2016 Top-10 Pick! I confess: I'm a little bit of a sucker for intellectuals (i.e., people smarter than I am) with messy lives. Maybe it's a touch of envy-stoked schadenfreude, some reassurance that had I just pursued that PhD I briefly dreamed of I wouldn't necessarily be happier. Whatever my personal psychology, Jane Alison's Nine Island went right to that spot. For its brief pages, I inhabited its little world, where a middle-aged-but-still-young, single academic has decamped to a Miami high-rise to finish her transliteration of Ovid's Metamorphoses and to recover from a failed relationship. This is a smart, quirky little book, suited best for quirky people, even merely smart-ish ones. Maybe especially so for them.
"Nine Island is a crackling incantation, brittle and brilliant and hot and sad and full of sideways humor that devastates and illuminates all at once." --Lauren Groff, author of Fates and FuriesNine Island is an intimate autobiographical novel, told by J, a woman who lives in a glass tower on one of Miami Beach's lush Venetian Islands. After decades of disaster with men, she is trying to decide whether to withdraw forever from romantic love. Having just returned to Miami from a monthlong reunion with an old flame, "Sir Gold," and a visit to her fragile mother, J begins translating Ovid's magical stories about the transformations caused by Eros. "A woman who wants, a man who wants nothing. These two have stalked the world for thousands of years," she thinks. When not ruminating over her sexual past and current fantasies, in the company of only her aging cat, J observes the comic, sometimes steamy goings-on among her faded-glamour condo neighbors. One of them, a caring nurse, befriends her, eventually offering the opinion that "if you retire from love . . . then you retire from life."
About the Author
Jane Alison is the author of a memoir, The Sisters Antipodes, and three novels--The Love-Artist, The Marriage of the Sea, and Natives and Exotics--and the translator of Ovid's stories of sexual transformation, Change Me. She is Professor and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, and lives in Charlottesville. Learn more at janealison.com.