I was asked to read a book for the Swansea University Thomas Dylan prize short list and I chose Inland by Tea Obreht. I picked this one because I'd heard so many good things about The Tiger's Wife, her debut novel, which became a New York Times bestseller.
The setting for this book really fascinated me - set in frontierland territory during the 1800's, I was able to get a vivid picture of what life would have been like. The harshness is really brought to life. The story is told through two very different narratives. We meet Lurie, an immigrant whose primitive years led him into being an outlaw. As he grows older, he manages to escape this life and we spend a lot of time, travelling across the country with a group of soldiers and his ever faithful companion, Burke, his camel. The relationship between Burke and Lurie is beautiful, as throughout the book, Lurie talks to his camel, telling him about everything that has happened during his life.
The second narrative is told in third person from Nora's point of view. Nora is a strong frontierswoman who is desperately waiting for the return of her husband and sons. Her neighbours are moving away and leaving her and family alone to fend for themselves as people try to steal their land. Alongside this they have run out of water. The way the scenes concerning water are written made me desperate for a drink as they are so powerful.
The book is one of those reads that requires a lot of attention. It is so detailed and so literary, you find yourself rereading and absorbing every single piece of information. This isn't a book to be rushed. It's like a long replenishing drink after a drought. You have to take your time to fully appreciate it.
The two narratives run along separately for quite a lot of the book and it does make you wonder if they will ever connect, but they do.
One of my favourite elements of the book were the ghosts that haunted the characters. Lurie is haunted by his past companions who make them do things. Hobb, the young boy from his childhood who was like a brother makes him steal things constantly. Nora is haunted by her only daughter, Evelyn, who died at a very young age. I love the way the ghosts are brought to life, as it gives the story a real believability factor.
This book is a powerful read that really haunts you when you finished. I would definitely recommend it and I hope it does really well in the awards.