A delightfully strange novel that brings to mind Kafka and Hrabal. When a narcissistic office worker named Bjorn discovers a secret room, his co-workers, who do not believe the room exists, ostracize him. While in the room, however, Bjorn does his best work, making himself indispensable to the company. The co-workers who despise him come to resentfully rely on him to keep their entire department relevant. A slim, tricky, maddeningly amusing novel that leaves many questions unanswered.
Forgetful Bay reminds me a lot of the Gulf Coast, where I grew up. No one does Gulf Coast torpor–the heat and humidity and wrenching boredom of it–quite like Barthelme. Wallace Webster lives a quiet life, observing the strange goings-on and frequent deaths in this backwater community with a sharp eye and quick wit. I was reminded of the short story “The School,” by Barthelme’s brother Donald, in which a series of small animals dies, leaving a group of innocent children wondering, “Is death that which gives meaning to life?” As with “The School,” the crimes that befall Forgetful Bay become increasingly difficult to ignore.
Barthelme draws Webster’s relationships with the various women in his life–daughter, co-worker, and occasional lover–with tenderness and complexity. A wonderful novel by one of my favorite writers, whose work proves, again and again, that you don’t need a lot of pages to cover a whole lot of emotional ground.
The 1907 novel by Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 1928, still holds up to scrutiny today. It is now, as it was then, a very modern novel. The subject–the interior life of a young married woman who desperately longs for a more passionate life–made waves in Norway upon its publication and has been translated for the first time into English. A beautifully written, deeply affecting journey into the mind of a woman struggling against convention.
When single mom Jane Milton, recently divorced, returns as a teacher to the stuffy boarding school where she spent her formative years, she is bombarded by sinister memories and shadowed by a former classmate. Moving back and forth between Milton’s senior year and her current life as a teacher, Academy Girls is a compelling mystery about how the crimes of the past echo into the future.
Delightfully creepy and quietly terrifying.