This month was an excellent reading month for me. Not because I read a lot of books, and not because I finally finished a book I've owned for ages that's been taking up room on my TBR shelf for too long, but because the two books I read I loved, and I loved a lot.
Kate Tempest's new long poem written for live performance is both a powerful sermon and a moving play for voices. Seven neighbours inhabit the same London street, but are all unknown to each other. The clock freezes in the small hours, and one by one we see directly into their lives: lives that are damaged, disenfranchised, lonely, broken, addicted, and all, apparently, without hope. Then a great storm breaks over London, and brings them out into the night to face each other--and their own last chance to connect.
This is the first proper poetry I’ve read for pleasure, and I was amazed by how much I loved it. It sounds a bit naïve, but I really wasn’t expecting this poem to rhyme. And it doesn’t all the way through, but a lot of the different sections have these amazing twisting rhymes that you don’t expect, and that just serve to make it all the more powerful. The nature of the rhymes (how there might be multiple matching rhymes within a single line, or a single simple one that’s repeated over and over in every available word) actually reminded me a little bit of the lyrics to Hamilton, because of how beautifully and intricately they were obviously crafted.
The poem’s narrative takes place in the middle of the night, so I decided I wanted to read the poem when I was in bed and just about to go to sleep, to try and replicated the “feel” I was sure it would give me. Let’s just say that this really worked for me. Even though this book was nothing like I expected, or like anything I’d encountered before, I was sucked in from the very beginning, and only two pages in I remember realising that this was something worth paying attention too, and spending the extra effort to record my favourite quotes – of which there were many.
Mostly, I was surprised by how much this poetry moved me – I had a very real visceral reaction to it that I don’t remember a book being able to provoke for a long time. It was weirdly cathartic to read, and brought up all my emotions and mixed them around and used them to hit me over the head. So here are three short snippets of some of my favourite quotes, which I think best sum up the entire poem:
“At any given moment in the middle of a city
there’s a million epiphanies occurring,
in the blurring of the world beyond the curtain
and the world within the person
There’s a quivering.
The litter in the alleyway is singing.”
“Hard rain falling,
on all the half-hearted
Half-fury, half boredom.
Half-dead from exhaustion.
but the puddles keep forming.
Don’t fall in.”
“We die so others can be born
We age so others can be young
The point of life is live,
Love if you can
Then pass it on”
My rating: ★★★★★
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
It was several weeks between me reading Let Them Eat Chaos and me moving onto this freshly-purchased graphic novel, and I was worried (as usual) that I’d somehow have “forgotten” how to enjoy reading. This book proved me wrong. It’s practically unheard of for me to get two five star reads in a row – let alone for two books that aren’t in the same series, or rereads – but that’s exactly what happened here. I picked up Nimona expecting it to be a fun and exciting story about the sassy shapeshifting sidekick of a not-so-effective criminal mastermind, which on some level it was, but it was also so much more.
This book is wonderful. I read it in one sitting while in my bedroom on a family holiday, and it made me laugh and groan and cry and then when I was done I had to lie there a little longer to fully process everything I was feeling, and then go and find a family member to rant at about how much I loved it. The characters are wonderful (and are my precious children I will defend to the death), the plot is flawless, the artwork is beautiful, and it has the honour of being a book that I couldn’t help but keep thinking about and obsessing over for days and weeks after I finished it. It was ninety minutes of perfection, and I can say with 100% certainty that it's the best graphic novel I’ve ever read.
My rating: ★★★★★