The Travelers by Regina Porter

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In the opening chapter of Regina Porter’s The Travelers, a small dozing girl drifts into the deep end of a pool whilst her grandfather is preoccupied. She doesn’t drown in the end, just as Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom’s granddaughter didn’t drown in John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest. Porter has nonetheless managed to compress a span of 60 years into one novel whereas it took Updike four Rabbit novels to cover 30 years. Porter follows two families, one black and one white, from the 1950s to Barack Obama’s first term as President. This is an ambitious undertaking with a large cast of characters and, although a cast list is provided, it takes a while to establish exactly who’s who in the different strands of the story that will ultimately all overlap.

The Travelers is ultimately a frequently painful novel of great depth and lyricism.”

 

Educated by Tara Westover

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Tara Westover already numbers among her fans former US President Barack Obama, who called the writer to discuss her book.  He praised Westover’s first book as a “remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind”. The last point is significant – whilst Educated can be seen as a clarion call for education, Westover’s motivation (perhaps surprisingly) does not seem to be sheer rage. 

The first half of the book deals with Westover’s childhood as the youngest of five children in a radical survivalist Mormon family and is full of warm memories.

 

Hari Kunzru: Between the Grooves

It’s Hari Kunzru’s first press trip to London for a few years, this time to discuss his fifth novel, White Tears. It’s that rare beast: a novel of ideas that is also a transfixing thriller. The morning after he arrives from New York, we meet in a room just off the lobby of his hotel to discuss the book. I was interested in why he wanted to write such an overtly political novel, which confronts issues of race and representation head on.