Cana­dian au­thors pick the year’s best books

The Walrus - - FRONT PAGE -

Queen Solomon by Ta­mara Faith Berger

One strug­gles to de­scribe Ta­mara Faith Berger’s lat­est novel with any­thing but clichés: “a novel of ideas,” maybe, or “an im­por­tant book” by “a writer at the height of her pow­ers.” Clichés be­ing, of course, the lin­guis­tic life rafts for which we grasp when some­thing up­ends ev­ery­thing we think we know. Yet none of these rote phrases cap­tures the ex­pe­ri­ence of read­ing this mas­sively com­plex book or the sheer scope of what it ac­com­plishes in its mere 170 pages. Queen Solomon is at once a scathing, and oc­ca­sion­ally hi­lar­i­ous, par­ody of the com­ing-of-age fam­ily drama and one of those works of art that seem to take on ev­ery­thing: race, class, sex­u­al­ity, trauma, im­pe­ri­al­ism, you name it. The story is this: Bar­bra, an Ethiopian Jew re­lo­cated to Is­rael un­der the repa­tri­a­tions of Op­er­a­tion Solomon, is adopted in turn by a Toronto fam­ily, and she then ini­ti­ates our six­teen-year-old nar­ra­tor into all man­ner of awak­en­ings, some more con­sen­sual than oth­ers. This was the book of the year for me—not just from Canada but from any­where.

But be warned: it is not easy go­ing.

You will be chal­lenged. You might also be changed. PASHA MALLA is the au­thor of Fugue States.

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