Sunday 30 December 2018

Best and Worst of the Year - 2018

When I did my last post I realised that it had been a great year of reading. In the eight years of Excelsior I have only awarded the sublime rating thirteen times. This year I rated four books as sublime. I choose to believe that my critical faculties have not deserted me and that these books were genuinely brilliant. Two were collections of short stories: Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges and Store of the Worlds by Robert Sheckley, and two were novels: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem and Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima. Truth be told I cannot separate them and collectively they were the best literature I read this year and indeed, for many years.

None of the above were book club books, but the best of those was definitely Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, read way back in January. The book club was responsible for the worst book of the year, which was by far and away The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indridason, which was one of the dullest novels I have ever read, although the writing was technically proficient, which ultimately saved it from the rare occurrence of a reprehensible rating.

This year also saw the adoption of a new method of choosing books to read. I realised that many of my unread books were never really considered because they were stored in parts of the house that I didn't really go to when choosing something new to read; so I began selecting one book from the six main areas where I store books in a systematic fashion. Books that I've had sitting there unread for years are now getting a look in and I even suspect that this is why I've had a cluster of sublime ratings; the gold has been sitting there and I haven't been digging it up! Now - ever upwards into 2019....

Sunday 23 December 2018

Runaway Horses - Yukio Mishima (1970; English translation 1973)

Rating: Sublime

Yukio Mishima has been lodged in my imagination for some time, mostly due to David Bowie's admiration for his writing, something I was aware of from a few decades ago. Mishima is an absolutely fascinating character and after reading Runaway Horses it occurred to me that he must go down as one of the most intense novelists in history. Mishima was born into a samurai family and positioned himself as a nationalist in post-war Japan, believing in total loyalty to the Emperor and resisting western influence in Japanese culture. Researching his life and work it would be fair to say that his novels explore the ramifications of his world view and values. The manner of his death makes for intense reading as well.

Runaway Horses is the second novel of Mishima's The Sea of Fertility tetralogy. Although I have not read the first novel, Spring Snow (1969), it did not present any difficulties when reading Runaway Horses. The novel is almost perfect, featuring an absorbing plot, beautifully lyrical prose, psychological intensity and finely tuned characterizations. Runaway Horses is satisfying in every way and I deliberately read the novel with care, resulting in the curious phenomenon of its world bleeding into my own, imbuing me with a sense of discipline and clarity with my own moral outlook. Runaway Horses represents literature at its most powerful and I thoroughly recommend the novel for those seeking something tangible from their reading experience. As Bowie sung in his 1977 song Blackout, 'I'm under Japanese influence and my honor's at stake!'

Bowie with his painting of Mishima circa 1977

Yukio Mishima

Monday 26 November 2018

The Shadow District - Arnaldur Indridason (2013/2017 in translation)

Rating: Mediocre

The Shadow District is the second crime novel I've read in fairly quick succession, due to the crime genre theme we are exploring in the Subiaco Library book club. Once again, I am reasonably unfamiliar with crime fiction, however I know a great novel when I read one and unfortunately Indridason's novel is not one of them. Technically the novel is much better written than Belinda Bauer's Snap (2018), however unlike Bauer's novel The Shadow District is just plain dull. I'm not sure if it is a problem with the translation but the writing style has absolutely no dynamism, no shifts in tone and for a crime novel, almost no tension. The cold case mystery is intriguing enough, but due to the previously mentioned problems when all is revealed there is no excitement or satisfaction generated at all. It reads like how I'd imagine a police report would be presented, just the bare bones of what happened with no stylistic finesse at all. 

The narrative is set in Iceland both during WWII and in modern times, although really it could have been set anywhere. The characters too are uniformly dull; the two inspectors in the WWII sections, Flovent and Thorson are serviceable, and a little better is retired cop Konrad, who solves the mystery of the cold case during the modern era, however they are all mostly forgettable. It's a shame really, I did want to enjoy The Shadow District, but it merely served to pass the time, read out of duty until the next book on the reading list comes along, which is Yukio Mishima's Runaway Horses (1969). I'm hoping for better things from one of Japan's greatest writers and I'm certain I'll be rewarded.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Helliconia Spring - Brian Aldiss (1982)

