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Among Others by Jo Walton
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Among Others

by Jo Walton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,2592064,162 (3.95)2 / 439
  1. 80
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (norabelle414)
    norabelle414: A young, bookish kid in 1970s England gets tangled up in magical and scary events larger than they are.
  2. 50
    Little, Big by John Crowley (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Similar style and approach to the world of faerie
  3. 30
    The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford (anglemark)
    anglemark: Both books are about how reading shaped a child, although they are not both viewing it exactly the same way.
  4. 10
    Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Both works have a hint of Faerie, without being clear whether it's real or not. Also bad parents and their struggling offspring.
  5. 10
    The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip (Herenya)
    Herenya: Both stories have a heroine dealing with grief and the sometimes-loneliness of being 15.
  6. 43
    The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman (Jannes)
    Jannes: Both are fantasy or fantasy-sih books about fantasy readers and how the stories you read hape you and affect your sense of the world.
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English (204)  French (1)  All languages (205)
Showing 1-5 of 204 (next | show all)
“I need to do both Latin and biology, and both French and chemistry,” I said, looking up from the timetable. “But I don’t need to do art or religious education, so it’ll be easy to rearrange.”
The headmistress went through the roof at this, because clearly timetables are sacred or something. I didn’t listen all that much. “There are over five hundred girls in this school, do you propose I inconvenience them all to accommodate you?”
My father, who has no doubt also read Heinlein, backed me up. I’ll take Heinlein over a headmistress any day.


This is a great book, definitely worth 5 stars. At the same time I cannot say that I would recommend it to everyone. For me it has great nostalgia value and I really can understand some of the problems of the protagonist.

The novel is a diary of 15 years old girl, who lost her twin and was in an accident that left her limping and having to use a stick and special footwear. She is a ‘black sheep’ not fitting in in the boarding school with her Welsh accent, love of reading, especially SF and inability to take part in most physical activities.

The book fells between the genres. If you believe the narrator that it is fantasy or magical realism. If you take ‘an unreliable narrator’ approach it is just a story of coming of age. It can be seen as a pseudo-memoir or a fully fictional story, it is up to the reader.

The list of the protagonist’s reading is extensive, there are over 130 books mentioned and when I’ve read it for the first time I was proud that I either read or at least know about the ideas/plots of most SFF and some other books as well. On a second reading I see how many books I still haven’t read.

Nobody who offers to lend me Zelazny could be as black as he’s been painted.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
4.5 stars. I thought this was really fun. Not what I expected and the better for it.

The story is set in a slightly alternative Wales and England circa 1979-1980. It's written as diary entries by a teenage girl (Mori) who's gone through some pretty serious trauma - an accident that has damaged her ability to walk, the loss of her twin sister, surviving an insane and power-hungry mother who's a bit of an evil witch, and escaping the tangles of that past to wind up in boarding school England. The author never gives much detail to most of this trauma, although parts are revealed slowly, which makes sense for a girl writing her own diary.

Life in a boarding school when you are not from the area, don't understand (or care about) the social norms, and are physically different is challenging. Mori finds escape, adventure, and eventually friendship through her love of SF. I can see why the book won a Nebula and a Hugo - there are so many references to SF novels of the era, it must have been like a homecoming to so many of the folks who voted for the awards. I'm a little bit younger than Mori but because my true love is fantasy, I personally only knew a few of the works she referenced (LOTR, Pern, Le Guin).

I really liked how the book treated magic. It's not "wave a wand and everything's different instantaneously," it's "cast a spell and things start to unfold." Seems a bit more like how magic might actually work in the world we live in. :-)

I also really liked the end. It wasn't what I expected from the book jacket. It was less dramatic but oh so powerful at the same time. ( )
  chavala | Dec 29, 2018 |
One of the most moving books about loss I've ever had the pleasure to read. It doesn't hurt that the protagonist is also a major sci-fi fan, even if she's more into the classics than I am. So many examples of literary references done right in this book, that don't detract from the world or narrative being built here, but add onto and strengthen it. ( )
  lorannen | Oct 22, 2018 |
If the right book at the right time saved your life, you'll love this book. ( )
  akaGingerK | Sep 30, 2018 |
I love this book like whoah. I'm going to talk below about one element of what I love, but if you're a reader of fantasy or scifi, be prepared to keep a notebook with you as you read Among Others, if solely to write down the titles of books you need to add to your TBR pile.

That said, it's a quiet book, with a lot that goes unsaid, and that's not for everyone. I originally wrote this review as a response to Ferrett Steinmetz' question on his blog (http://www.theferrett.com/ferrettworks/2011/11/discuss-jo-waltons-among-others/), and that's worth reading too (spoiler & discussion alert).

