Friday, January 31, 2014

From one reviewer:

My favorite Iain Banks novel is Whit, the story of a young girl who grows up as the Elect Of God in a cozy techno-phobic cult in Scotland. She's supposed to inherit the leadership of the cult eventually, but her brother Allan is trying to muscle her out. And her grandfather, the cult's founder and leader, turns out to be a lying dirtbag who tries to sexually assault her at one point, in a completely disturbing scene that sticks in your mind forever afterwards:
He gave a grunt and twisted his hand free of mine; it dived between my tightly clenched legs, trying to finger my sex; I heaved and wriggled out from underneath him, rolling away over the bed; he grabbed at me, catching my ankle as I tried to stand, bringing me down on all fours. 'Submit, Isis, submit! Prove your love for God!' He tried to mount me from behind but I wrestled him off.
And yet there's something genuinely transformative as well as horrifying about Whit, as Isis ventures out from her sheltered religious community into the "real" world and sees "Babylondon" from the vantage point of someone who's used to seeing magic everywhere. And Isis' journey learns to her discovering her own voice and taking on the power her exalted religious title always implied, so that by the end of the book she has as much stature as any great fantasy heroine.

From one reviewer:

The title of this book is not about me,’ the author modestly avers in the prologue. ‘It is about the elephants – it was they who whispered to me and taught me how to listen.’ 
Except I’m not entirely convinced he’s sincere. Anthony’s stirring tale – of a game reserve (South Africa’s Thula Thula, near Durban), a herd of rogue elephants and one man who battled to understand and protect them – is told in the voice of one used to having an audience. 
As a narrator, Anthony is keen to dispense titbits of personal detail – about his wife, Fran├žoise, and their dogs, mostly – along with his insights into animal psychology, generally along faintly mystical lines; he attributes to the eles' powers of intelligence and communication far beyond those generally accepted by science. Sometimes it’s charming; often, a little irritating. 
That said, you’d need a heart of stone not to be charmed by the sense of place and enthralled by the episodes recounted from the lives of Nana, Frankie, big male Mnumzane and their family. Strong personalities, whisperers they’re not; natural leads, certainly – and with a cast this strong, the script doesn’t need to be great literature to provide a gripping show.