Read Like a Writer Book Club Recap; The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier

For February, we read The Anomaly. If you are interested in joining us for the next meeting, in April, please send Robin an email at readerlybooks[at]

Background:  This book was on several “best of” lists for 2021, including the New York Times.  Here is a sampling of reviews and the publisher’s page:

We all agreed it was a beautifully written book, both Science Fiction AND Literary, with a touch of tongue in cheek humor that made some of the bitter pills of human nature a little easier to swallow.

What we loved about Le Tellier’s writing and want to emulate as writers:

  • His ability to weave the backstory in just enough to fill the reader in on the character.  No infodumps here, just clean prose with a Goldilocks amount of backstory to make the reader keep reading and understand what is going on.
  • His ability to seamlessly integrate multiple POV characters AND make us care about them all.  No easy task.  
  • His use of foreshadowing was both elegant and subtle.

Some of our favorite passages:

  • p. 40-41  “THE FICUS is thirsty. Its brown leaves are so dry they’re curling up; some branches are already dead. Standing there in its plastic pot, it’s the very incarnation of hopelessness, if indeed the word “incarnation” can be applied to a green plant. If someone doesn’t water it soon, David thinks, it’s going to die. In all logic, it must be possible to find a point of no return on the continuous thread of time, an irretrievable tipping point after which nothing and no one could save the ficus. At 5:35 on Thursday afternoon someone waters it and it survives; at 5:36 on Thursday afternoon anyone in the world could show up with a bottle of water and it would be No, babe, sweet of you, thirty seconds ago, I can’t be sure, maybe, but now, what are you thinking, the only cell that could have set the whole thing going again, the final viable eukaryote that could have rallied its neighbors—Come on, guys, let’s see some motivation, let’s have a reaction, fill yourselves up with water, don’t let yourselves go—well, the last of the last has just left us, so you’re here too late, with your pathetic little bottle, ciao ciao. Yes, somewhere on the thread of time.”
  • p. 250  “ No author writes the reader’s book, no reader reads the author’s book. At most, they may have the final period in common.”
  • p. 360  “But I still don’t really like the word ‘destiny.’ It’s just a target that people draw after the fact, in the place where the arrow landed.”

I hope you will join us for the April meeting, when we will discuss Henry James’s The Aspern Papers.  This novella is available for free at Project Gutenberg here.

Published by Robin Henry

Independent Scholar and Book Coach specializing in Historical Fiction and Literary Fan Fiction.

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