Review: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is another book that I’m surprised didn’t win the 2020 International Booker Prize. Like the winning book, The Discomfort of Evening, it centers around grief and loss, but in a much less tangible way. The unnamed narrator lives on an island where things are forgotten one at a time. The first half of the book feels like a strange mash-up of 1984 and The Giver set in 1942 Germany. I wanted more information about the mechanics of this world and to understand how the Memory Police were created, etc., but I stopped looking for answers as the story became more and more abstract. read more

Review: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

I’ve postponed this review because Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys isn’t the easiest book to review. Though it’s a fictional story, the setting is based on a real place, the Dozier School for Boys. This “reform school” was closed in 2011 after decades of abuse allegations. Fifty-five unmarked graves were found in 2012 and other potential graves have been identified since. Unlike The Underground Railroad which takes a long view of history, this story is tightly focused around Elwood Curtis’s experience on the edge of the civil rights movement. read more

Review: The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

I thought Tyll was extraordinary. When I learned it lost the 2020 International Booker Prize to The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, I immediately read Discomfort. One Goodreads review said something to the effect of “Trigger Warning: All of them,” but I ignored it. Winners of literary awards are often very “literary.” I expected any discomfort to be dressed with fancy metaphors to the point of being unrecognizable. It isn’t. So here’s a rare trigger warning from me: There are graphic scenes involving the torture of animals, self mutilation, incest, and sexual assault. There is also excessive talk of excrement, but they’ll take away my lit degree if I don’t clarify that Jas’s constipation is a metaphor for grief. read more