I was incapable of imagining what I had never seen…
Kaori and Kairi are the first twins to survive infancy on the ancient island of Mu, where gender is as fluid as the crashing waves. One was born of fire, the other of water.
But there’s a reason why none have survived before. A prophecy that has haunted the elders since time began. A rivalry destined to sink the entire island beneath a twin catastrophe of volcano and tsunami.
As hatred spills from the forbidden twins like the deadly poison of sacrificed sea snakes, they must decide what matters to them most…
The fight for the island – for tradition and duty.
Or the fight for freedom – for love and light.
The Mu Chronicles is a visionary YA fantasy trilogy exploring the origin of gender and desire in an epic queer fusion of Japanese folklore and Egyptian mythology.
Francie Nolan’s family is dirt poor, moving from tenement to tenement in early twentieth century Brooklyn. Her father Johnny, an Irish catholic, earns a haphazard living as a ‘singing waiter’ until his sudden death at a young age casts the family into even greater chaos. Her mother, Katie struggles to keep the family afloat through working as a janitor. There is a younger brother, Neeley. Soon, a third child will be born.
As a young child, Francie discovers reading. She joins the library and works her way through the books starting with A. One of her favourite occupations is to sit on the fire escape (shaded by the tree of the title) reading for hours.
“The feeling she had about it [the library] was as good as the feeling she had about Church. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste and freshly-inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense”
As children she and her brother Neeley scrounge in gutters and on rubbish heaps for any sort of scrap which might have a value.
“Rags brought two cents a pound, iron four.”
Although she does well at school and is desperate to continue her education, the birth of her younger sister forces Francie to become the family’s main breadwinner at the age of 14 as her brother’s education is prioritised by their mother. What Francie achieves and how she achieves it is the subject of the book.
This is the second time I have read this book but I found myself not loving it quite as much this time as I did the first time. I’m not sure why. The writing is good and very atmospheric since it was written by someone who walked the walk. Francie is an appealing character although sometimes she seems a little grown up for her chronological age. I did notice this time around that the author gets sidetracked by stories of the minor characters – such as the mother’s sisters and their husbands. I skipped a lot of this but got the gist that their behaviour was looked down upon in a highly judgemental community, thereby making things worse for Francie.
I lost patience with some of the philosophising dressed as dialogue and pointed comments about Jewish shopkeepers.
My discontent was not helped by amazon sending me a rubbish copy to my kindle – some kind of unedited proof, full of mistakes! Thanks for nothing amazon.
Wiki tells me that Betty Smith was born Elizabeth Lillian Wehner (1896 – 1972) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She wrote four novels, her first, the largely autobiographical A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was published in 1943. In 1944 20th Century Fox adapted the novel into a film directed by Elia Kazan.
And finally, a whole lot of pictures ….
It’s July 2022 so why am I doing my 2021 reading at a glance now? Answer because I’ve only just discovered that Storygraph will let me do this. And It’s fun! What would life be without books, eh?