Olga Tokarczuk is my new favourite writer (I also gush over her earlier ‘Flights’). The delightfully unreliable narrator, a fierce middle-aged engineer-turned English teacher, lives alone in a hamlet in rural Poland, with her astrological tomes, William Blake and the local wildlife for company. The body count of unsavoury local characters is racking up, and good riddance.
Olga has a genius for unconventional solitary female characters that I love her for, and her books are treasure troves of curious knowledge – arcane astrology, the history of preservation techniques for human anatomical samples, the taxonomy of beetles, etc. Which makes her sound like a cerebral collector of weird facts to exhibit for the titillation of the reading public, but it’s actually a genuine sense of wonder at the world and its natural marvels and human ingenuity, I feel, and I love her for that too. (The title is a quote from Blake in its original form, not the American spelling, in case you were wondering – well I did anyway.)