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Nine Island
Cover of Nine Island
Nine Island
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A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
"Nine Island is a crackling incantation, brittle and brilliant and hot and sad and full of sideways humor that devastates and illuminates all at once." —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies

Nine Island is an intimate autobiographical novel, told by J, a woman who lives in a glass tower on one of Miami Beach's lush Venetian Islands. After decades of disaster with men, she is trying to decide whether to withdraw forever from romantic love. Having just returned to Miami from a monthlong reunion with an old flame, “Sir Gold," and a visit to her fragile mother, J begins translating Ovid's magical stories about the transformations caused by Eros. “A woman who wants, a man who wants nothing. These two have stalked the world for thousands of years," she thinks.
When not ruminating over her sexual past and current fantasies, in the company of only her aging cat, J observes the comic, sometimes steamy goings-on among her faded-glamour condo neighbors. One of them, a caring nurse, befriends her, eventually offering the opinion that “if you retire from love . . . then you retire from life."

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
"Nine Island is a crackling incantation, brittle and brilliant and hot and sad and full of sideways humor that devastates and illuminates all at once." —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies

Nine Island is an intimate autobiographical novel, told by J, a woman who lives in a glass tower on one of Miami Beach's lush Venetian Islands. After decades of disaster with men, she is trying to decide whether to withdraw forever from romantic love. Having just returned to Miami from a monthlong reunion with an old flame, “Sir Gold," and a visit to her fragile mother, J begins translating Ovid's magical stories about the transformations caused by Eros. “A woman who wants, a man who wants nothing. These two have stalked the world for thousands of years," she thinks.
When not ruminating over her sexual past and current fantasies, in the company of only her aging cat, J observes the comic, sometimes steamy goings-on among her faded-glamour condo neighbors. One of them, a caring nurse, befriends her, eventually offering the opinion that “if you retire from love . . . then you retire from life."
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About the Author-
  • Jane Alison is the author of a memoir, The Sisters Antipodes, and three novels—The Love-Artist, The Marriage of the Sea, and Natives and Exotics—and the translator of Ovid's stories of sexual transformation, Change Me. She is Professor and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, and lives in Charlottesville. www.janealison.com

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 20, 2016
    The narrator of Alison’s (The Love-Artist) wonderful novel, J, lives alone in the paradise of a Miami Beach high-rise condo. J spends most of her days going to the pool, working on translating (or “transmuting”) Ovid’s stories, sitting on her balcony, and watching her neighbors in a building across the way. She’s been contacting some of her various lovers from the past, whom she refers to as “Sir Gold,” “The Devil,” and other monikers—but none of them lead to anything serious. As she contemplates retiring from love for good, she cares for her aging cat, Buster, and a duck stranded on a traffic median. She befriends her enigmatic and troubled neighbors on the floor above her and becomes further and further entangled with them. Maybe it’s due to the oppressive heat or her active imagination, but Ovid and Miami begin to blur: she sees Ovid’s girls (as the narrator refers to them) in the trees, people who transform, and symbols everywhere. J faces a certain ennui: she is alone, she lacks a mate, yet her inner life is a vivid struggle to find happiness, to connect with the world outside her apartment. Yet how can she live without pleasure? With echoes of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy and Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, the Sea, Alison has forged a haunting and emotionally precise portrait, a beautiful reminder that solitude does not equal loneliness. Agent: Emily Forland, Brandt & Hochman Literary.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2016
    This immersive, cerebral novel centers on J, a woman teetering on the balance between the concrete, sometimes grim responsibilities of her daily life and an equally urgent personal dilemma: should she "retire" from love and romance?Memoirist, translator, and novelist Alison (The Sisters Antipodes, 2009, etc.) sets a surreal scene: a Miami beachfront apartment building, a "musty old Love Boat," where the structure and many of its residents are in the process of death and decay. J lives on the 21st floor in a box-shaped flat with cork floors and mirrored walls. Her building, a large block consisting of smaller blocks, is mirrored by the building across the way, where she witnesses scenes of human connection and disconnection, innocent and otherwise. Everyone in this book is known only by their first initial or their role, such as "my mother" or "Par-T-Boy," contributing to the sense of disconnection J and the reader experience together. In her cube, J embarks on a project similar to Alison's own book Change Me (2014), translating sex stories by Ovid into English. As she works, she considers giving up on sex and romantic life after the end of a 10-year marriage and a tour of exes, culminating in one month spent with "Sir Gold," the one who got away, who doesn't want her back anymore. Her intellectual life is punctuated by obligatory dates with local suitors, an ailing mother, an incontinent cat, and a newly formed friendship with a neighbor couple. She ventures out to swim laps in the building's hourglass-shaped pool and walk the beach, where she feeds and attempts to rescue a wounded duck. While narrating her own story, J acknowledges she's speaking to an audience, but her stories don't form an epic tale; rather, they are a series of short chapters, elliptical dips into and out of experiences past and present. Evocative, sad, at times funny, and never completely without hope, a story that studies what it means to be alone later in life.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    November 15, 2016

