This week’s question was What was the best book you read in March?
The best book I read in March was LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM by Mal Peet.
So far, it’s the best book I’ve read in 2013. It blew me out of the water (so to speak…). LIFE is the story of a rural English community and multiple people’s lives under the shadow of these greater world events. Clem narrates the story, though he’s unreliable at points (he readily admits that if he doesn’t know the finer details, he makes it up). The story opens with his birth, but delves into his grandmother’s marriage, his mother’s marriage and relationship, and ultimately, Clem’s. Clem comes of age in post-war England and falls in love against the Cold War. He’s a working class boy who falls in love with a wealthy girl (they openly joke about the Romeo & Juliet comparisons). The story’s climax builds to Clem and Frankie losing their virginity during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But the story doesn’t end there.
Sure, there are metaphors and parallels to draw between Clem and Frankie’s love/relationship/community and Krushchev v. Kennedy, the hawks on both sides of that crisis, and the pilots who were flying during one of Clem’s stories.
But this story’s strength lays in the masterful storytelling. It’s woven. It never forces a single metaphor. You’ll gasp at the beauty of the metaphors, but you’re neither reaching for them nor choking on them. The dialect used is readable but gorgeous and supports the setting and characterization without ever drawing the reader out of the story. The multi-generational bird’s eye view makes it feel almost like there’s an omniscient narrator, though we’re led to believe that Clem fills in the blanks.
The book is a work of art. It’s a YA novel only by a stretch of the imagination. It’s the ultimate crossover novel, bridging category and genre. It’s a coming of age story, a loss of innocence (on several levels), a test of faith, and a renewal of family and spirit. It’s a story about fate and love and community and economics. It’s incredible.
I can’t say enough good things about it other than I wish I could afford to give a copy to everyone I meet.