Girl in Landscape centres on the character of Pella Marsh, a young teen whose father takes his family from Brooklyn to “The Planet of the Archbuilders” after his loss and humiliation in an election. Shortly before the departure Pella’s mother Caitlin dies, and the loss of family is compounded immediately by the transition to the new world.

This is an interesting but oddly-paced book, and demonstrates again Lethem’s fascination with the Western frontiers of the USA. Girl in Landscape is in a way an exploration of colonial themes, with isolation, desolation, and desperation wound up in a simple but ultimately extremely textured tale.

The downside to the novel is the feeling that Lethem is still learning his trade. The book feels slightly cobbled together, as if Lethem is still trying to learn to string together his ability to construct a linear narrative. This is especially apparent after having read Motherless Brooklyn.  That said, the narrative does come through very strongly. Pella is a strong girl in a place requiring strong people, and the constant dangers she appears to place herself in generate a lot of tension, are believable, and ultimately fatal.

The colonial thread of the story is well-written, with the Archbuilders themselves  indigenous stereotypes easily recognisable from any number of countries. Add to that the stereotypical attitudes of the colonists, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.

An easy read, interesting, and weirdly placed in the ‘mystery’ section of the Wellington City Library?

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