My novel of the year: Pod, by Laline Paull

by Maria on December 16, 2022

This year I spent three months in Western Australia without the notebook I record my reading in, and never caught up again, so I’ve no idea whether I read ‘enough’ in the categories I intended to; nonfiction, fiction in translation, fiction in Irish and French. (I strongly suspect not, though.) I began recording books started/read about five years ago and found it instantly made me more able to give most away afterwards; once the book’s name, author and my impression have been written down, I feel far less need to hold onto it. At first, I kept another notebook and wrote a page or so about each text, but I immediately fell hopelessly behind. I switched to – hold your nose – using a smiley face system in the first notebook to record my impressions. Very occasionally I’ll add a comment like ‘great dismount’, but most books just get :-( :-| :-) or the coveted :-0 which means I was awestruck. It’s actually a neat little system, as seeing each book listed with others I read in the same month jogs my memory of them all, and reminds me of where I was. I also record an R for re-reads, P for poetry, NF for non-fiction and T for in translation. About 60% of what I read is novels written in English, so that dominant doesn’t need a category at all. At the end of the year I tot up the total. It’s edged from around fifty per annum to the high sixties (I don’t include most books or any parts of books read for research, or articles, etc.), which feels low compared to many book-ish people, but a reasonable amount to be getting on with. It’s also … clarifying … to realise that at this rate I’ll likely read – for interest and pleasure – only another two thousand or so books in my life. They can’t all be :-0 of course, but I’m now less likely to persevere with ones I don’t get on with.

Anyway, this is all to say that in 2022 one book swam swiftly through my system leaving no less than two :-0’s in its wake, and merits not just a proper write-up but a strong exhortation to consider getting your hands on a copy for yourself or someone else. On this final weekend before Christmas, I commend to you Pod, by Laline Paull, the most extraordinary, beautiful, dramatic and arresting novel I’ve read this year.

Pod is a novel about dolphins, mostly, told from the points of view of several marine creatures living in the Indian Ocean. Its main character is Ea, a young spinner dolphin who lives in a small, egalitarian and loving pod off an archipelago. Ea can’t spin or hear the ocean’s own soothing music, but she hears and can’t ignore the devastating song of pain and fear sung by a lone humpback whale out in the deep ocean. The pod is sympathetic to Ea’s disability, but her strong feelings of difference propel Ea out of her family group and into the orbit of the autocratic and patriarchal tribe of tursiops, or common bottle nose dolphins, who previously ejected her people from their ancestral home.
[click to continue…]


by Ingrid Robeyns on December 16, 2022

Once in a while, I listen to a book as an audiobook, rather than reading it on paper or on my electronic device. Especially during the pandemic, when I was walking a lot, I loved listening to stories while walking. And clearly, for people who are dyslectic, or who for another reason can’t read easily, they are a real blessing.

But I’ve noted something weird with audio-books that I can’t quite grasp – so perhaps someone here can help me understand what is going on. [click to continue…]