December 2017 Snapshot
In the northern hemisphere the consumer frenzy otherwise known as Christmas is in full flood. It’s been blissful to get away from it for a while on our holiday in South Africa. We haven’t escaped it completely since there are some decorations in a few of the hotels but we have been spared wall-to-wall Christmas advertising and the continuous looping of renditions of “Oh I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday” on the radio and in store so-called entertainment systems. I don’t mean to sound a misery, I just hate all the hype.
Far more enjoyable to travel the roads of the Western Cape among the vineyards, fruit farms and ostrich farms of the interior or stopping off at magnificent bays along the coastal route. We splashed out on a treat this morning with a helicopter ride over Cape Town, Table Bay mountain and the peninsular that stretches to the southern most point in Africa. That photo above doesn’t begin to capture the magnificence of this scenery.
But enough of the travel commentary I hear you say, this is meant to be a blog post about books and reading. How right you are so without further delay I shall do what I am meant to do with these nsnapshot posts: capture what I was reading/watching/ about to read when the page of the calendar turned to December 1, 2017.
Usually on holidays I race through books but not this time. Of the three novels I brought with me I’ve only read one so far — The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. I chose it from my bookshelves purely at random after my more thoughtful way of deciding which books to pack for the trip just resulted in frustration. I simply couldn’t make up mind and with time running out I just went to my shelves of unread books, closed my eyes and pledged to read whatever my hand touched. It was an ok read – as you can see from my review I thought it improbable at times – but I won’t rush to read anything else by Tang. My copy now has a new home in a bookcase at a hotel in Stellenbosch in the wine region.
I’m almost halfway through my second book which is my 45th Booker Prize winner — The Conservationist by the Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. I chose this because she is from South Africa and the book is set in that country so what could be more appropriate than reading it during my holiday? This is a novel I started reading about a year ago but struggled to get into at the time so put it aside. Second time around I’m finding it far more interesting. It’s a character study of a businessman who buys a farm in the Johannesburg area and becomes more engrossed in his land than anything else in his life, including his teenage son.
Thinking of reading next…
Awaiting me at home is another Booker winner, How Late it Was How Late by James Kelman which I began to read a few weeks ago but decided it wasn’t a style to suit my current mood so put it aside. It’s related in a strong Glaswegian voice which takes a bit of getting used to.
I’m going home with two new acquisitions after a little venture into a delightful bookshop in the university town of Stellenbosch. The owner was more than happy to spend time chatting about African authors and then picking out local authors for me. I could have walked away with more than two books but unfortunately my suitcase doesn’t have space available.
The Whale Caller is the fifth novel written by South African writer Zakes Mda. It is about a man named Whale Caller who develops a strong attraction to whales; especially a whale he names Sharisha. As the story progresses, he meets a woman named Saluni, with whom he falls in love but finds he cannot abandon the love he has toward his beloved whale, Sharisa. Apparently this has been adapted into a highly successful film.
The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena by Elsa Joubert has been voted as one of the hundred most important books published in Africa during the last millennium and has won three major South African literary awards. Although it is a work of fiction, the novel is based on a true South African story about a woman’s experience of the apartheid era during which she is forcibly resettled in townships hundreds of miles from her home. Her anger was shared by thousands, exploding first in Sharpeville, then in Soweto and to other parts of the country. It sounds an astonishing book.
The state of my personal library
One of my goals for 2017 is to enjoy the books I already own and to reign back on acquiring yet more. I started 2017 with 318 unread books. I’m now at 287, somewhat higher than I would like but at least it’s not growing.
Nothing! Unless you consider watching the wind rustle the trees as watching…..
And that is it for this month. My next post in this series will be coming at the start of another year. Until then, happy reading everyone.
36 thoughts on “December 2017 Snapshot”
I had a difficult time reading The Conservationist. I’m sure I’m giving it less credit than it deserves but I can’t help feeling the arid and soporific atmosphere that the novel creates (at least for me). I still vividly remember the farm and the flood though.
That’s a great reduction in your unread books Karen. I’m impressed. I think I’ve only reduced mine (that is books I’ve owned for more than 12 months) by a couple! Wish I could do more!
And, I find that I rarely whip through books on holidays these days. I think it’s partly because I write a family travel blog in the evening, as well as try to keep up, a little bit with my own blog and reading of other blogs. It’s frustrating in a way, but I guess I’ve chosen my priorities so I’ve only myself to blame.
Oh, and I know you’re not a huge short story writer but I really loved Gordimer’s collection, Six feet of the country. Powerful, moving.
