Here’s a link to a lovely review of Fremont in DURA, http://www.dura-dundee.org.uk/Fiction/fremont.html
Last week I was in Chicago to see family and do research for my next book. I spent a lot of time walking around the city and talking to folk. Here’s a picture of my favorite building in Chicago, The Monadnock Building (Burnham and Root; Holabird and Roche). This is the north half, designed by Root:
The days were fantastic and warm and sunny. Millenium Park was full of kids and families with the water towers, the Frank Gehry and the Anish Kapoor sculptures inviting everyone to play:
While there, I found out I wasn’t short-listed for the Author’s Club Prize, but do check out the fab writers who are on it via Suzi Feay.
On the same day I found out that, this summer, I’ll be a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow. A month in France with its continental summer heat, no distractions and just the writing – I can’t wait.
I found out via a tweet by a friend and it’s a fantastic surprise on this beautiful sunny spring day. I was in the middle of an incredibly busy day, the day before traveling and it just lightened everything. Suzi Feay wrote this post: http://www.acepage.ca/suzifeay/
I’m in some company of some great authors and Ramshackle is the only book on the list published by a small press. Shortlisting takes place next week. Finger crossed.
As I continue to fight for time to write the first draft of the next book, as well as a flash fiction for The List, and a guest blog on fairytale elements in novels, I’m also thinking about success, reviews, and other things publishing. I’m also thinking about Berlin, a city I visited for the first time last week, about AM Holmes’ latest novel, May We Be Forgiven, which I’m reading (and quite enjoying), and also about preparing for returning to teaching on Monday.
Both my books have been lucky enough to be read by some excellent reviewers and bloggers (and of course, everyday enthusiastic readers). I’ve been particularly impressed with the literary bloggers, these lovers of books who read with such attention. They are often relatively unknown individuals but driven by love of books and by ambition too – often to get the information about new books out there to other readers. As someone published by two small presses, I’m interested in this – starting small, working with passion and integrity and doing your job well. These reviews that come in are lovely to read and receive and I want to thank the readers and reviewers who take the time to let me know how much they’ve loved both books.
A few words about Fremont from Fictavia and Northwords:
‘The main story explored in Elizabeth Reeder’s second novel (and Kohl Publishing’s well-selected first) is quite extraordinary by itself. Rachel Roanoke and Hal Fremont court for a day, marry, and plan to have fifty children – one named after each state. They track each birth using a carved map hung on the wall…
With such a collection of children, you might expect Reeder to tip over into placing each one a little too neatly into a pigeonhole (“This one likes wearing pink, this one’s a tomboy,” for example). That never happens. Each child is a carefully-wrought individual. None of them are ever fully laid bare in 2D. You can find yourself leaning towards picking a favourite or despising one of them – before realising that their position in the family line-up has shaped that particular facet of them, and that they are so much more than what you see them as. Late in the book, I found myself detesting one of the youngest children for her apparently selfish actions; then, without didactics or fanfare, it became obvious that she only did what she must to stop herself going mad. Therein lies the true magic of Fremont: you must accept the beauties and curses of the whole family. They feel real.
Touches of magic realism and the sense of a deep natural power wind like gold thread through the whole thing, enhancing its charm and pull over the reader. Reeder’s imagination buoys up a narrative that would get mired down in others’ hands. Some details are genius…
Fremont is a masterful, shattering examination of that special brand of madness with which only your family can infect you. At times it simmers like Jeffrey Eugenides’s Virgin Suicides; sometimes, the text feels like a lyrical, magical spell, in the fashion of Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles.
Read it slowly. It is a story to be savoured, cried over, and celebrated.’
‘Ah, families. As recently as the sixteenth century, the sceptical French essayist Montaigne accurately anticipated this extraordinary novel when he noted that ‘There is not much less vexation in the government of a private family than in the managing of an entire state’.
Perhaps most novels are ultimately about families but few dare burrow their way as deeply inside that seething tangle of chaos and passions and insularity as Elizabeth Reeder does in Fremont. And this is most certainly not Little Women or The Waltons…
Rachel Fremont wants her children to be the ‘cartographers of their own lives’ and so this novel is also about voyages and mappings, about roots and routes, sexual explorations and faultlines and losing ones bearings. Everyone is journeying, seeking, and rarely travelling on the paths of least resistance. There are no turgid chunks of lengthy introspection, yet we learn of the characters’ inner lives through the author’s deft skills with imagery and metaphor. Reeder writes like a poet, meticulous and precise, and sprinkles her prose with the occasional invented words. Toroweap is the narrowest part of the Grand Canyon, with towering three-thousand foot cliffs. Rachel’s grief is described as ‘…toroweaping, soaring and falling, mixing with the water from the shower…’
For anyone who has lived in a house and wrestled with a family, that ‘grand mix of exuberance and disappointment’, the births and deaths and couplings and marryings, who has fought and lost, and fought and won, this meticulous book will sing to you then cut to the quick of you. It deserves a very wide audience indeed.’
2013 has been a busy year at work, full of teaching (fabulous) and administration (necessary…). I’ve also been getting on with the writing of my next book. Since Christmas I’ve interviewed some very generous experts (in what? that’s still not something I’ll divulge). This stage of the writing is an internal process and one that I’d like to steal more and more time to dive right into. I’m planning two research trips for the book and will post images etc of my adventures. And I will spend this spring and summer hopefully completing the first draft of the next novel.
A few writers and readers we know have made some recommendations for books read this year (or hoping to read for 2013). Thanks to Susie Maguire, Helen Sedgwick, Dorothy Alexander, Vicki Jarrett and Em Strang. http://kohlpublishing.com/books-of-the-year/
What would your suggestions be?
Even though I’ve had a chance to read some excellent books this year, I definitely know that I want to read more and more widely next year. I have an ever growing pile, but if you have suggestions let me know via this website or via twitter.
Here’s a picture of those at the top of my list, not including those I’ve downloaded!
So Fremont has been spotted out and about, on walls and bridges. Suggesting that it might make a lovely Christmas gift for book lovers. A few friends have sent me pictures of Fremont on the ‘fly’ and I was quite excited to see the cover writ-large across from Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. Here it is on Easter Road.