I loved Mor's voice, and the very understated way that she's trying to keep her sister's name alive.

This is part of what drew me into the book – the events that precede the story aren't ever stated outright. Were given pieces now and then, through the filter of a diary. Because this is a private diary, there are things that go without saying, because they're obvious to the writer and she doesn't need to explain them to herself.

I think the unsaid is a palpable part of Among Others, actually. And even when Mor describes past events to a friend, it's couched in filter language – she's giving him as much information as she thinks he can take.

The diary structure really works for me, because the days become things that Mor passes through. The strangeness of her surroundings is couched in magic that she is starting to question the rules of, and the diary is part of how she figures it out, as well as being the story of her figuring it out.

All of it is so finely liminal.

And I mean that in the best sense. There are thresholds everywhere in the story, and choosing to pass through them is part of the tale. As is choosing to go home after being away, and the double alienation that creates – that sense of being stuck between two places.

This book practices subtlety as it plays with its structure – what Mor would write in a diary and what shed leave out. She's a very private character, and her diary carries that through. Walton isn't writing Mor's diary writing as if she (Mor) expects anyone else to read it. Thats an ambitious trick in itself.

( )
  sussura | Sep 29, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 204 (next | show all)
As [Mori] tries to come to terms with her sister’s death through both books and fairy magic, the novel assumes true emotional resonance.
 
There are really two points where the success of the novel as what it is make it fail to connect with me. The first has to do with the books. It's written in the form of a diary, and the form and voice are spot-on. But part of getting the diary form right is that it doesn't provide much in the way of information about the many books that Mori reads in the course of the novel-- you wouldn't expect a teenager with a lot on her mind to do a detailed plot summary of everything she read, after all.

This is no big deal as long as you recognize the references to authors and titles. But if you don't-- and there are a lot of books mentioned that I know about but either haven't read or do not recall fondly-- a lot of significance is lost. The titles sort of flash by as blank spots in the narrative, a kind of "This Cultural Reference Intentionally Left Blank" effect that ends up being a little off-putting.
 
This isn't a traditional fantasy, by any means. But it's a smart, heartfelt novel, with a strong, likable narrator, and many touchstones in terms of other books that will resonate for us, depending on how we felt/feel about those books.

It has also jumped right into my short list of favorite books ever, and it's one that I plan to reread more than once.
 
But, just as the magic, it's a peculiar, unique book. I've read most of Walton's fiction. I like this best, but in some ways it's the least structurally certain of her works; I think the magic that's so subtle it's deniable at the start of the book fails to maintain that quirky quality at its end—and I understand why, but still found it jarring.

Regardless, there's a deep beauty to this book that feels so entirely real I'm grateful for its existence, for the fact that I could read it, and for the way it now graces my own internal library.
 
Among Others is many things – a fully realized boarding-school tale, a literary memoir, a touching yet unsentimental portrait of a troubled family – but there’s something particularly appealing about a fantasy which not only celebrates the joy of reading, but in which the heroine must face the forces of doom not in order to return yet another ring to some mountain, but to plan a trip to the 1980 Glasgow Eastercon. That’s the sort of book you can love.
added by Passer_Invenit | editLocus, Gary Wolfe (Jan 24, 2011)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Waltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kellgren, KatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen Hayden, PatrickEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riffel, HannesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
s.BENešCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vojnar, KamilCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Er'perrhene.

—Ursula Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

What one piece of advice would you give to yourself at what younger age?

Any time between 10 and 25:

It's going to improve. Honest. There really are people out there that you will like and who will like you.

—Farah Mendelsohn, LiveJournal, 23rd May 2008
Dedication
This is for all the libraries in the world, and all the librarians who sit there day after day lending books to people.
First words
The Phurnacite factory in Abercwmboi killed all the trees for two miles around. We'd measured it on the mileometer.
Quotations
It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.
[On Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd]: He makes things happen neatly, and sometimes they're horrible things, but they're always very pat. I hate that. He could have learned a lot from Silverberg and Delany.
She was looking at a record called 'Anarchy in the U.K.' by a group called the Sex Pistols. It was a very ugly cover, but I am quite interested in anarchism because of 'The Dispossessed'.
Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization.
Libraries really are wonderful. They're better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Startling, unusual, and irresistibly readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and science fiction, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled — and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to a father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England — a place all but devoid of true magic. There, she is tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off...

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonatham Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude, this is a stunning new novel by an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers such as Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. LeGuin.

See http://papersky.livejournal.com/37282... for the moment of the book's genesis.
Haiku summary
The battle's over
Books keep you sane living in
Ruins with fairies.

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Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closests companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled -- and her twin sister dead.… (more)

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