Sunday Salon: Re-connecting to the world

It felt so good to get home yesterday after my two week trek around Asia. No matter how luxurious the hotel, how wonderful the restaurants and how memorable the experiences, there is absolutely nothing as delightful as spending the night in your own bed. It was however not as long an acquaintance as I would have liked – 4am saw me awake (if not particularly alert).

Still the early morning start did give me chance to re-connect with you all and with the world in general. China may be the world economic powerhouse but when it comes to letting its citizens and its visitors access info electronically, it is way behind many other nations. I already knew before I got to the country that media sites like the BBC are blocked and many social media channels like Facebook and Google are restricted. What I hadn’t anticipated was that WordPress was similarly blocked which meant I couldn’t get to my blog site and then something happened which prevented my email system working. Hooray for Korea and Japan where I had no such restrictions but still couldn’t get email to work. Hence why I haven’t been around much. So now I have a lot of catching up to do on all the blogs I follow.

Reading Update

The luminariesIt did mean however I was able to read quite a lot. On the spur of the moment I picked up the very hefty paperback of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning novel from 2014. I knew I would be reading this at some point as part of my Booker project but I’d been debating whether to get the e-version rather than lug a really big book. But one look at the copy in the airport was enough to persuade me that only the real book would work if I wanted to keep track of all the characters. I’m not much good at keeping details in my head so find character lists helpful – with an e-reader, it’s too cumbersome to keep getting back to the beginning.

So Catton came with me and proved a good companion if not a particularly stellar one. I admire the achievement but am not convinced it really deserved to win the award. More on that another time when I get to write the review.

I don’t often read crime fiction but it just happened that I had an advance copy of the latest in the Chief Inspector Amand Gamache series by Louise Penny on the iPad. It was a delightful chance to re-visit the small community of Three Pines and meet many of the inhabitants again; Ruth the drunk, award-winning poet, Clara the famous painter, Olivier and his partner Gabri who run the bistro and of course, Gamache’s comrade in arms, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir. The Long Way Home will be published late August. If you’ve not read any of Louise Penny’s series so far I promise you are missing out on a treat.

Shanghai GirlsUsually when I’m travelling I like to read something either by an author from the country I’m visiting or set in the country. I took Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum with me but hadn’t started it when a work colleague in Shanghai presented me with Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls. It seemed entirely appropriate to read that one given that my team is located in Shanghai and they’re all female. Although it wouldn’t be what I would class as ‘high literary fiction’ nevertheless i’m enjoying the story of two sisters forced to swap their party lifestyle in 1930s Shanghai for a life of drudgery and poverty in San Francisco.

So that’s all my news for now. What’s happening in your neck of the world??

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on July 13, 2014, in Sunday Salon and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I read Shanghai Girls a few years ago – would be interesting to see how your review differs from mine (spoiler alert – mine is here! http://nordie.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/review-shanghai-girls/)

    I think I have other books by Lisa See lying around somewhere (I have read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – apparently!

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1103.Snow_Flower_and_the_Secret_Fan, )

    and must do better when writing reviews!

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  2. Welcome back! There’s nothing like being away to make you really appreciate your own home!

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  3. I admire your dedication to reading The Luminaries as a real book while on vacation. I read it electronically while in Venice and was glad for it since I didn’t like the story enough to justify carrying around the hefty tome!

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  4. I have still to tackle ‘The Luminaires’ but when I do it will have to be on the iPad as the book itself is so thick it will defeat my reading stand. More than 600 pages and it surrenders. However, having just read Jim Crace’s ‘Harvest’ (review later in the week) I will be surprised if I think it should have won the Booker either. I can’t imagine anything being better than that. At the moment I’ve just started a re-read of the previous Penny as a warm up for the new novel. I love the way she writes and of course I love Three Pines (not to mention Henri) but I did think she got the structure badly wrong in this book so I shall be very interested to see what the new one brings.

    I’m glad you’re back safely from your Far Eastern trip. A friend of mine was out there while the SARS scare was on and got quarantined for ages when she got back.

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    • Exactly my thoughts re Harvest, Alex. It’s light years ahead of Luminaries. I hadn’t read the previous Penny, still catching up on earlier parts of the series. But it’s thanks to yiu that I found her at all….

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  5. The Luminaries is so wise it is difficult to imagine that such a young person wrote it. And that gorgeous prose… I loved it, but admit that I would not read it again. I plan, however, to read her other work.

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  6. Welcome home! I look forward to your thoughts on The Luminaries I loved it, though I understand why it divides people.

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