Rating: Excellent

Finally after decades of vague intentions I've begun reading the Helliconia trilogy. I picked up all three volumes, featuring the superb cover artwork from the late 1980's, dirt cheap when WA's Mostly Books was closing down. Firstly the novel was not as I imagined it to be, the storytelling style is kind of old fashioned, blending realism and science with some fantasy elements. Aldiss had written some pretty wild novels in the sixties and seventies, but Helliconia Spring is fairly tame in comparison. Having said that the storytelling is enriched with mostly splendid world-building, including a 122 page prelude called Yuli, which was one of the most enjoyable sections of the novel. For the most part Helliconia Spring reads like an exploration of Neolithic life, but set on an alien planet in orbit around a star called Batalix, which is in orbit around a much larger star called Freyr. The lengthy elliptical orbit means that seasons last many centuries and life on Helliconia has to adapt in fascinating ways. Aldiss' depiction of Helliconia is extremely detailed, taking in the life cycles of non-humanoid life both large and small. But it is the struggle between the human-like aliens and the inhuman Phagors (large Yeti like creatures with horns) that drives the novel's narrative and provides the most interest. 

The novel is certainly flawed, with long periods spent establishing the culture and politics of the humanoids which borders on the tedious, yet overall the narrative is absorbing and rewards the dedication needed to get through its epic length. I'm not sure when I'll get to Helliconia Summer (1983), which is even longer, and Helliconia Winter (1985), but I will definitely be reading them due to Aldiss' skill in creating an epic narrative. Also of interest is the fact that humans are watching the planet from a space station and are broadcasting everything back to Earth, where it is watched by humanity as 'reality TV', a concept that, as unwelcome as it turned out to be, was ahead of its time.

Monday 5 November 2018

Snap - Belinda Bauer (2018)

Rating: Admirable

The fact that I am not an experienced reader of crime novels saw me through the first third of Snap, during which I gasped and groaned about the mediocre writing. During the multitude of cliches, frequently bad similes and irritating characters I kept on thinking that maybe I was judging too harshly because of my inexperience with the crime genre. However by about the half way mark I actually realised that I was beginning to enjoy the novel. The narrative threads began to converge nicely and I started to want to know what was going to happen. Snap has some typical crime tropes (even I know what they are...) such as a disappearance, a murder, abandoned children, burglaries, hapless provincial police and a grizzled hard-ass detective called, of all things - Marvel, looking to restart his career. The principal protagonist, fourteen year-old Jack, is a sympathetic character, who believes that he has found the knife that killed his mother and just needs to convince the police of that fact whilst avoiding being prosecuted for his multitude of petty crimes as a semi-mythical character known as 'Goldilocks'.  

Snap is reasonably paced and keeps you interested enough to see it through to the denouement, which manages to be both satisfying and disappointing at the same time (the very end of the novel is just terrible!). I had to think carefully about what rating I was going to give Snap, but decided that the fact that Bauer managed to win me over in the end and on the whole it was an enjoyable read it would be rewarded with my equivalence of three stars (admirable), although really it is a two and a half star novel, if I used that rating system. Read Snap if you want something quick and entertaining to get you through the week, otherwise best to read the late Australian crime novelist Peter Temple, who had some style at least...

Sunday 14 October 2018

Solaris - Stanislaw Lem (1961)

Rating: Sublime

A year or so ago a close friend gifted me a copy of Solaris, telling me that it was among the greatest novels he'd ever read. His words were certainly true, Solaris is a brilliant science fiction novel, and is up there with the great novels from any literary genre. Lem's prose style is beautifully precise and absolutely compelling. It is certainly one of the most psychologically intense novels I have read, with the protagonists life aboard the station hovering above the theoretically sentient 'sea' on the planet of Solaris portrayed in claustrophobic detail. Lem presents a highly believable premise in which humanity grapples with the possibility of first contact and yet struggles pathetically to comprehend the 'sea' of Solaris and the 'visitors' that are generated from their own minds. 

Lem managed to both expose humanity's hubris and also create a presence that is truly alien. The 'sea' broils with creative intent, whilst the visitors torture the crew with their cruelly demanding presence. Solaris has inspired two feature films, one by the Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky and more recently by Steven Soderbergh, both of which are satisfying in their own ways, but in my opinion neither came close to capturing the brilliance of Lem's novel.

