After writing so many posts about flipback books, I read two of them in a row this summer–first the amazingly complex and beautiful “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, then “The Other Hand” by Chris Cleave.
I hadn’t read either author before discovering them in flipback.
“Cloud Atlas” is about civilization, and how rulers squash the less powerful (whether they’re actual rulers or just regular people who have some power over those around them), but it’s also about communication. The intricate, symphony-like story is told in pieces by numerous narrators. Some are journal entries. Others are letters. And still others are–well, I don’t want to give anything away. “Cloud Atlas” is literary fiction, but it also veers into speculative territory, and it quite definitely offers breathtaking insights about the human condition and where society could go in the future.
It’s the kind of book that makes me want to read more. And write more. David Mitchell’s officially on my favorite author list now.
When I started “The Other Hand” and realized it was about a character named Little Bee, I assumed I had picked up a sequel to the popular novel “Little Bee.”
Three-fourths of the way through reading the book, I figured out that “The Other Hand” was published as “Little Bee” in America. Ah ha! Mystery solved. (Flipbacks, of course, are British, and the form originated in the Netherlands.) I enjoyed Chris Cleave’s book, told from alternating perspectives of a British widow and a Nigerian refugee, and I can understand why it’s been so successful.
If you haven’t heard of flipbacks, here’s a comprehensive overview, and here’s an interview with Arthur van Keulen, international marketing manager for Jongbloed BV. For other pieces and photos, check out my “flipback” category in the sidebar.
So, could someone get used to reading flipback books all the time?
My answer’s yes. It didn’t take me long at all to adjust to reading “Cloud Atlas,” and then “The Other Hand,” in flipback form. In fact, as I kept reading, it seemed more normal to be carrying around a tiny little lovely book, and opening it each night for another feast of words. The difference between reading flipbacks and reading regular paperbacks (namely the font size and leading) disappeared quickly. The pages seemed normal-sized and proportional, and each evening, the stories welcomed me back without any adjustment.
Of course the convenience was still evident–how lightweight each book was, being able to set one down without holding the pages in place and how easily I could tuck a book into my purse.
I could totally get used to reading flipbacks all the time. It seems Emerald Barnes agrees with me. When I accidentally ended up with two winners of my flipback contest, I sent Emerald “Piece of My Heart” by Peter Robinson, and she blogged about the reading experience and how she prefers flipbacks to ebooks.
Flipbacks are cute and functional and a curiosity, but they’re also like any other book. What’s inside matters the most. And from my initial inspection, coupled with Emerald’s glowing review of “Piece of My Heart,” it seems like Hodder & Stoughton chose some amazing titles for the first 12 books in their flipback series.
But right now, I’m back to a regular paperback with “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” the latest David Mitchell novel. Which you’ll probably hear more about soon, because it’s an incredible piece of historical fiction.
What are you reading right now? And in what form–paperback, hardback, Kindle, flipback?