Blog

Book Club: Etta and Otto And Russell and James

Book Club: Etta and Otto And Russell and James

Six reasons why you should read this week's book club title the magical Etta and Otto And Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Posted on 19th October 2015 by Sally Campbell

1. James, from the title Etta and Otto and Russell and James, is a talking Coyote – there can’t be very many books featuring a talking coyote. Or talking fish, for that matter.  In other words, this is a tale of magical realism, where the world is not so much portrayed  ‘as it is’, as portrayed ‘as it might be’ or ‘as it could be’. And, in fact, this is the central theme of the book: what could be, and in particular, what you could achieve (if you just had a talking coyote by your side…).

2. It’s a walking book. There is a craze for walking books at the moment– The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Wild, Born to Walk, to name but a few – but then there have always been walking books: Into The Wild byJon Krakauer,  The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane, The Pilgrim’s Progress… The Proclaimers song that goes  ‘I would walk 500 miles’, OK not that last one. But there is something about a meandering struggle at a walking pace that we seem to like. Metaphor for a lot of life? Probably. Satisfying? Definitely. You’ll want to get walking boots after you read this – and you’ll head for the nearest sea.

3. The female protagonist (there is more than one main character) is 83. Another thing we all love is an older main character: The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out of th Window and Disappeared, The Old Lady who Broke all the Rules, The Blind Assassin. In Etta and Otto and Russell and James, it is the old woman’s spirit, her drive that is irresistible. Even when she is literally starving, she has gumption in abundance. She is very funny too. Etta is just a fun person to spend time with – and what more do you want from a narrator? And

4. It is a historical novel that touches on WW2 – when you get a period drama and the date is somewhere in the 1930’s, and there is a love story…you just know what is coming. And there is something tantalising and fulfilling about the predictability - like a great tragedy, we know what the end is going to be. Or do we? This is an odd little fairy-tale, so the bets are off more generally…but certainly the war is as devastating as you would imagine.

5. It is multi-voiced and uses many styles too: using letters and short chapters and flashbacks. This year’s Booker winner, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is polyphonic too, and was commended for its ambitious and bold structure. Similarly here, there is something fresh about the skips and changes – you get to inhabit all the characters in their present and their past. It is vibrant and never boring – you get to see so much, but yet plenty is left a mystery too.

6. The ending is poetic and surprising and quick-fire and…well, after you get swept up in the clear simple prose, and Etta’s white-knuckle struggles, you’re going to want to know how it all ends.

Related books

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Paperback)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Paperback)

Rachel Joyce




57 Reviews

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else's life.

£7.99 £5.99
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules - Little Old Lady 1 (Paperback)

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules - Little Old Lady 1 (Paperback)

Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg, Rod Bradbury




3 Reviews

The International Bestselling Sensation

£7.99
Into the Wild (Paperback)

Into the Wild (Paperback)

Jon Krakauer




4 Reviews

What would possess a gifted young man recently graduated from college to literally walk away from his life?

£8.99 £6.99
The Blind Assassin (Paperback)

The Blind Assassin (Paperback)

Margaret Atwood




3 Reviews

* Atwood's Booker prize-winning novel reissued with a striking new jacket along with other titles from Margaret Atwood's backlist

£9.99
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (Paperback)

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (Paperback)

Robert Macfarlane, Robert Macfarlane




3 Reviews

Following the tracks, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, the author discovers a lost world - a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual, of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations.

£9.99 £7.49
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found (Paperback)

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found (Paperback)

Cheryl Strayed

The official tie-in edition to the stunning film adaptation of the bestselling memoir, starring Reese Witherspoon.

£8.99 £6.99
A Brief History of Seven Killings (Paperback)

A Brief History of Seven Killings (Paperback)

Marlon James




3 Reviews

Set against the backdrop of 1970s reggae culture, disco, sex and excess comes this remarkable re-imagining of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley

£8.99 £6.99
Etta and Otto and Russell and James (Paperback)

Etta and Otto and Russell and James (Paperback)

Emma Hooper




1 Review

Features a love story that spans fifty years, three lives, two continents and an ocean. This book tells a story of love and joy, pain and passion, memory and forgetting - and one incredible journey.

£7.99
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (Paperback)

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (Paperback)

Jonas Jonasson, Roy Bradbury




1 Review

The international bestselling sensation.

£8.99 £6.99