I liked this book significantly more than I expected, from the descriptions I’d read. I’d also only read one Jo Walton book before, and felt a bit lukewarm about it – but ‘Among Others’ kept winning awards and garnering praise; so I suggested it for my book club.
Technically, this is a fantasy novel about a young girl, gifted with the ability to see fairies, who has recently saved the world in a magical confrontation that killed her twin sister, left her crippled, and tore apart her family.
However, it’s also an authentic, undoubtedly autobiographical story of growing up in Wales in the 1970’s as a smart, not-particularly-popular girl who’s a voracious reader and science-fiction fan.
I am sure that many of Walton’s readers can identify with her character in at least some ways, and yes, this may have something to do with this book’s accolades. As far as the criticisms lobbed against the book that you have to have read the books the character reads to understand it – I disagree strongly. Admittedly, I have read a good chunk of them, but others in my book club discussion had not, and did not feel that they were missing anything: it’s all explained in context. It’s not so much about the books, as it is a vivid depiction of how an avid reader thinks: how daily events are recontextualized, explained, and enhanced by the content of recently read books; how books enrich life. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.
It wasn’t a perfect book – some elements were a bit too wish-fulfillment-y, especially in the autobiographical context. (Wim is just too good to be true… a perfect guy, misunderstood by everyone else…) And bits of the plot kind of seemed tacked-on-as-excuse. But overall, reading this was a wonderful experience.