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Belle's Bookshelf

"With a dreamy far-off look, and her nose stuck in a book..."

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What Maisie Knew
Henry James
My Friend the Enemy
Dan Smith
Worlds of Arthur: Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages
Guy Halsall
Alaska - Sue Saliba Alaska by Sue Saliba is a gorgeous book. From the beautiful cover art to the lyrical, emotive language, it's a delight to hold and devour. Alaska tells the story of Mia, a Melbourne student who defers Year 12 to live with her sister, Em, in Alaska while their mother is in hospital. Once close to her sister, Mia now finds herself struggling to find a place in the world, as Em is focused on her new family, leaving Mia feeling adrift. She seeks solace in the nearby forest and in the arms of a man she meets there. But external forces threaten the safety of Mia’s newfound sanctuary and she must look within herself for strength.Mia’s sense of helplessness and disconnection is palpable from the start. Although told in the third person, the lack of capital letters, frequent section breaks and long, rhythmic sentences lend the narrative a stream-of-consciousness style that gives you the feeling you’re in Mia’s head. Her confused, hurting and hopeful head. I connected very strongly with this aspect of the novel, and felt Mia’s desire for belonging and for happiness deeply.Aside from the amazing design, the language was my favourite part of Alaska. It’s the kind you want to read aloud and roll around in your mouth, savouring the texture of each word and the cadence of each sentence. Although it’s not a verse novel, there is something distinctly poetic about Saliba’s writing style. It was sparse but powerful, with each word seemingly deliberately chosen and each space particularly placed. What isn’t said is almost as loud as what is. This is especially true of Mia’s relationship with her sister. Having finished the book, it feels like they barely spoke to each other at all, and yet their silence spoke volumes. It’s heartbreaking and raw and so very real.The setting of Alaska is one I’ve never read before, but Saliba makes it real and vivid and incredibly beautiful. Her descriptive writing made me feel the exquisite coldness of the frozen landscape, even though I was sitting in 30-degree heat. In the words of Liz Lemon, I want to go to there.I only wish Alaska was a little bit longer. I appreciated that not everything was tied up in a neat little bow, but I did wish for a little more resolution to certain plot points – mainly the relationship between the sisters, and the future of the forest. I felt like much of the novel was building up those two interrelated stories, just to basically drop them at the end I liked how Mia realised she had to go home, but I felt like she just forgot about the forest when she’d been so passionate about it just pages before. Nevertheless, Alaska is a dreamy coming-of-age story, with authentic characters, elegant writing and a lovely touch of whimsy.This review also appears on my blog.