I can’t seem to do a proper review of any of these books. So, if you want to know about the plot, please move on to the next review. Here I am going to ramble a bit about the beauty and comfort of the re-read.
There are some books I can always return to. I think we all know books like that. Most of these books come from our childhood or teenage years. I still find comfort in rereading The Neverending Story for what must be the 870th time. Others helped us through hard times. The Harry Potter series got me through a break up when I was twenty-two – it was the only thing I could stand reading. About once a year I return to Longbourn and Pemberley because I can lose myself in Austen’s world and language.
Scarlett Thomas three most recent novels – Our Tragic Universe, The End of Mr Y, and PopCo tend to give me a weird kind of comfort. It is not that the stories are the kind of brain-candy that just lets you shut off and stop thinking – quite the opposite really. These are books with intriguing (and very flawed) female characters who are facing some difficult situation in their respective lives. Be it Alice Butler in PopCo who is confronted with the wrongness of her corporate job and the task of cracking a hundred year old code. Or Ariel Manto and the cursed book “The End of Mr Y” that lets her escape from poverty and find new dimensions and adventure; or Meg who has to deal with storyless stories, ponderings on narratology and the question if she is living the life she should.
On closer look that last bit can really be found in all three novels. So can homeopathy, a love for tea, and countless theories from various scientific fields.
Thomas’ books are always a challenge and always introduce the reader to new and exciting concepts. I can understand that some people do not like this kind of novel. I have read reviews saying Thomas is too smart for her own good and that all that smart-ass attitude actually hampers the story’s flow and bores the reader. I actually love those parts of her books. Characters get into long philosophical or scientific conversations and I just wish I could be there and be part of it.
Any time I don’t know what to read next I come back to Meg, Alice and Ariel. And I feel like they are friends I haven’t talked to in a while and I experience the plot and the theories again and sometimes find a new angle or something I had forgotten about. And again I am fascinated and entertained by the creativity and innovation. And always I wish I could go to England and be friends with these characters. I also want to pick up knitting again and start to write a story and drink tea and learn about homeopathy. These books trigger my imagination and always wake up some kind of longing. While at the same time they make me feel like I’ve come home.
I love them and I am very much looking forward to Miss Thomas new book when it finally comes out.
An Afterthought. One thing I found funny while reading PopCo in 2014: it was published in 2004, the first time I read it was in 2009. Five years later, during my reread I noticed the fact that Alice is astonished by wifi technology! She can go online without using a cable! Technology today is moving so fast!