My real children, by Jo Walton

My real children Book Cover My real children
Jo Walton
Science fiction, alternate history, historical fiction
Tor Books
May 20th 2014
e-book
321

Jo Walton is good at making me excited about things, which I learned from the first book of hers I read;  Among others.  It's a lovely quality in a fiction writer, especially combined with vast amounts of detail and trivia about the subject.  In My real children,  it's the second world war, and Florence, and the renaissance, and social justice.

It doesn't read like science fiction, no more than any of, for example, Connie Willis' time travel novels. That genre tag is more of a background prop than a protagonist, here.  This might put off some genre readers, because, well, where did the genre go?  But it was the same in Among others, so if you read that - and I got the impression everyone read that - you'll have a good idea of what you're in for.

An old woman struggles with her disappearing memory. It's all that much harder to remember anything now, because -  the things she does remember don't fit together.  Did she marry Mark, or spend her life with Bee? Were there three or four children?  Is there a research station on the moon, or does it hold nuclear weapons?  Did the Kiev bomb and all the thyroid cancer really happen?  And what name did her friends and family call her by? Surely it wasn't the one the nurses use now.

We get to follow this woman from childhood, through a Sliding doors kind of setup;  Did she say yes or no, and how did that affect everything?  And if she could choose, at the end, holding both of the possible worlds in her head - would she choose for her own happiness? Should she?

Walton's prose is lovely, with an easy flow, though it carries heavy content.  Few authors could have described these families in a way I wouldn't feel awkward and alienated by. (That might be just me - I'm just genuinely impressed I could read through that many conceptions and births without it ever turning into a common motherhoodmiracleextravaganza!...)

I'm really looking forward to her next novel, The just city - and hoping I get around to reading some of her earlier stuff, too!

One comment on “My real children, by Jo Walton

  1. We seem to have some books in common on our reading lists! This is next on my list. I loved Among Others so much that when I had the chance to see Jo Walton at Powell’s Books for her book tour for My Real Children, I jumped at the chance. I can’t wait to read it.

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