Marshall N. Klimasewiski has two books, both published by W. W. Norton. The Cottagers, a novel, came out in 2006, and Tyrants, short stories, will be published in February. He teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis.
I had the pleasure of hanging out with some ambitious and vivacious books in 2007 that I thought were splendid – All Aunt Hagar’s Children, The Looming Tower, The House of Mirth – but I’d rather talk about a relatively shy, delicate creature that crawled into my brain and has been quietly expanding there ever since. Peter Ho Davies’ The Welsh Girl is set at the end of World War II in a village (not quaint, not kooky, not grotesque either) in Wales where a German P. O. W. camp is hastily constructed and filled. For me, it was one of those thoroughly engrossing, exquisite “small” novels which vividly render an isolated environment and a small cast and yet are somehow constantly aware of the massive and, in this case, terrible history past the reach of the pub and the flock. It’s a book that feels best read under a small circle of lamplight in a dark room, and it knows it: “confinement” is a word important to it, and both a ship in a bottle and a slate tunnel are featured beautifully. I do love a novel that takes full advantage of the intimacy of the art form, and how unlikely that such a book could so powerfully address the value and wages of nationalism.