Reading Matters

Top 10 books about justice and redemption

Do you enjoy Top Ten Lists of Books?

Their numbers are dwindling as the year dwindles. But we’ve had a recent good run.

Here’s one from the Guardian in London. It’s the top 10 books about justice and redemption compiled by Jeffrey Lent.

Lent says that compiling the list led him to conclude that true justice is a rare bird in serious literature. “Perhaps,” he says, “that explains the popularity of thrillers and mystery stories, where justice appears to end these tales, satisfying a need that is elusive in life, elusive in literature. Justice and redemption are both, at best, frail defences against humanity’s darker reaches. Frail but vital.”

Here goes:

1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. (“I find,” says Lent, “the Reverend John Ames to be one of the most interesting and engaging characters in modern literature.”)

2. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. (“Thomas Sutpen’s story is the story of America,” says Lent. “Taming the wilderness, hoodwinking the native people, growing rich by slavery – even as he denies his own past and bloodlines... .”)

3. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. (“...this tale of rural poverty and landowners in 19th-century England is brutally tragic... .”)

4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. (“...brimful of worldly justice and almost utterly lacking in redemption.”)

5. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway. (In the story, “Big Two-Hearted River,” “the character lives with the sense of a wholly unjust world, where redemption is a tatty flag best kept unwaved.”)

6. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. (“This verse novel offers a pure, dazzling love of language, capturing fleeting moments of the heart.”)

7. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje. (“A wonderful journey always toward redemption and not quite making it – perhaps.”)

8. Harvest by Jim Crace. (“An end-of-days fable about a remote English village being torn apart by the end of common ownership of land and the life that went with it.”)

9. Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney. (“Glory in death is matched by immortality in art, in cycles and circles that are exhilirating to discover.”)

10. H is for Hawk by Helen Mcdonald. (“The hawk has its own form of lunacy, and Macdonald’s prose seems to allow us into its consciousness.”)

dpowell@charlotteobserver.com

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