Monday 1 October 2018

Permutation City - Greg Egan (1994)

Rating: Excellent

I can't believe that it has taken me this long to read a Greg Egan novel, after all he is a fellow resident of Perth and has been writing quality science fiction for decades. Egan is notorious for never attending conventions, participating in book signings and has managed the near impossible feat of never having a picture of himself published on the web. For all I know I could have mingled with him at one of the many parties I went to in the 1990's around the University of Western Australia area (where Egan studied mathematics). Previously I have read Axiomatic (1995), Egan's collection of brilliant short stories, and Permutation City is just as amazing. The novel is conceptually brilliant; perhaps being the best depiction of what it would be like to be a self aware copied simulation of a human mind in cyberspace I have ever encountered. 

Permutation City is endlessly fascinating and inventive, including a feasible depiction of what it would take to bootstrap a self perpetuating universe out of the nebulous reality of cyberspace itself. I came close to awarding Permutation City a sublime rating, however it was only let down by some stylistically flat sections and some slightly one-dimensional characters; however these are only minor quibbles when considering the mind-bending thematic scope of Permutation City. The novel is a total must read for science fiction devotees and I'm definitely going to read another of his novels' sooner rather than later.

Monday 24 September 2018

Warlight - Michael Ondaatje (2018)

Rating: Excellent

The first thing that comes to mind when I consider Warlight is its humanity. Ondaatje authentically portrays how humans can be deeply affected by forces outside of their control. Warlight is one of those novels in which nothing much seems to be happening, and yet it most definitely is. It is testament to Ondaatje's particular way with prose that you come away from reading the novel having been emotionally altered by its contents; the novel is beautifully subtle and yet also deeply moving and powerful. The novel's main protagonist and narrator, Nathaniel, tells the story in hindsight of how his family was affected by WWII and its aftermath, with both his parents leaving him and his sister, Rachel, in the care of such full blooded characters as 'The Darter' and 'The Moth', whilst they embark on mysterious life paths that only become clearer as the novel reaches its denouement. Ondaatje's prose is pared back, yet is full of emotional and psychological depth, and as with all great writers, it appears to be effortless. 

One of my favourite parts of the novel involves another book, called The Roof-Climbers Guide to Trinity by Geoffrey Winthrop Young (1899), which despite coming across as pure invention by Ondaatje, turns out to be a real book! Somehow I don't think it will turn up in one of my bibliographic hunting adventures in opportunity shops or second hand book stores, but then again, you never know. Meanwhile I thoroughly recommend Warlight for those who appreciate novels that completely take you into a world previously hidden to you - warlight indeed.

Sunday 9 September 2018

Sacred Causes: Religion and Politics from the European Dictators to Al Qaeda - Michael Burleigh (2006)

Rating: Admirable

Sacred Causes took me about a month to read and whilst in some ways I'm very pleased that I read it I did spend much of that time wishing that I was reading something else entirely. It is perhaps the most detailed history book I've ever read, which is admirable, but it certainly does not make for a book that is light on its feet. Burleigh is erudite to the extreme and builds his arguments with great care, however his style lacks that certain flair that can make history books inspirational; Peter Wilson's mammoth tome Ideas: A History from Fire to Freud (2005) being just one great example. Burleigh covers from the aftermath of WWI, through to the emergence of fascism in Europe, communism in Russia, the cold war period, the troubles in Northern Ireland and finally to 9/11 and its aftermath. It certainly makes for bleak reading and ultimately served as a potent reminder that any human system, whether it be secular or religious, that purports to have the answers in terms of how humans should live and think about the world mostly end up being agents of disaster and death. 

Although Burleigh rightly explores just how viciously the church was treated by fascism and, in particular, communism (they basically slaughtered most of the clergy, whilst also suppressing the church in every other way...) I couldn't help but be reminded of monotheism's historical legacy of righteous death and destruction and that during this historical period it seemed that it was just their turn to be on the receiving end. Burleigh spends a great deal of the WWII section building a detailed (and I mean detailed...) argument defending Catholicism and the then Pope Pius XII and his handling of Nazism and the persecution of the Jews, a position that comes across as quite heavy-handed in the end. Burleigh also indulges in some subjective value judgements in the latter part of Sacred Causes, something that is never a good look for a historian. My advice to history buffs out there - only read this book if you are uncommonly fascinated with religion and its political discontents...or should that be the other way around?

