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Friday, September 18, 2015

Who's on First?

I seem to be reading lots of books written in first person this week. Each tells of a time, place, or way of life that I don't know. But how the author tells the reader what's going on is different in each. I read somewhere that there are different kinds of first-person writing, so I'll see if I can figure it out as I work through these reviews. Find yourself a coffee, and enjoy.

The The Jamie Quinn Mysteries by Barbara Venkataraman are narrated by the eponymous Jamie Quinn. She's a family lawyer, and I know nothing about family law. Jamie offers details to the reader in an enthusiastically natural voice, like a friend sitting over coffee. There are three books in the set (and a fourth coming out soon). And I like the way the "telling" is so personal - first person enthusiastic perhaps?

Jamie could tell me tons about autism in "Death by Didgeridoo" but instead she tells a little - it's not something the character, Jamie, is passionate about. But about how adoptions are so much more fun that divorce? In The Case of the Killer Divorce, the telling is part of creating the character. And in Peril in the Park,  I learned lots about parks and recreation - why? Because Jamie's passionate about someone who's working in that field.

Enjoy Jamie's passions and solve mysteries while drinking some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee. Meanwhile, can you think of a better name than first-person enthusiastic? First-person involved maybe?

Dobyn's Chronicles, by Shirley MacLain, is also told through first-person narration. The setting is Oklahoma in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The world is changing, and the character - a trustworthy and hard-working young man, orphaned when Yellow Fever takes his parents - changes gently with age, Some of America's history is seen through the character's eyes, and I love his surprise at, for example. his first encounter with indoor plumbing. Maybe I'll call this first-person memoirish (since it's not technically a memoir). Other parts of history are revealed instead through long-winded dialog which slows the story down--but life was slower back then. Meanwhile more details are revealed through occasional slips into other characters' eyes--characters who might have told their tale later. All in all, it's a fascinating book. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee, since the world was unforgiving and death a close companion of those who lived in it.

Until We’re Strangers again by Sean Gorman is a tale of a young man growing up in the world of wrestling. Okay, I know nothing about wrestling, but the author manages to convey information with casual asides from the first-person narration, and interesting musings on his passions. It's a long book, with many dark scenes. Stage violence and imaginary personae leave the real world to be turned into a playground of failed relationships, sex, drink and drugs. Drink some seriously dark five-star coffee with this one. And the first-person style? Definitely memoir.

Finally Dene Hellman's The Ninety-Ninth Reunion tells a story through several different first-person narrators, each flowing naturally from the telling of the last. This time the author's pulling you into the story, rather than asking you to sit and listen. The narrators are following through events whose conclusion they can't know, and neither can you. Maybe I'd call it first-person deep, to match with third-person deep narration. Deeply involved in the characters, you share their hopes and fears, and a certain sense of dread without ever knowing what's going to come. A wonderfully evocative novel, a romance where land and siblings and the recent past are all important characters, and a tale that defies expectations, this is one to enjoy with some rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee. Highly recommended.

Of course, I'm still reading first person novels - Gary Gibson's Extinction Game this weekend (just for me, but I might post a review). There really are a lot of them around, and my beloved, soon-to-be-released Infinite Sum will be a first-person tale too; first-person deep, by my flawed definitions!

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