thinking of googling and finding you and letting you know and then I worried it was too self-serving, plus the heat withered me to distraction.

I'm so glad you are writing and finishing. Anytime you want a blog about it, or a guest blog, please let me know. And thank you so much for reading. Truly, my copy of After Life is dog-eared from reading, stained by cocoa and iced tea (it's an all season read), and I still find something new to admire in it at every reading.