Sibylla, a single mother from a long line of frustrated talents, has unusual ideas about child rearing. Yo Yo Ma started piano at the age of two; her son starts at three. J.S. Mill learned Greek at three; Ludo starts at four, reading Homer as they travel round and round the Circle Line. A fatherless boy needs male role models; so she plays the film of Seven Samurai as a running backdrop to his childhood. While Sibylla types out back copies of Carpworld to pay the rent, Ludo, aged five, moves on the Hebrew, Arabic and Japanese, aerodynamics and edible insects of the world - they might come in handy, if he can just persuade his mother he's mature enough to know his father's name. He is bound for knowledge of a less manageable sort, not least about his mother's past. And at the heart of the book is the boy's changing relationship with Sibylla - contradictory, touching and tender.
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(198mm x 129mm x 29mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
This is a tale of two childhoods, that of Sibylla's other, a phenomenal musician, and Sibylla's son, Ludo, a 'two-year-old workaholic', who teaches himself to read Dr Seuss by the end of one week, masters basic maths by the following year and is reading The Iliad in Greek not long after that. Sibylla herself is a single mum, an American living in London who employs her own good brain doing dead-end typing jobs to make ends meet; her passion for language sustains her, together with an ever playing video of Kurosawa's 'The Seventh Samurai' chosen becasue its masculine values will provide Ludo with a necessary role model. To say that this frist novel is a tour de forceis true - but whether it communicates its enthusiasms entertainingly to the reader is another matter. Some of the time, the mother-child relationship provides a strong enough context for the intellectual fireworks; sometimes the erudition seems rather arid, excessively demanding, as if Joyce had plunged into Finnegan's Wake without first educating his readership with Ulysses - a back-handed comment, to be sure, but a compliment, just the same. Joyce's central theme of a son seeking his father is certainly echoed in the pilgrimage young Ludo undertakes, doing detective work in his mother's private papers, determined to reveal the identity of the man she refuses to name. The narrative broadens out into rich descriptions of London; in seeking his father, Ludo discovers his city. reviewed by Judy Cooke Editor's Note: Judy Cooke is the editor of New Fiction for British Council, former editor of Fiction magazine. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Helen Dewitt
Helen DeWitt was born in Maryland, grew up in South America and now lives in Derbyshire. This is her first novel.