What it’s about: Speak is a tale from five separate narrators: a 13-year-old pilgrim in the 1700s, the scientist Alan Turing, a professor and scientist struggling with his marriage in the 1960s, a young girl interacting with a computer interface in the present, and a high-ranking prison inmate in the not-so-distant future who created an artificial intelligence so lifelike that it’s been deemed illegal. Each narrator’s story, whether told in journal entries, letters, exchange with a computer, or in a diary, depicts a deeply personal and relevant struggle with connection and what makes us human.
Why I liked it: I can’t get over this book. Louisa Hall is an absolute genius. (Side note, she’s also a medical doctor, a Harvard grad, and a professional squash player. Just in case you were feeling a bit heady about your own career.) The characters that she’s crafted were perfect and distinct, empathetic, engaging, and heartfelt. It was the ultimate in ‘character-driven’ story. Her mastery of the craft meant that she essentially wrote a book of one-sided letters, yet is talented enough to keep the reader abreast of all the action, not to mention emotionally involved. Her descriptions were brilliant, and the characters swept me away instantly.
This is a book where I literally cried (in public, mind you), laughed out loud, and otherwise felt completely glued. It’s not extremely long (I read it in two sittings), and there is no excess in any sentence or chapter. I would recommend it to anyone wanting an enlightening experience about
community, intelligence, technology and connection.
Read if you liked:
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel