Mar 14, 2014

Among Others by Jo Walton


From Goodreads

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin

From Jo Walton's website

The way I like to describe it is that it’s about a science fiction reader who has fantasy problems. It’s 1979, she’s fifteen, she’s just saved the world from her evil mother at great cost, the world doesn’t know and doesn’t care and she has to go to boarding school.  All she wants to do is read Ursula Le Guin and Samuel Delany and Poul Anderson and James Tiptree Jr and and and and… but her mother is still out there and so are the fairies. It’s semi-autobiographical. It was odd to write for that reason, and also publishing it was odd. While some people hate it, the overwhelming response to Among Others is for readers to identify strongly with the protagonist. One does not expect to discover in one’s forties that one is less odd than one had always supposed oneself — but it seems that I’d written about a quite common fannish coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace. Well, there we are then. Lots of us, apparently.


 I borrowed two summaries because those both help to describe what the book is about and I want to share what the writer has to say about her own book, because for me it's a nice addition and it's quite relevant to understand the story.
 Morwenna is a crippled Welsh girl who has to survive on an English boarding school. She wants to make friends more than anything and uses magic to find them. I loved the ambiguity, did the magic really help Mori to find friends or did she find them because those people actually liked her? It was like that with many situations. Magic on one side, regular life on the other. And isn't there magic in real life anyway? I found that beautifully integrated into the story. Mori's always trying to find fairies and she finds someone likeminded who wants to find them as well. There's something very romantic about that. 
Another thing that made me love this book is the book talk. I actually made a list of all the SF titles I haven't read yet so I can start reading them. I'm a Le Guin fan and have read several of the other books Mori loved so much which helped understanding the story. This is a book for book lovers, for people who like magic realism and who want to read a great coming of age story. I can't praise it enough.

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