Friday 31 August 2018

Cloudpine Header

Many people who know me except that I do not necessarily change for change sake, but when someone makes great art inspired by your blog then it is obvious that now is the time for change. For the first time since the blog's inception I've changed the image header and I have to say it looks quite beautiful. Cloudpine is an artist from the United Kingdom who publishes images of his art on his great blog Cloudpine 451. I've been checking out his art for years now and about two weeks ago I was surprised and honored to see that he had created the above image inspired by Excelsior. Cloudpine has given me permission to use the image, so thank you! Please check out his blog here: Cloudpine 451

Meanwhile my supposed hiatus from writing book reviews hasn't quite gone to plan, as I can't seem to help myself. However writing a quick paragraph, rather than a lengthy review, seems to be working out well in terms of fitting in with my life, so I think this approach will become the new norm. So that is the end of the so called hiatus and the belated beginning of this new version of Excelsior!

Sunday 19 August 2018

Augustown - Kei Miller (2016)

Rating: Admirable

Augustown is the first novel I've read written by a Jamaican, if you don't count Bob Marley's often brilliant lyrics (another contender for the Nobel Peace Prize in literature?). The novel's structure is one of interconnected vignettes that tell the story of how the history of slavery taints the generations that follow emancipation. The novel is quite engaging, with vivid island vernacular and enough character development to evoke a readers' sympathy. Miller explores the historical and mythical folk origins of Rastafarianism in the form of a healer called Alexander Bedward, who believed he could fly before unfortunately being incarcerated in an asylum in 1920. I mostly enjoyed the novel, however there was a part of me that just couldn't get interested enough to be totally absorbed by the narrative. Fortunately it turns out that Augustown is one of those novels that becomes more appreciated in hindsight, making it a much better novel than I first thought.

Sunday 15 July 2018

Far From Home - Walter Tevis (1981)

Rating: Excellent

I first read this excellent collection of short stories back when I was about sixteen in high school. I was so impressed that I've always kept it in my book collection, never once considering it for culling in one of my periodic clean-outs. Far From Home was just as impressive some thirty years later and it was also a pleasant exercise in nostalgia for me as I remembered how I reacted to the stories when I was a teenager. Some of the stories reveal a writer who is very interested in the human psyche, dealing with themes unusual for science fiction, such as the Oedipus complex and childhood trauma. Other stories feature uniquely brilliant takes on such well worn science fiction tropes as time travel (including one called Echo that I'm sure would have influenced Greg Egan), alien planets and eccentric scientists creating weird technologies. Reading the book as an adult made me wonder about Tevis himself, as many of the male characters were quite lusty and referenced their appreciation of the female form often and in nearly every story characters were often drinking gin or whisky. Was he putting something of himself in his stories, or just giving his male characters some machismo that matched the times? Maybe he hoped Playboy Magazine would buy some of his stories and if so it would have been a well suited match!

Friday 6 July 2018

The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton (2014)

Rating: Admirable
The Miniaturist is one of those novels that are just like a really beautiful looking cake that tastes wonderful at first but the more that you eat the more unpalatable it becomes. Set in sixteenth century Amsterdam when Holland was at its apogee in terms of wealth and trade, the novel's themes deal with dark family secrets, the coming of age of the principal female protagonist - Petronella, the hypocrisy and paranoia of religion and some magic realism in the form of the precognitive powers of a young female miniaturist. I initially did become engaged with the plot and some of the characters were well rounded enough so that I cared what happened to them, however as the novel neared its endgame I became less satisfied. The tapestry of the narrative had become frayed so that the tension that was developed earlier dissipated and led to a fairly disappointing and predictable ending. The novel is good enough to be taken up and developed by the BBC as a mini-series (how appropriate...), but ultimately The Miniaturist lacks that vital narrative spark that makes for a memorable classic.

