Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Daniel's Beetles by Tony Bianchi

A Fascinating Study - but NOT of Beetles
review by Maryom

Daniel has always been fascinated by insects - from minuscule creepy-crawlies to dazzling Monarch butterflies - almost to the exclusion of the rest of the world. His boyhood revolved around finding them, taking notes of each species as he found it for the first time, experimenting with ways of preserving them. His career has followed this inclination and now he works at a museum caring for their collections of insects. A nerdy, socially inept person, this is where he's always been at his happiest and most comfortable, still as an adult taking refuge from the world in categorising and arranging these creatures.
Then he's introduced to a strange organisation called Tŷ Dedwydd - the House of Happiness. Here, alongside drama lessons and kite flying, he discovers stranger ways of making people happy - including tampering with their memories - and wonders if he can find a way to re-make his past and wipe out all the bad things.

Daniel's Beetles is a slow moving read but one that had me mesmerised. The reader is gradually drawn into the life, if not inside the head, of Daniel. Tony Bianchi really captures this nerdy, almost compulsive obsessive man, trying to categorise everything he encounters - insects, dialects, people. It raises questions about memories and their accuracy, how we perceive our past, the shifting borderlines between truth and fiction and whether a little delusion is good for us. All in all, a thought provoking read. Having reached the end I feel there were lots of 'pointers' and subtleties along the way that I missed, so I'll certainly read it again. For now, I'm going to give it 4 stars but feel that a re-read could easily have me upping that figure.

Originally written in Welsh - Pryfeta - and translated by its author, it still contains snippets of Welsh here and there which add to the overall feel of the book - don't let them put you off!
Oddly it reminded me of two very different things - something indefinable in the style or wording reminded me of AS Byatt's novels, so if you've enjoyed them, try this one, but also my inner sci-fi nerd was reminded of We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K Dick and the film based on it, Total Recall - a strange mix of books for one sentence!

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Seren

Genre - adult, literary

Buy Daniel's Beetles from Amazon - on pre-order till June

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