Category Archives: Samantha Hunt

The Seas – Samantha Hunt

It’s interesting to me that the last time I made a concerted effort to read The Orange Long/Short List brought about my first experience of Samantha Hunt’s writing with ‘The Invention of Everything Else’, and now as I try and read all the Oranges I can again I have had the pleasure of Samantha’s writing once more with ‘The Seas’. What I have found doubly interesting is that I have enjoyed this book more out of the two (my mother has read both and thinks the opposite way round, though like me she liked them both a lot) and yet ‘The Seas’ was Samantha Hunt’s debut novel it just didn’t get picked up and published in the UK until last year.

‘The Seas’ is the tale of a young girl as she grows to young woman, with the ongoing possibility of being a mermaid if what her father told her as a young girl is true, in a remote seaside town nobody wants to live in, most have become alcoholics or suicidal, and yet a place that no one seems to be able to escape from. Except that her father did escape in his own way when one day he took a walk straight into the sea and never came back. Most would assume that he was dead yet our narrator, and occasionally her mother, sit and wait on the beach for his return in hope.  Living mainly in her head, we follow her obsession with both her father, and the fact she believes she sees him and occasionally finds wet footprints around the house, and her obsession with an older man who is not long back from fighting in Iraq and who has Post Traumatic Stress disorder.

“People often suggest that it would be better if we knew for certain whether or not my father is dead rather than just disappeared. That to me seems cruel, as if they want me to abandon all hope. That is how dreary people try to keep things here on dry land.”

Looking at the book like that you could think that the scope of the book is too big, especially as the novel is a slim one, and somewhat surreal. Yet Samantha Hunt has created a rather magical, if a little melancholic, tale about loss and coming to terms with your own situation especially when it is not one of your choosing. As you read along you begin to realise that you aren’t been given the straight forward story from the narrator, for example when people start to melt before her eyes, and so reality and her imagination inform your readers view of her world and just how she is coping with it, which doesn’t always make sense initially but soon rings very true. There is also a real fluidity to her voice, and this is of course through the prose, which adds to the books watery and ethereal feel. I’m not sure that makes sense but if you read the book it might… maybe?

What I found rather surprising with this novel and what added incredible element was the story of Jude, the man our narrator obsesses over. Amongst all the named chapters it is ‘War Among The Mayflies’ which is Jude’s first hand telling of his time in Iraq and another mini short story of sorts within a story. I found this incredibly shocking and moving all in one. It seemed a very debut novel thing to do and cram a book with all an author’s ideas and topics, yet it did feel very much part of the story and added a further dimension and poignancy to a stunningly written book.

‘The Seas’ may not have a whacking great plot running through it, and certainly not a linear one, yet it certainly has a heck of a lot to say and sometimes no plot is needed in a novel. It’s a book filled with emotions which manages to say so much and affect its reader whilst being quite silent and subtle. It’s a debut that takes several risks, the characters aren’t instantly likeable, the feeling of melancholy throughout (though its not depressing there’s very few comic breaks, but then why should there be?) and the sudden strand change of isolated North America to a war torn Iraq, yet all these risks pay off creating a rather brilliant and beautifully bizarre piece of fiction. 8.5/10

If reading the Orange Longlist over the next few weeks is going to be as interesting as this then its not going to be quite the struggle I thought it might. I’m trying very hard not to compare them all to ‘Mr Chartwell’ though (funny how two Hunt’s debut novels have been so good) I have to admit. Has anyone else read ‘The Seas’ and if so what did you think? If not, are you tempted?

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Filed under Corsair Books, Review, Samantha Hunt

Who Do I Think Should Win The Orange Prize?

