Regina Porter's THE TRAVELERS
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
I have never been a reader that picks up a book because of its publisher. There are many ways I’m drawn to a book but I can honestly say the publisher or imprint has never been one of them. In this day and age where the major publishers are so huge and have hundreds of imprints that authors often move between the influence of the publishing house seems to have diminished from what it once was in the past. However, I am beginning to find I am drawn to one particular imprint which has carved out a unique niche whilst being under the umbrella of the world’s biggest publishing house.
Hogarth is an imprint that was launched in 2012. It was inspired by Hogarth Press, which was founded by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917 and is a joint venture between Chatto & Windus in the UK and Crown Publishing in the US, both of whom are imprints of Penguin Random House. Their aim is to create “a home for a new generation of literary talent, an adventurous fiction imprint with an accent on the pleasures of storytelling and a broad awareness of the world.” And they have done this in spades.
My first encounter with Hogarth was with Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena which is one of my all-time favourite novels. They have also published Jenni Fagan, another favourite of mine and in 2015 they launched Shakespeare Retold by authors such as Margaret Atwood and Tracy Chevalier reimagining Shakespeare’s tales in contemporary settings. And this year I was blown away by Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift.
I can now add Regina Porter’s outstanding The Travelers to this list. I was at first daunted by this book as the proof copy has what looks like a very complicated family tree sprawled across it’s wrap-around cover. But, as always with book covers, looks can be deceiving. Instead this a rich and multi-layered story of family, race and America over six decades. The structure reminded me a lot of Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno as the novel is told in a non-linear fashion jumping from 2010 to the 1950s, to the Vietnam War and back and forth to the decades in between. However, where Anthony Marra’s book was short stories that became interconnected, The Travelers is interconnected straight away via family, love and history.
The story follows three main families; The Vincents, The Applewoods and The Camphors and all their offshoots. Each family is connected in one way or another, sometimes more. We follow cousins, lovers and children as each family travels between places, times and one another in surprising, intimate and profound ways. Through each character we witness sweeping changes that blow people around the country, around the world and then back again to where it all started. Each piece of the story is wonderful in its own right but the more pieces that are put down the more startling the story becomes, the clearer the tapestry that Regina Porter has been weaving unfolds. And what seemed like a complicated family tree on the cover is in fact points of connection. The links in our lives that make them closer and further apart, richer and sadder and so much more remarkable than they seem on the surface.
Regina Porter has written a truly amazing novel. One of those rare books you feel like reading again from the beginning because the perspective you discover at the end of the novel will alter the way you would read the book a second time giving you a different and richer experience of this magnificent and remarkable story. I cannot wait to read it again.
Title: The Travelers
Author: Regina Porter
Publisher: Random House UK
Category: General Fiction
Publication Date: 01/07/2019