THE WALRUS READS
Canadian authors pick the year’s best books
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.