So tonight is the ceremony which sees the winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction announced. I have to say I have it to thank for finding some wonderful books that I would have shamefully possibly missed out on and one particular author whose backlog of books I am getting very ‘Amazon Happy’ about. Sadly due to bloggers recent behaviour I haven’t been able to put the reviews for two of them up but I will and I can promise you that I have read them all and here, before it is announced (if blogger doesn’t go crazy) is who I think should win, I will admit it was almost a draw but my Orange Prize would go to…


…Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie! I know I have already waffled on about how wonderful I thought this book was but days on I am still talking to everyone about it and frankly I can’t be stopped. As soon as it comes out in paperback I have a list as long as my arm of people that I will have to send copies too. I think the one thing I wished that I had added in my review (which you can find here) is that it’s also very much a book for our times. We like so much to think that the human race has come such a long way forward and in reality I am not sure how true that is and in some ways (not all but some) Kamila Shamsie’s book captivates this and along with sadness and despair she brings hope in a wonderful, wonderful character such as Hiroko.

I did say that this could have easily been a drawer and the book that I would also be more than happy to see win has to be The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey (the review should be up on here on Friday) as the tale of a man and his developing Alzheimer’s and how he tries to remember his life story is another absolutely wonderful book. I would love it if one of them won the Orange and one of them won the Booker that would be quite fabulous wouldn’t it. If Ellen Feldmen or Samantha Hunt won I would be happy too (reviews are here and here), they were both very good books. I remain undecided on Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden possibly because I haven’t quite finished it (review will be up Monday when am back and have more time) but it’s left me luke warm for now. I won’t comment on Home, you can all read my struggle with that here.

Will I be right? I won’t actually know until Monday… how vexing! What are your thoughts?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Ellen Feldman, Kamila Shamsie, Marilynne Robinson, Orange Prize, Samantha Harvey, Samantha Hunt

The Invention of Everything Else – Samantha Hunt

The second of my Orange shortlist reads has quite taken me by surprise. I think I am going to have to stop myself reading other peoples reviews of what I am very shortly going to read and hold off until I have finished reading the book. I love reading other peoples thoughts on books and indeed find some great new books to read through others but sometimes it can overhype a book and other times it can make you dread a book. Samantha Hunt’s novel ‘The Invention of Everything Else’ was falling into the latter category and frankly I shouldn’t have let it.

The Invention of Everything Else starts quite surreally with the inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla waiting for a pigeon at his hotel window, one who when doesn’t appear he goes to find and ends up in deep conversation with. If scientists talking to pigeons would put you off reading a book like it might do me please do try and continue, normally I would have put the book down and not picked it up again, it just seemed a little bit too whacky. However something in Samantha Hunt’s writing kept me reading and held a promise of more to come and she didn’t fail in that.

Nikola Tesla has become something of a recluse in his later life, slightly embittered after having his colleague Marconi steal his invention of ‘the radio’, he has lost touch with reality and the world and lives alone in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel creating new inventions and avoiding people. However one person he cant seem to avoid is Louisa, a young chambermaid who has an inquisitive streak and keeps ‘cleaning’ his room/laboratory which she finds as mesmerising as his inventions and mysterious air. However it isn’t only the fact that they have the hotel (which is wonderfully described as in the 1940’s it was one of the tallest largest hotels in existence) in common, as the book continues their separate lives become more and more linked. A friend of Louisa’s father suddenly reappears after two years ‘missing’ claiming he has designed a time machine which happens to be based on Tesla’s theories. It is chance that at the same time mysterious man called Arthur bumps into Louisa and knows everything about her and then who is told, by her fathers friend, to be her future husband? I wont say any more for fear of giving away more of the plot which I became totally lost in.

Like I said I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book at all from how it started and also from the fact I hate science (seriously it goes over my head or bores me) but I completely fell under its spell. I can see why people found it The premise is a little whacky though Nikola Tesla is indeed a very real scientist and inventor but I loved the magical almost science fiction to it that in some ways reminded me of one of my favourite books The Time Travellers Wife and in other ways some of Margaret Atwood’s surreal magical moments both of which are great things. An unusual book that I wasn’t expecting and which completely won me over where many couldn’t have.

… So at the moment two books in it’s a roaring success, and I have nearly finished Burnt Shadows which is… no, I shall hold my tongue until the last page is turned as it could all change for the better or worse.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Orange Prize, Review, Samantha Hunt, Vintage Books