I was doing even better in the first half of the year when I was extremely restrained in my purchasing but this has begun to slip a little in recent months. A travel blog as well as your book blog? phew that is certainly a commitment.
It keeps me busy. I also manage two group blogs (my reading group and Jane Austen group) and contribute to the Australian Women Writers blog. Sometimes I feel “computered” out!
I really hope you enjoy your holiday and I sympathise with you about all the commercial hype on the lead up to Christmas. I prefer a nice, simple, family-orientated celebration 🙂
That would be my preference too
I’m very curious to hear your thoughts on The Whale Caller!
Might take me some time to get around to it!
What a great article! And Africa sounds amazing!
It’s fabulous – I’ve been four times now yet feel I’ve only touched the surface!
I have had a copy of The Conservationist on the shelf for ages — glad to know you’re getting on with it well this time. Maybe I too should pick it up soon. I also like the sound of The Whale Caller. So nice to get a bit about your trip; I’d love to hear more!
The Conservationist is not an easy read – she doesn’t use speech tags and its not always clear who the character is talking to but I’m enjoying more than I expected
Your pics are spectacular.
It’s easy to take impressive photos when the view is so spectacular!
I have had The Conservationist tbr for years. I loved The Lying Days. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.
You’re the second person to recommend The Lying Days so I shall have to have a look at it Ali
Sounds like you’re having a wonderful time and not missing the grey drizzly days at all. However I feel you really need an extra suitcase – two books just doesn’t seem like enough! The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena sounds fascinating – looking forward to your thoughts on that and on Nadine Gordimer, whose been hovering on the outskirts of my TBR for years…
My plan was to read the three books I took with me and then leave them all behind so I then had room to bring new ones home. Didnt quite work out that way…
Congratulations on escaping Christmas and reducing that TBR pile. I had been doing extremely well with my library, sticking to books I own, then splurged on 5 books in the past 2 weeks. Shame on me! South Africa looks awesome, I hope you’re enjoying your trip.
it’s a superb country to visit – this was our third trip there in 14 years. It’s changed a lot understandably but the people are still as friendly and fascinating to talk to, the wine is just as drinkable and of course the scenery never fails to impress
Agree with you about reading what is on my shelves just find it I incredibly difficult to do
i have to discipline myself now and again – it doesnt always work though
I haven’t read Nadine Gordimer for some time; I see The Conservationist is at my library. I’ll add it to my list. I’ve been disappointed with Amy Tan. I enjoyed The Joy Luck Club many years ago but it didn’t measure up for a recent rereading. I’ve put others aside without finishing.
I did give the Joy Luck Club a go when it seemed the world and his wife was reading it, but I dont think I lasted very long. The Kitchen God was good in part though I have a strong suspicion all her books are pretty much the same
Last week I finished Occasion For Loving by Nadine Gordimer. My goodness, she is an exquisite writer.
Enjoy your holiday!
I’m starting to feel I need to be more adventurous and read more of her work
Amy Tan is hugely popular over here but I’ve never been tempted.
BTW I saw a photo of Xmas shoppers 100 years ago in New York. The difference was incredible. Just a few people standing at these display counters. Now we have public brawls.
The whole Black Friday stuff just brings out the worst in people I’m afraid. Bad enough when it was one day but now it seems to last 2 weeks and then is followed by something called Cyber Monday. Retailers need to realise that we get wise to all these so called sales….
An excellent article. I hadn’t heard of Zakes Mda before reading your review, but The Whale Caller looks like my sort of book. Great find!
I was especially interested in The Whale Caller Paula because it is set in a place called Hermanus which I visited about 12 years ago in the hope of seeing a whale (their migration path takes them close in to the land there). No such luck!
Did you say ostrich farms?!?! 😍 They are dino fuzz birds! 😃
As for South African authors, I feel like all anyone knows is J.M. Coetzee, so I’m glad you found some other writers.
Always more than happy to indulge in a bit of vicarious travel! It sounds as if you’re having a well deserved relaxing and restorative holiday. Looking forward to finding out what you think of The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena.
I could do a post just on the trip to make people envious. But that would be naughty wouldn’t it??
Oh, go on…
I’m so glad you’ve managed to get away for a holiday. It will do you so much good after a difficult year. If you want to read another Gordimer you might try July’s People which my book group read a couple of years ago and thought was excellent. I am going to be interested to hear about The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena. My Monday book group reads books that win or are shortlisted for awards and there is nothing to say that those awards have to be British. This could make a fascinating diversion from our usual sources.
Thanks for that Gordimer recommendation – she is wonderful at evoking the atmosphere of the land so I will want to read more by her for sure