Reading horizons: Episode 22

Reading Horizons: September 2019

What I’m reading now

I’ve just started a book that was an international best seller in 2018. I’m honestly not sure I want to read this but it was loaned by a friend so I feel obliged to at least give it a try. Whether I finish it remains to be seen.

The subject matter alone makes The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, a challenging book. It’s described as the ‘true’ story of how a Slovakian Jew fell in love with a girl he was tattooing at the concentration camp. But I’ve also seen articles challenging the accuracy and authenticity of the ‘facts’ presented in the book. And that’s making me feel particularly uncomfortable.

What I just finished reading

Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance was on my #15booksofsummer reading list but I ran out of time. It was going to go back into the bookcase but so many other bloggers commented that it was a wonderful novel, that I changed my mind.

A Fine Balance

I’m really glad I did because this turned out to be exactly the kind of novel I love. It’s a long book – more than 600 pages – but it’s so well written that it just zips along.

A Fine Balance follows four strangers whose lives intersect at a time of political turmoil in India. The government’s declaration of a State of Internal Emergency sparks a wave of arbitrary violence and brutal repression. This is a story of the hopes and dreams of three men and one woman and how they discover friendship in adversity.

What I’ll read next

Now this is never an easy question because I’m such a ditherer.. Right now I have a hankering for a classic so could go for one of the books from my classics club list . When I was having a root around the bookcase a couple of nights ago I came across Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent which was published in 1932.

All Passion Spent

I’ve seen this described as her best and most popular novel, “irreverently funny and surprisingly moving”.  All Passion Spent is the story of an 88 year old, newly widowed woman who refuses to let her children dictate how she spends the rest of her life. I’ve dipped into the book and liked what I found on the first few pages.

It could be interesting to follow this up with something by her friend and lover Virginia Woolf. A re-read of To The Lighthouse is long overdue but I also have The Voyage Out which I’ve never read.

Or I could go down the path of gardens given Sackville-West’s status as a garden designer par excellence. Maybe Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim would be a fitting companion read.

Invariably I don’t make the decision until right at the moment when I’m ready to start reading something new.


Those are my plans – what’s on your reading horizon for the next few weeks?


This post is for WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

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 September 25, 2019, in #20books of summer, Reading plans and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Glad to see that you’re enjoying All Passion Spent. I loved that book and would happily re-read it. I would find the connection with Elizabeth and her German Garden too tenuous; they feel too different to me. (Though I did like the latter.) To the Lighthose connects for me as a companion read partly for the Woolf link of course, but also because Mrs Ramsey is a woman somewhat younger than Lady Slane, still beleagued by a husband and young children. Their female experiences overlap more than with Elizabeth, who is not consumed in the same way by the demands of her family.

  2. A Fine Balance is on my “long books to read in 2019” list. I am so glad to know you liked it so much!

  3. Karen, good luck with The Tattooist of Auschwitz – I think it might be too harrowing for me. I have just picked up the Viking murder mystery Council by Snorri Kristjansson to read and I will imminently be starting a re-read of the wonderful Persuasion by Jane Austen, my result for The Classics Club’s Spin event. Happy reading! 🙂

  4. As it happens I’m currently re-reading To the Lighthouse. I had to do it for A Level and loathed it. I just found it incredibly irritating and mannered but it’s amazing what thirty years has done to my reading tastes! This time round I’m really enjoying it.

    • our experiences were similar..I had to read it for my last year at university and found it a painful experience but I always wondered whether the circumstances coloured my judgement. Hence I put it on my classics club list so I could give it another go. I did the same with Mrs Dalloway and got far more out of it the second time around

  5. I’m very reluctant to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz because of everything I’ve heard about it. I feel uncomfortable about the whole focus of it, and although horrific it sounds as if it in some ways glamorises things. Also, presenting it as fact when there is so much that is queried about it is problematic…

    But do read Vita – she writes beautifully! Currently reading A Journal of the Plague Year myself and who knows what next?

