I read two very strange and deeply beautiful novels this week. At first glance, A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book and Peter Heller's The Dog Stars have seemingly nothing in common.
The Children's Book is a lavish, sprawling Edwardian family drama that explores the essence of childhood and the vulnerability to be found in growing into an adult.
The Dog Stars is a poetically constructed, introspective post-apocalyptic tale that balances precariously on the edge of hope and heartbreak.
In my reading experience, however, these two brilliant works share striking commonalities. Both books were daunting at first (I started both of them several times and couldn't seem to get started), and then all-consuming by the end. Both are written in unconventional styles that can take some getting used to and both created all-encompassing worlds that are both alien and echoing with a haunting recognition of the primal instincts of humanity. Both authors clearly love language and expound, though not obviously, on the craft of writing. Both novels are somewhat pretentious, but this is easily forgiven by the absorbing narrative and endearing characters. And both left me wanting the story to go on forever.
Neither The Children's Book or The Dog Stars could be considered a light read, but if you are looking for a story that will carry you away and leave you in awe, either of these novels will do.