Thursday, 15 August 2019

Inland by Tea Obreht

Inland by Tea Obreht
First published in the UK by Weidenfeld And Nicolson in August 2019.

2019 COYER Summer Hunt read and a 2019 New Release Challenge read

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life - her husband who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home, and her husband's seventeen-year-old cousin, who communes with spirits.

Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West.

Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht's talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely - and unforgettably - her own.

Inland is, on the face of it, a historical Western novel set in an arid, drought ridden landscape which Obreht breathtakingly evokes on every page. Two narrative threads tell the stories of Nora - endlessly awaiting the return of her husband and sons - and Lurie - remembering his adventurous camelteering days. I absolutely loved the way their lives eventually connected and hadn't figured it out in advance even though, with hindsight, perhaps the clues were there. I had no idea of the role camel trains had played in Wild West exploration or even that camels had been taken to 1850s America so I was fascinated to learn about this forgotten history. Obreht wove facts into an almost Hispanic magical realism novel which I felt fitted brilliantly well with frequent opaque visions of spirits and ghosts who cling tenaciously to some of the living characters.

My problem with Inland is that it took me nearly a quarter of the book to really begin to understand the story. I'm not sure if this was because the early chapters are particularly baffling or because my reading was more fragmented than usual due to a lack of time. I will be interested to find out if other reviewers thought the same. Once I got into the story however, I was transported by it. Obreht's understanding of her disparate characters is impressive and their actions felt authentic and believable throughout, especially considering their increasingly dire circumstances. I felt 'that sorry' for poor put-upon Josie! There's a great depth to this novel and I appreciated the mix of domestic detail, political manoeuvring and otherworldly interation. It all makes for a wonderfully distinctive work!

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  1. Ohh saw this on Barack Obama's recommended reads for the summer. Sorry it didn't quite work out for you, though. Boo.

    1. I was too distracted at the beginning, I think, so found it difficult to make sense of the two narrative threads until I'd got quite a way through the story. Still very much worth the read though and once I was hooked, I didn't want to set Inland aside for a moment!

  2. That sounds like an interesting book.

    1. It is! I love getting unusual insights into places and eras I thought I knew well

  3. Ooh wow, it sounds like an incredibly slow start. But after that, it sounds like it improves and the writing sounds to be magical and very descriptive. It seems well rooted into the setting. Not sure if I will be able to get behind the slow start though...

    1. I'm not sure if it was Inland that was slow or if my head just wasn't in the right space to appreciate it?

  4. A fabulous read - one to add to my bookshelf


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