    J lives in a glass high-rise on one of Miami Beach's alluring Venetian Islands and is seriously thinking of giving up men. In midlife herself, she's seen her now ailing mother flop at many relationships, and she's just returned from a visit with Sir Gold (as she dubs him), an old flame who had seemed interested in reigniting their passion but after a month decides it's not to be and rather casually dismisses her. Meanwhile, she's translating Ovid, which leads not only to some absorbingly sensuous passages but also sharp, lyrical reflections on physical intimacy and the nature of female sexuality as both need and burden; here, we see mythic characters fleeing violation of body and self. Yet as a friend says, "If you retire from love, ...then you retire from life." VERDICT Novelist/memoirist Alison, also a translator of Ovid's stories of sexual transformation, has written an autobiographical novel-cum-meditation that many readers, and not just women, will find intriguing. Passion matters, and who doesn't contemplate somehow moving forward?

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Alix Ohlin, New York Times Book Review One of Publishers Weekly's 25 Best Books of 2016 in Fiction “Alison's evocation of J's interior life feels honest, and it dramatizes the social invisibility of women who live alone past a certain age. . . .[Her] novel treats with humor . . . existential questions about solitude and the inevitability of transformation. As our circumstances and bodies change, as we inflict and cause pain, as our lives expand and contract, what of the self endures? Nine Island testifies to the fragility of a life that can vanish from sight, and to the sturdiness of one that maintains the capacity for change."
  • Chauncey Mabe, Miami Herald “The more or less constant delights of Jane Alison's latest novel bubble up out of a story that is, incongruously, bleak. It is quite an achievement, a comic novel about a woman of a certain age as she contemplates embracing a not-altogether-unwelcome spinsterhood. . . . There is a wonderful observation . . . on every page."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) “Wonderful. . . . With echoes of Molly Bloom's soliloquy and Iris Murdoch's The Sea, the Sea, Alison has forged a haunting and emotionally precise portrait, a beautiful reminder that solitude does not equal loneliness."
  • Martin Seay, author of The Mirror Thief, in Electric Literature “Candid, contemplative, hilarious, and affecting. . . . It's also quite a bit stranger than one might expect, in the best possible sense: allusive and elusive, it conflates its narrator's restless mind and its louche, peculiar setting to produce an effect that's vibrant, slippery, erotically charged, and slightly menacing."
  • Harper's BAZAAR “Earlier this year, we listed 99 books everyone should read. If you've somehow chewed through this list already, we recommend Nine Island by Jane Alison."
  • Kirkus Reviews “This immersive, cerebral novel centers on J, a woman teetering on the balance between the concrete, sometimes grim responsibilities of her daily life and an equally urgent personal dilemma: should she 'retire' from love and romance?. . . . Evocative, sad, at times funny, and never completely without hope, Nine Island studies what it means to be alone later in life."
  • Lauren Groff, author of Fates and FuriesNine Island is a crackling incantation, brittle and brilliant and hot and sad and full of sideways humor that devastates and illuminates all at once."
  • Andrea Barrett, author of The Air We Breathe and Archangel “This deceptively slim narrative, as witty and mercurial as any tale from Ovid, circles deftly around love and desire, pain and death, joy and solitude and the relentless nature of change. I fell into it as into water, transformed by the magic of Alison's prose."
  • Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times The Love-Artist (2001)
    “Jane Alison has constructed a wonderfully seductive first novel, a novel that shimmers with the musical artifice of Ovid's poetry while evoking the darker tragedies of his life ... She has created a dense, poetic narrative, filled with images and leitmotifs that mirror and refract Ovid's own verses, while at the same time spinning his life into a new myth of her own creation. In doing so she has found a voice, at once modern and archaic, lyrical and potent, that mesmerizes the reader, drawing us ineluctably into Ovid's world of marble and monuments and primal passions. She has written a small, twinkling jewel of a novel."
  • The New Yorker “Part thriller, part fantasy ... richly imagined ... The disastrous love affair that Alison invents between Ovid and Xenia, an almost feral witch whom he first spies rising like Galatea from the waves, has the power of poetic truth."
  • Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review “A swirling parable that touches on the opposed sorceries of art and magic, on tyranny and rebellion, and on the struggle of male and female."
  • Michael Shelden, The Baltimore Sun “Jane Alison's first novel, The Love-Artist ... is the kind of work that deserves a large and enthusiastic following."
  • Fredric Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis) “A hypnotic first novel ... Though her prose is lyrical and her subject esoteric, Alison grounds her narrative in the rough beauty and brutal accommodations of human relationships in a world that's as real as it is dreamlike, and she seems as comfortable depicting the raging furnaces of...
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