Monday 18 June 2018

One Three One - Julian Cope (2014)

Rating: Admirable

Julian Cope is one of the finest cult musical artists in the world and is certainly one of the most endearingly creative and eccentric. Cope can also definitely write, having produced perhaps the greatest rock autobiography in the form of the hilariously manic Head On (1994). Cope also has a fascination with Neolithic Europe and has produced scholarly tomes such as The Modern Antiquarian (1998) and The Megalithic European (2004), but is he also a successful novelist? The answer is, well, maybe? One Three One is, as they say, a mixed bag; featuring a rock star character called Rock Section, football hooligans, neolithic stone sites on the Italian island of Sardinia (where most of the novel is set), Paganism vs Christianity (the Christians are the bad guys...) time travel (back some 10, 000 years), a multitude of musical references and a series of fictional rave era bands that many of the secondary characters have a hand in. It's heady stuff and most of the time Cope's freewheeling narrative style keeps you interested, however sometimes I was just plain bored, or frustrated and perplexed, and sometimes I was totally enthralled. I veered between thinking I'd rate the novel as mediocre and other times as excellent; but ultimately One Three One is quite an achievement for an eccentric cult artist whose main gig is producing excellent music at a fairly prolific rate. Well done Mr Cope... 

Sunday 10 June 2018

Imperial Bedrooms - Bret Easton Ellis (2010)

Rating: Admirable

Imperial Bedrooms is the sequel to Less Than Zero (1985), Ellis' debut novel that made a significant cultural impact in middle on that bloated decade. Fittingly both take their titles from seminal Elvis Costello albums. I have not yet read Less Than Zero, however this did not impact greatly on my understanding of the novel and, as I knew it would, it contained Ellis' typical emotionless writing style. In terms of conveying an atmosphere of soulless hedonistic despair Ellis is just brilliant, however the very act of reading the novel means being prepared to be drawn into that world and exposed to its narcissistic core, which is a draining experience indeed. The central protagonist, Clay, reminded me so much of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (1991), as did the overall narcissistic tone of the novel and the exploration of modern humans devoid of basic humanity. I admired this novel more than I enjoyed it and ultimately if you were to read any Bret Easton Ellis novel it would have to be American Psycho, which is one of the greatest modern novels and, a cliche I know, also required reading during the decline of America under Trump.

Monday 28 May 2018

Restless - William Boyd (2006)

Rating: Admirable

Restless stands as a rarity for me due to the fact that I rarely, if ever, read espionage novels, and it is also my first William Boyd novel. My prior knowledge of Boyd stems from my Bowie fandom, when Bowie was one of the few in on the elaborate joke played by Boyd with the creation of a fictional artist called Nat Tate back in 1998. Having now read Restless I can say that Boyd is a talented writer and having read a number of interviews with him in preparation for the book club sessions he's also an interesting and intelligent gentleman. I did enjoy the novel, with its tale of a daughter finding out that her mother was in fact a spy working for the British government during the first few years of WWII. The premise is based on a historically real attempt to try and use spin and false evidence to convince the citizens of the USA to join the war against the Nazis. It is, as they say, a cracking read; however in hindsight I feel it was somewhat diminished by the alternating chapters set in the mid 1970's (the others being set during WWII), in which an end game of sorts is enacted by the mother whilst the daughter struggles with her own life as a single mother attempting to finish a thesis and having to fend off the amorous overtures of an Iranian student. I guess you could refer to this book as a literary spy novel - some good holiday reading perhaps...?

Monday 7 May 2018

Martian Time-Slip - Philip K. Dick (1964)

Rating: Admirable

I thought it was about time I read another P. K. Dick novel, because frankly I need that kind of thing in my life on occasions. Martian Time-Slip is a typical P. K. Dick novel in almost every way, featuring shifts in reality, characters with unusual mental abilities, time distortions and many of the 'every-man' characters who endure the weird situations that appear in his novels, including this one. Although Martian Time-Slip is not without its flaws, it is ultimately one of Dick's better novels from the 1960's. P. K. Dick was an utterly unique writer, combining disparate elements that other writers would only flirt with. Although many of the novel's characters are fairly one dimensional, perhaps even mundane, Dick portrays them in such an unusually direct manner that ultimately such shortcomings are transcended, something that also significantly adds to the novel's hyper-real tone. As usual P. K. Dick pays no attention to scientific practicalities, pretty much portraying life on Mars as if it was merely some strange desert region on Earth; but ultimately it doesn't matter, it's a Philip K. Dick novel after all...

