book reviews by Althea

We Are Pirates – Daniel Handler ***

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Recommended for fans of Handler’s ‘Basic Eight’ but definitely not for those who only like Lemony Snicket.

The book started very slowly for me. Its exploration of the life of a not-very-successful Jewish radio announcer in California reminded me very much in tone of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue.

However, once the focus shifts to the radio guy’s 14-year-old daughter, the pace picks up. As in ‘Basic Eight,’ this book deals with that fine line where things spill irretrievably over the edge. Seemingly ‘normal’ people do extreme things. The aim is clearly in part simply to shock the reader, but I think there’s more than that here too. By showing atrocious things, the book does interrogate our society, in a similar way that Bret Easton Ellis and Donna Tartt have.

Fourteeen-year-old Gwen has reached her sullen, rebellious stage. She’s been acting out by rebelling in small ways – first shoplifting, then quitting swim team, finding a new best friend… She’s also developed a crush on a cute older boy.

‘Punishment’ for her behavior comes in the form of being required to volunteer at an old folks home. While there, an elderly, senile, man’s collection of pirate novels inspires her to a course of action that rapidly spins out of control.

Many thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.


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