Although the first word of judgment from Karina Magdalena Szczurek on Jo-Anne Richards‘ My Brother’s Book is somewhat stickish – “schizophrenic” she calls it, right off the bat – the final pronouncement has a different coloratura altogether. Crossword-puzzlesque hint: one of William III of England‘s other names.
Ultimately, says Szczurek, the novel is “a richly told story which manages to keep its secrets well hidden until the very last” – not unlike the review at hand.
And no, the answer is not “William II of Scotland”:
Best known for her bestselling debut novel, The Innocence of Roast Chicken (1996), Jo-Anne Richards is also the author of Touching the Lighthouse (1997), Sad at the Edges (2003) and most recently, My Brother’s Book. This opens with the intriguing line “I was born on page 23 of my brother’s book. On page 52, before the whole world, I betrayed him.” The rest of the book is an exploration of this betrayal and its consequences for the lives of Tom, his sister Lily and the people around them.
My Brother’s Book has a bit of a schizophrenic feel about it. It is divided into three parts, of which the first two are equally long and span most of the novel while the third comprises only a few pages. Each part has a different narrator and operates on different time levels, switching between the period when Lily and Tom were kids in the 1960s to the years when they were young adults and to the recent present. Mostly this disjointed storytelling works well and the various perspectives illuminate the plot in a way that a straightforward single point of view wouldn’t have, but there are moments, especially in Lily’s piece, when the multitude of narrative angles becomes taxing.
- My Brother’s Book by Jo-Anne Richards
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