The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye

I don’t even know how to begin reviewing this book, but let me start with this: The King of Infinite Space is my favourite book of the year, and, I’m quite certain, a new all time favourite book.

The King of Infinite Space is, first and foremost, a book that is STEEPED in love. It’s a novel that pretty much immediately won me over because it just has so much heart, and you can feel it radiating on every page. We follow three main characters, each inspired by a character from Hamlet: Ben (Hamlet), Horatio (this one is obvious), and Lia (Ophelia)–and I ADORED them all. More and more, I find myself craving books that are just about people trying to be good, to themselves and to others, and The King of Infinite Space is exactly that kind of book. Its characters feel keenly, love wholeheartedly, and they are so good–not flawless, but always trying to be decent, to be good to those they care about, even if they also inevitably hurt them. And something about characters who are just good gets to me, and god, this book GOT TO ME. I could cry just thinking about it (I might already be).

Also: Lynday Faye’s writing is just gorgeous, brimming with personality and pitch-perfect dialogue. She absolutely sticks the landing with the big moments, but she also has such a deft hand with the little moments. Even scenes that aren’t that important in the grand scheme of the novel manage to be moving, because there are always little lines that just stop you in your tracks, moments where the characters’ vulnerabilities peek out, when they feel so much more starkly human. And more than just affecting, Faye’s prose is also experimental, which I loved. This is front and center in Ben’s chapters, where paragraphs break off into verse lines in different fonts and font sizes. In a different author’s hands it might’ve come off as tacky, maybe, but in Faye’s it just amplifies Ben’s emotions that much more, as though prose isn’t enough to convey the sheer depth of his feelings.

As for plot, there is, of course, the Shakespearean element: this is primarily a Hamlet retelling, but it also includes other Shakespeare-inspired elements and characters. But more than just repeating the Hamlet plot with a bit of variation, Faye takes its themes and ideas and breathes new life into them. Hamlet’s obsession with death and existence becomes Ben’s fascination with–and graduate degree in–the philosophy of physics. Hamlet’s soliloquies become musings on time and supernovas and entropy, andย beautifulย musings at that. And Ben’s interest in science is not just some flimsy quirk of his; it fundamentally informs the way he thinks about and approaches the world. And it’s also why he’s one of the most compelling and captivating characters I’ve read about all year.

More than anything, though, The King of Infinite Space is a love story through and through; love that, as Newton would have it, cannot be created or destroyed, but love that only changes forms, because it is “everywhere and everywhen,” in Ben’s words; these characters will always care about each other, their love for each other runs that deep.

Anyway, I fucking adored this book, and I can’t wait to reread it over and over again.

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Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

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“Always it was the same, Furlong thought; always they carried mechanically on, without pause, to the next job at hand. What would life be like, he wondered, if they were given time to think and to reflect over things? Might their lives be different or much the same โ€“ or would they just lose the run of themselves?”

A gentle, moving novella about the small moments that make up a life, and that have the power to change it as well. I enjoyed this, but I can’t say much more than that. It’s the kind of story you read, and enjoy while you’re reading, but not really the kind of story you’re likely to think about after you’ve finished it. I found this forgettable, yes, but that doesn’t mean that that will be the case for you too. I’d still recommend this, and I will definitely read whatever Claire Keegan comes out with next.

Thanks so much to Grove Press for providing me with an e-ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I think my biggest impression of this novel is just how full of love it is. Casey McQuiston poured their heart and soul into this story and it really shows. ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–

Casey McQuiston is just so good at creating a sense of community. Of course the romance is great–Jane is such a charismatic character, it’s virtually impossible not to love her as much as August does–but the side characters bring so much life and vitality to this novel. It’s testament to how well McQuiston develops them that you become as invested in them as you are in the main characters. Also, where I found Red, White and Royal Blue too plot-heavy for my taste, I thought One Last Stop had just the right amount of plot: just enough to give the story momentum, but not so much that it detracted from the romance.

I loved this a lot, and I’m sure a lot of people will, because it’s just really, really good.

Thanks so much to Macmillan Audio for providing me with an audiobook ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

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BOOK REVIEW: THE GREAT MISTAKE by JONATHAN LEE The Great Mistake: A novel (9780525658498): Lee, Jonathan: Books

“He would go looking for it everywhere in the years to come. Love, love, love. As if it were a coin to be found in a field, or a park. As if it could be obtained without forfeiture.”

I think I wanted to like this more than I did, but I still really did like it.

First of all: Jonathan Lee’s writing is absolutely exquisite. I could run through a whole laundry list of adjectives, here: beautiful, evocative, moving, earnest, endearing. Reading The Great Mistake, you get the sense that Lee is genuinely enjoying playing with language, stretching and shaping it to his own ends. If I were rating this novel on the basis of its writing alone, it would without a doubt get a 5 stars. As an example: Lee’s writing can take something as simple as a hug and turn it into this,

“And then, after a moment of hesitation, comes the embrace–one that seems to lack a center. A feeling of being held only by the very edges of who you are. Of wanting, so intensely, to be brought into the heart.”

One reason the writing works so well is because it almost effortlessly endears you to the novel’s main character, Andrew. You get such an intimate sense of his longing and his loneliness, his persistent sense of inadequacy and alienation. I’ve never felt so sympathetic towards a character so quickly.

Plot is where this novel falls short. The plot of The Great Mistake feels a bit janky, like an object with all its screws a little loose. The object still presents well, but when you hold it, you can’t help but feel like it’s about to come apart in your hands. Despite the beautiful writing, this novel was missing a strong, more streamlined plot. It has two timeliness, one following Andrew’s past, and one following the present investigation of his murder (the first line of the book is literally: “The last attempt on the life of Andrew Haswell Green took place on Park Avenue in 1903”). I was much more invested in the former plotline than the latter; the whole murder mystery aspect of it all didn’t really feel like it belonged to the novel, and as a plotline it felt shoddy, with characters I didn’t much care about doing things I also didn’t much care about.

Despite the weakness of its plot, though, the writing in this novel is so strong that it almost makes up for that plot’s inadequacies. Almost being the operative word, here, since the writing never fully picks up the slack from the plot. Still, though, an excellent novel.

Thanks so much to Granta for providing me with an e-ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

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