Modern existence can be atomizing, isolating. Certainly it is for William G. and Neaera H., the lonely Londoners at the center of Russell Hoban’s prickly yet heartwarming Turtle Diary. William works at a used-book store and lives in a rooming house after a divorce that has stripped him of his home, family, and career. Neaera is a successful writer of children’s books, who, in her own estimation “looks the sort of spinster who doesn’t keep cats and is not a vegetarian. Looks … like a man’s woman and hasn’t got a man.” By inexplicable coincidence each is irresistibly drawn to the turtle tank at the London Zoo with a mind “full of turtle thoughts,” wondering how the creatures might be freed. Then one day Neaera wanders into William’s bookstore, and together they form an unlikely partnership that will prove a small, and perhaps lasting, triumph of humanity and sympathy.
Turtle Diary is the NYRB Classics Book Club selection for June 2013.
A story about the recovery of life…Like other cult writers—Salinger for instance, or Vonnegut—Hoban writes about ordinary people making life-affirming gestures in a world that threatens to dissolve in madness.
Crackles with witty detail, mordant intelligence and self-deprecating irony.
This wonderful, life-saving fantasy will place Russell Hoban where he has got to be—among the greatest, timeless novelists.
—The Times (UK)
The marvellous energy of Mr. Hoban’s writing, simultaneously dry and passionate, justifies everything he does.
—Times Educational Supplement