Saturday, May 29, 2010

BOOK: Out Backward by Ross Raisin

Out Backward by Ross Raisin, 211 pages
this book was published as God's Own Country in England

IMPAC Dublin Shortlisted 2010; A-Zed Title Challenge

Sam Marsdyke is an unlikely narrator, and I felt so sorry for him. Is that the skill of the author, that I felt bad for an extremely disturbed individual? I shouldn't like poor Sam, but the whole situation was sad, and his brain just did not function the way most people's do. I loved the Yorkshire Moors settings - fans of Wuthering Heights who like their love stories twisted should read this.

Sam is working on the family farm with his nasty father and distant mother, after being kicked out of school. A family moves in across the way with a teenager daughter that Sam becomes interested in. Stalkers and psychopaths interpret events differently than regular people, and Sam reads more into several situations than he should. But from his perspective, it really all made sense, and he didn't mean for the things that happened to happen. In some ways, he just didn't know any better.

Sam is mildly educated, and his slang takes a bit of getting used to, but I fell into his dialect easily and it really matched him and his thought processes. Some conversations begin in his head and then continued with real people, or Sam talked with animals that seemed way more real to him than most people. I began to wonder if he really did hear them talk to him. This should have been more confusing than it was, but it really worked in this book. I did wonder if some of the words were Yorkshire dialect or if they were Sam's made up words.

Twenty or thirty red houses, all bright and glishy like a piece of flesh with the skin torn off. Probably that was what the town used to look like, way back, before it started to snarl up and scab over. p 100

At times, I was very worried while reading how the book would turn out, with the potential for violence, but I was satisfied with the ending. I liked this book and thinking of past IMPAC Dublin Prize winners, I think it would be a good winner. It felt like DeNiro's Game by Rawi Hage, This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jalloun, No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod, and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson in terms of overall tone and feel, not plot or type of book at all. The only other nominee from this year's list I've read is The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and I really liked it as well.

The Shortlisted Books
Winner announced June 17, 2010
The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
In Zodiac Light by Robert Edric
Settlement by Christoph Hein
The Believers by Zoe Heller
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
God's Own Country by Ross Raisin
Home by Marilynne Robinson

Any of these you'd recommend to read or want to read? Never mind the Home book, I was bored to tears by Gilead and have no intention of reading that one.