Lucy Bengstrom had always dreamed of living in Seattle. From her remote childhood home, it seemed an Oz - a city of possibilities and fantastic, distant pleasures. But now, in 2005, living alone with her eleven year old daughter Alida, things seem less clear-cut. Post 9/11, the promise of homeland security and the implication of severe ...
Lucy Bengstrom had always dreamed of living in Seattle. From her remote childhood home, it seemed an Oz - a city of possibilities and fantastic, distant pleasures. But now, in 2005, living alone with her eleven year old daughter Alida, things seem less clear-cut. Post 9/11, the promise of homeland security and the implication of severe vulnerability are closely bound together. When Lucy is asked to write about August Vanagas, a reclusive international bestselling author, Lucy becomes intrigued by his story. His memoir of his childhood as an orphaned boy adrift in Europe during the Second World War seems to reveal the most painful of truths - but the more she learns, the more questions she has ...To Alida's generation - plugged into iPods, used to having their lives watched and documented - the virtual world is as important (if not more so) than the real one. She and her schoolfriends defer to The Geek, giving him muffins and doughnuts in exchange for his knowledge of writing computer codes that promise make their websites ever cooler. Struggling to interpret her world, Alida gathers information about her family and friends in the hope she can develop a human algebra which will help make sense of the way people are. Tad lives in the same apartment block as Lucy and Alida. He's an out-of-work actor and an activist, driven to earn money by taking part in government sponsored mock terrorist attacks staged in the city. Disenchanted by the US administration and all it stands for, he spends sleepless nights surfing the internet, tracking news stories around the world, trying to pin down a nugget of truth in a vast sea of propaganda. Who can you trust when the lines between fact and fiction become so blurred?
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This novel is slow to develop, offers no new or deep insights into American surveillance society, and leaves all loose ends untied. If Raban's design is to frustrate us the way our government frustrates me, then he has succeeded. Perhaps worth reading for the last few pages, in which a young girl faces an earthquake alone.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-11-13 Raban (Waxwings) explores the current political climate in this clever, unsettling novel set in a near-future Seattle. Freelance journalist Lucy Bengstrom has been hired by GQ magazine to write a profile of August Vanags, the bestselling author of Boy 381, an account of his childhood as an orphan making his way through the charred landscape of WWII Europe. As Lucy researches Vanags's life, she begins to suspect he has falsified the entire account. When she receives a picture that purports to show the author as a child safely ensconced on an English chicken farm during the war years, she's almost sure he's a fake. Almost. Meanwhile, Lucy's daughter, Alida, struggles with being raised by a single mom; the gay man next door may or may not be dying of AIDS; Vanags's wife is in the early stages of Alzheimer's; and a grim U.S. government escalates its police-state techniques to defend against the terrorism threat. An air of suspenseful dread hangs over every page of this intelligent, provocative book, and when the end finally rolls in, readers will be stunned and, in some cases, outraged. 7-city author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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