Monday 30 April 2018

Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley - edited by Alex Abramovich and Jonathan Lethem (2012)

Rating: Sublime

Store of the Worlds is perhaps the greatest collection of science fiction stories I have ever read. Every story is brilliant, thought provoking, amusing and provocative.  Many of these stories were first published in science fiction magazines from the 1950's and 1960s, such as Galaxy Science Fiction and Amazing Science Fiction Stories, even a number from Playboy Magazine! It is obvious that Sheckley helped invent some now well known science fiction tropes, but more significantly he inverted a number of them too, like portraying humans as alien invaders, let loose on the universe. Oh, and his style is polished and erudite, belying science fiction's mid century pulp reputation. Just amazing...

Monday 16 April 2018

Manhattan Beach - Jennifer Egan (2017)

Rating: Excellent

Manhattan Beach is certainly an impressive novel. I found myself becoming emotionally engaged with the principal protagonists on multiple occasions throughout, which is always the sign of above average writing, particularly when it is a novel that I would not normally be interested in reading outside of the book club. Manhattan Beach is compelling, skillfully plotted and Egan certainly has a way with placing you right there with the characters across some varied settings. The novel falls away a bit toward the end, but that was principally because some of the narrative tension had dissipated after various plot-lines had resolved. I'll be delving into Egan's past novels in the future, in particular her Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010).

Monday 2 April 2018

Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges (1941-1944, this translated edition, 2000)

Rating: Sublime

I have finally read Jorge Luis Borges and I can confirm that it is true, Borges was a literary genius. The stories that make up this collection are unique (even now), inspiring, fascinating and above all the work of what was a highly original mind. If you are feeling jaded with what you've been reading lately then read this book and be inspired by literature once again. The story - The Library of Babel, begins with one of the all time greatest opening sentences: 'The universe (which others call the library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.'

I always suspected that I worked in a universe within a universe... 


Sunday 11 March 2018

The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry (2016)

Rating: Excellent

One of those popular literary fiction novels that excels in being thoroughly enjoyable without setting the literary firmament afire, which is perfectly fine. The Essex Serpent is not particularly plot driven, rather it is heavy on some weighty themes that are both universal and also particular to the Victorian era it is set in. Perry's strength lies in her splendid characterizations and making the settings come alive; she also has some fun with Gothic tropes whilst she's at it. One of my book club members described it as "gentle", in a complimentary sense of course, and I have to agree. It has been a great period of quality books for me and The Essex Serpent hasn't spoiled that particular reading roll.

Monday 12 February 2018

Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life - Adam Greenfield (2017)

Rating: Excellent

An excellent analysis of where we are at and where it all could take us; covers smart phones, the internet of things, augmented reality, digital fabrication (3D printing), cryptocurrency and blockchains (I understand it all now, sort of...), automation and machine learning (AI). Greenfield writes too much like an academic - lacking a bit of flair, but this is a small criticism. As Brian Eno says on the back cover blurb - 'This is an essential book.' I say - beware the hegemony of the stacks!

Sunday 28 January 2018

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison (1952)

Rating: Excellent

A challenging and inventive examination of what it was to be a black American in the mid twentieth century. Complex, surreal, disturbing and unfortunately still relevant reading within the context of the ugliness of our times.

Sunday 14 January 2018


It has been a while coming, but I've decided to stop writing book reviews for the time being, perhaps for a year or so, in order to concentrate on other things. I will, however, be posting what I've read, including ratings and perhaps the odd comment.

Over the last six weeks or so I've finished reading three novels:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (1979): Excellent

I first read this novel when I was 15, and it turns out that it is still brilliant; genuinely funny, weird and full of unforgettable characters. A deathless classic basically. 

In Search of Lost Time - Volume One: Swann's Way - Marcel Proust (1913): Excellent

One of the greats of the European literary canon; best to let yourself be absorbed into Proust's world if you attempt to read it.

Daniel Martin - John Fowles (1977): Excellent

A seriously adult novel, full of meditations on the self, sex, nationality and love.