A 21st-century Holden Caulfield: The Book of Form and Emptiness, by Ruth Ozeki, reviewed

The world Ruth Ozeki creates in The Book of Form & Emptiness resembles one of the snow globes that pop up throughout the novel: a whirling chaos of objects and people. The narration is shared between traumatised Benny, a 21st-century Holden Caulfield figure, and ‘The Book’ itself, opinionated, chatty. The author has fun with both wokery and its opposite. Look out for the gender-fluid pet ferret whose preferred pronoun is They. Benny’s father died when the boy was 12, run down by a truck full of chickens. Now going on 14, he hears voices in his head, objects speak to him (coffee cups, sneakers, windowpanes), bombarding him with conflicting advice.

From half a shelf to a library: my life in books

‘Yes, I will have a coffee,’ said the van driver. He’d driven down to the south of France from Devon. I motioned him to take a pew at the kitchen table and asked him about himself. Ron was ex-army. Aged 17, he was faced with a stark choice: the building site or the army. Because he’d seen his builder father working in a trench all day with water up to his waist, he chose the army. He joined the Royal Engineers and trained as a driver. In the early 1970s he drove two SAS men around Belfast in an unmarked saloon car. That was the job. All day every day.