Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is one of the quintessential queer coming-of-age novels (well, more like a barely veiled memoir, but okay). It tells the story of a young Jeanette, growing up in a strict religious household in a small English town. Because of her upbringing, she has trouble fitting in both at school and in the general community. Her mother bears this outsider status as a badge of honour, but young Jeanette sometimes feels frustrated that some people don’t understand her. And then she falls in love with another girl.
In Pyramids, the seventh book in the Discworld universe and the first in the gods/ancient civilizations subseries, Pratchett tackles ancient Egypt and the pseudoscientific “pyramid power” theory. It tells the story of a young prince-turned-assassin and the strange country of Djelibeybi (ha!), where pyramids dominate the landscape and the king is believed to be a god. Mummies come to life, deities wreak havoc, time and space are bent beyond all recognition, and Pratchett even manages to squeeze a few jabs at the ancient Greeks in there. While nothing earth-shattering, it is a solid entry in the Discworld series.
And yet, I am giving it five stars. You see, even though Pyramids is not a perfect novel, but it was the one I desperately needed to read and the reason I will be eternally grateful to Terry Pratchett.
Detail from William Holman Hunt’s “The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple” (1860).
The Khazars, also known as “the thirteenth tribe,” were a semi-nomadic Turkic people who settled in the Caucasus in the sixth century. In the eighth century, they were caught between the Orthodox Byzantines and the Muslim world and in order to deflect these competing pressures, the Khazar royalty and nobility decided to convert to Judaism. This event is surrounded by mystery and there are many different theories on exactly what happened. Not a single line of the Khazar language has survived, nor is there any archaeological evidence to be found. One story is that the leader of the Khazars invited three religious scholars (one Jewish, one Christian, and one Muslim) to interpret a dream he had, and told them that he would convert to the faith of the most successful interpreter.
In Dictionary of the Khazars, Milorad Pavić takes this historical enigma and creates his own fictional account of the nation’s conversion – except that in his book, it is unknown which religion was victorious. The novel is presented as an actual dictionary (well, more like an encyclopedia), divided into three parts: the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish sources – all of them claiming that the Khazars converted to their faith. The sources contradict and complement each other, creating a puzzle for the reader to put together.
After years and years of tiptoeing around Terry Pratchett I have finally decided to take the plunge and unsurprisingly, he did not disappoint. My theory is that if you were to put Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams into a blender, the Discworld series would come pouring out (that sounded a lot better in my head, my apologies).