Or What You Will

Or What You Will

Book - 2020
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He has been too many things to count. He has been a dragon with a boy on his back. He has been a scholar, a warrior, a lover, and a thief. He has been dream and dreamer. He has been a god. But "he" is in fact nothing more than a spark of idea, a character in the mind of Sylvia Harrison, 73, award-winning author of thirty novels over forty years. He has played a part in most of those novels, and in the recesses of her mind, Sylvia has conversed with him for years. But Sylvia won't live forever, any more than any human does. And he's trapped inside her cave of bone, her hollow of skull. When she dies, so will he.Now Sylvia is starting a new novel, a fantasy for adult readers, set in Thalia, the Florence-resembling imaginary city that was the setting for a successful YA trilogy she published decades before. Of course he's got a part in it. But he also has a notion. He thinks he knows how he and Sylvia can step off the wheel of mortality altogether. All he has to do is convince her.
Publisher: New York :, Tor,, 2020
ISBN: 9781250308993
Branch Call Number: SF WAL
Characteristics: 320 pages ;,22 cm

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JLMason
Apr 18, 2021

In a book that explores the magic of the creative process, the characters in the author's head are alive and living in a fantasy Renaissance Florence that borrows from Shakespeare, Italian art, and philosophy.

Michael Colford Nov 22, 2020

Jo Walton is a writer's writer, and her latest book, Or What You Will is more so than most. Exploring the creative spark, and how a writer creates the worlds and characters that they populate their books with, turns into a whole fantasy meta-novel in Walton's hands. Along the way, she deconstructs works by Shakespeare, mothers who withhold love, modern-day and pre-renaissance Florence, domestic abuse and more. Most fascinating for me, was her exploration of grief in the context of a world that has abolished death. It's not the main point of the novel, but a beautiful and fascinating diversion that Walton does so beautifully.

Not all of Walton's diversions work for me however. A detailed, and overwrought chapter describing an actual restaurant in Florence that serves food that is so sublime it cannot be described (although there is an entire chapter trying to do just that) that seems a pretty unnecessary bit.

Still, that's a minor quibble when you think about the scope of Walton's story, and the masterful way she weaves together the art and science of writing, an actual historical fantasy tale, and ruminations on mortality and grief, and Or What You Will proves that however Walton manages to create entire worlds, like a mythological god, it's worth going on the journey with her.

RandomLibrarian Jul 18, 2020

Review excerpt: "Content warning: There is an emotionally abusive parent. There is a very realistic and rather grim depiction of an abusive marriage. And there is either a miscarriage or an abortion – we never really find out which.

Every so often I read a book, and as I read I start making a list of all the people I know who will love this book and then I keep reading and writing down more names, and after a while I just stop bothering with the list, because all my friends are now getting this book for Christmas.

This year, everyone is getting 'Or What You Will for Christmas'. This is an absolute wonder of a book, full of Shakespeare and Florence and writing and food and love and poetry and strangeness. It’s a story that drew me in so deeply that I became completely immersed, and just swam through it as though I could breathe the water and would never need to surface. At a time when we can’t travel, it feels like travelling; at a time when I have found it hard to focus, it engaged my attention completely. It shifts so seamlessly between reality and fantasy that I had to keep stopping to check whether this particular character or that particular restaurant really existed in our world, or really did that… and in some cases, I’m still not sure."

Source: https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/or-what-you-will-by-jo-walton/

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