    • I read on a little more last night but the style of The Tattooist proved another problem. There was something in the tone that just didn’t ring true. So I have given up on it already and picked up All Passion Spent. It’s wonderful!

  6. I’m reading Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ and my next book will be ‘Conversations with friends’ by the same writer. I really like her way of expression, the way she structures her novels and what she conveys to the reader.

    • I have a copy of Normal People. Usually I don’t go for books that have as much publicity as this one did (something perverse in my nature) but it was one of those buy one/get one half price deals so I thought I’d give it a whirl

  7. A Fine Balance has been on my TBR list for years, just have to find the time to get to it. I don’t think I will read The Tattooist of Auschwitz just based on that article you linked to.

  8. Pleased to hear you loved A Fine Balance. Intimidating length but as you say it zips along nicely. It would make a great winter read for anyone toying with the idea of picking it up.

  9. Let me encourage you to read All Passion Spent. Having followed your bog very closely for some years I have a fair idea of what you’ll like and I’m willing to bet this will prove a winner. There is just so much to enjoy about this book.

    And re Tattooist – I’m also a keen follower of Lisa Hill’s. Based on her views I’ve avoided this book. Will be interested to see what you think.

  10. I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz last year and at the time thought it was an amazing book, although it really upset me at times. I heard a very interesting interview with the authir on Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast, which might be worth listening to if you do decide to read it.

  11. I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz early this year and felt very unsure about it. I didn’t enjoy it – the subject matter is too painful and horrific. It’s a most unsettling and depressing book. I also read the claims that it contains numerous errors and information inconsistent with the facts, as well as exaggerations, misinterpretations and understatements. And I have no desire whatsoever to read her next book.

    I’ve also read All Passion Spent and I enjoyed it very much – beautifully written and with many reflections on the nature of old age and the contrast with youth. Definitely a book I’d love to re-read sometime! I’ve read The Voyage Out – a very sad book and also The Lighthouse, which I love. A Fine Balance tempts me – a 600 page novel that ‘zips along’ – and it sounds fascinating! I’m another ditherer – often picking up book after book to find the right one to read next.

  12. I’ve been curious about this book too but haven’t read it. I’ll be visiting Auschwitz in about 3 weeks. I think that will be enough. I have downloaded several library books on my tablet. I never decide what to read either until I pick it up. Depends on mood doesn’t it. I would like to take a pile of TBR books from my shelf but can’t due to the space and wait “real” books take while travelling. I’ll look forward to what you think of Tattoo book if you read it.

  13. I’m one of those who find The Tattooist morally dubious and factually wrong, so I can relate to your feelings of discomfort. I meet people who’ve read it, and they tell me that they ‘love it’ (how can anyone ‘love’ a book about the Holocaust?), and since I don’t want to be on a crusade about it, I find myself having to smile weakly and move the conversation along. (My post about it is No 60 in my all time Top Posts, out of over 3000 posts, and it’s been syndicated and referred to in the print press).
    I thought the press interest in it had all died down, but apparently she’s written another one and from what I’ve seen in the media is using the negative reception of this one as a marketing tool.

    • Just read your review and as always it’s thoughtful and extremely well argued. I suspect, as you did, that it was difficult for Heather Morris to challenge Lale’s version of events – he was after all 88 years old and still traumatised by his experiences. Any biographer would have baulked at prodding too deeply in those circumstances. But if you’re going to present the info as fact then you have an obligation to readers to do your own checking – and that doesn’t seemed to have happened. Even if I could set all that aside, I encountered another reason for me to abandon the book – the tone and style feels so wrong. Lale’s conversations with the other prisoners and the guards simply don’t ring true to my ear.

  14. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    I’ve been meaning to get to The Tattooist of Auschwitz for a while, mostly to see what all the fuss is about – I’ve had other readers recommend it to me and ward me off it in equal measure. I guess the only way to find out is to dive in for myself! I’m currently reading She Said (Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s account of breaking the Weinstein story) – it’s incredible! As gripping as any thriller I’ve ever read. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on All Passion Spent, it sounds fab!!

Booker Talk Loves Hearing Your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: