For Spell the Month in Books this month, our host Jana from Reviews From the Stacks is challenging us to spell the current month using only titles containing a number or a colour. I’m opting for the colour theme which I think will be the far easier option. Links take you to reviews where they exist
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Jeanette Winterson’s best known book, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is loosely based on her own upbringing in an evangelical Pentecostal household. The main character is adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect and seems destined to embrace the life of a missionary. The novel traces her struggles to reconcile her faith with her sexuality and her decision to leave the church, home and family for the young woman with whom she has fallen in love.
I remember this was a challenging read because Winterson kept veering away from the main narrative and I didn’t understand her digressions into myths and legends.
Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
I’m playing fast and loose with the “rules” by including Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage since something colourless can’t be a colour can it? Who cares? Not me….
The publisher’s blurb describes this as “A mesmerising mystery story about friendship” which I think is misleading because that makes it sound as if it belongs to the mystery genre. I’d describe it as more enigmatic than mysterious.
The story revolves around a young man whose life has been deeply affected by the loss of his closest friends from his adolescent years. He was once part of a closely-knitted group who did everything and went everywhere together. Then suddenly and without explanation his four friends cut off all contact with him. Now he wants to find out why.
It’s a beautifully written and atmospheric tale that deals with the alienation and loneliness experienced by a man who is on the fringe of life.
Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Anyone picking up Tangerine expecting to be transported to 1950s Tangiers will be disappointed. Mangan gives up plenty of detail about heat, humidity and congested alleyways but I never felt I was actually there in Morocco with her characters.
It was a shame because the story itself was promising — a woman arrives in Tangiers hoping to be re-united with a friend from her past. From the beginning it’s evident that all is not well in this relationship. One woman turns out to be a manipulator who exerts more and more power over her emotionally fragile friend. One of them may not be telling the truth.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
One of the many unread books that I bought on the recommendation of bloggers I follow. I did start listening to an audio version a couple of years back but found it confusing. The structure was the issue.
Strout’s novel is essentially a group of short stories set in a small town in Maine and loosely connected by the character of former schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge. I couldn’t grasp who was who and how these stories were connected so abandoned the recording. This is a book that didn’t really lend itself to audio, so I bought. the print version instead.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Washington Black could be read purely as an adventure story. It features a character who goes on a perilous quest to far-flung locations; high octane escapades in the form of a balloon flight and storms; and an ogre who shadows the protagonist wherever he goes.
But there is more to this book than mere adventure. Eduygan’s tale of a slave boy who escapes from a Barbados plantation explores ideas of friendship and betrayal and the nature of enslavement and freedom.
A very enjoyable read.
The Good Earth by Peearl Buck
This tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall.Goodreads
I thought I was going to come a cropper on this one because I couldn’t think of any colours beginning with the letter E, other than ecru which isn’t a word I’ve ever seen in a book title. But as a result of some digging online, I discovered that earth is a colour— technically only when followed by another adjective, as earth brown for example — but I’m not going to be too fussy about this. Earth will have to do.
In my review of The Good Earth I said it was “a fascinating insight into the culture of China in the years spanning the end of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of World War 1.” I realise my description could easily mislead people to think this is a novel weighed down by history but let me assure you this is very readable.
The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien
The Little Red Chairs takes its inspiration from a tableau of 11,000 empty chairs that was created in Sarajevo to commemorate victims of the siege by Bosnian Serbs in early 1990s. it is a haunting narrative about a political leader who tries to flee justice by taking on a new identity and hiding in an Irish village. Local people are initially suspicious of ‘Doctor Vlad’ and his plan to set up in business as a holistic healer and sex therapist but he gradually wins them over. They’re aghast when they discover just who he really is and what he has done. O’Brien gives us as engrossing a portrait of evil as it’s possible to find.
If you fancy having a go at Spell the Month, you’ll find all the info you need on the website of the host, Reviews From the Stacks. The theme for November will be book titles relating to music/musicians. Now that is definitely going to be tough.