Yes I know it’s no longer summer but better late than never I suppose. So here is the outcome of the first reading challenge I have ever completed (drum roll and applause please….)
I knew I would never get through 20 books so took advantage of the flexible choices offered by Cathy at 746books.com and went for 10 books. When I made the list I was trying to be clever by doubling up on titles that could also count for three other projects: Women in Translation month, AllVirago/AllAugust challenge (hop over to heavenali’s blog to find out more about this) and my own Booker prize project.
I’m a bit behind on the reviews but am slowly catching up. So here’s what I accomplished – there were some hits, some also rans and some down right failures..
- This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell – Excellent Read –review posted here
- NW by Zadie Smith Read it – Dazzling in some ways but not sure I saw the point of it review posted here
- High Rising by Angela Thirkell Read – Read but not a great choice for me review posted here
- A Favourite of the Gods by Sybille Bedford Thoroughly enjoyed this – review posted here Counted this for AllAugust/All Virago
- Last Orders by Graham Swift. Read and enjoyed in parts review posted here I double counted this for my Booker project
- The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis. Read and enjoyed the humour – review not yet written. I double counted this for my Booker project
- Life & Times of Michael K by J M Coetzee. Read but review not yet written because I haven’t made up my mind what I think of it. I double counted this for my Booker project
- The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimimanda Adichie Read – enjoyed the style, left me wanting more Review posted here
- Fear and Trembling by Amelie Northomb Read – Enjoyable take on Japanese culture review posted here Double counted this for Women in Translation Month
- Tree of Life by Maryse Conde: Read it but it was a bit of a slog. Review posted here Also counted towards Women in Translation month
I had a few back up titles on my list originally so I could change my mind if needed. The back ups were:
The Female Detective by Andrew Forrester. A dud – did not finish review posted here
Frost in May by Antonia White never got around to reading this but it was a re-read anyway
An Elergy for Easterly by Petina Gappah Started to read it but ran out of time
Overall I enjoyed the experience. Because I chose the entry level I never felt overwhelmed by what I still had to read. So I’ll be back again next year assuming Cathy decides to continue the venture that is.
Usually at this time of the year I’m frantically adding upcoming newly-published titles to my reading wishlist. Maybe I’m in a peculiar mood but this year I’m struggling to find much to excite me among the forthcoming books. It isn’t as if there is a dirth of new stuff coming out but nothing so far that has really lit the fire.
One bright spot on the horizon is news that Maggie O’Farrell will publish her seventh novel in May. Just wish I didn’t have to wait so long. According to the blurb “This Must Be The Place crosses continents and time zones, giving voice to a diverse and complex cast of characters. At its heart, it is an extraordinary portrait of a marriage, the forces that hold it together and the pressures that drive it apart.” With O’Farrell I am certain this will be enjoyable but I’m rather perplexed by the marketing puff on the front cover. How can this be described by the publisher as a “Sunday Times best seller ” if it hasn’t been published yet?? I just checked this weekend’s copy of the newspaper and there’s no mention of it and certainly no appearance in their best seller listing… Supreme confidence in their author or blatant hype??
So far I just have five other 2016 titles on my wishlist.
Olduvaireads pointed me to French Concession: A Novel by the renowned Chinese author Xiao Bai.This is the first of his works to be available in English and is a story of espionage set in 1930s Shanghai.
From The Millions List of Most anticipated books I have taken a shine to
The Happy Marriage by Tahar Ben Jelloun which is about the dissolution of a marriage between a renowned painter and his wife. That synopsis on its own wouldn’t be enough to get my attention but the setting and historical context make it more appealing – its set against the backdrop of Casablanca in the midst of an awakening women’s rights movement.
Am I the only person in the world who hasn’t read Elizabeth Strout’s Burgess Boys or her Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge? Ok so maybe there are a few people who missed out on both of these and I was going to complete the hat trick by giving her latest novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton a miss. But then I read this description from a blogger whose opinion I value. “… a book that is so close to perfection,” is how Thinking in Fragments described My Name is Lucy Barton. Now it would be utterly foolish of me to ignore perfection wouldn’t it?? Onto the list it’s gone.
I’m not absolutely sure about this next choice. It’s The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel. Like his Booker Prize winning Life of Pi this is described as an allegory, told in the form of three intersecting stories and three different points of time – 1904, 1939 and 1989. Has Mantel produced something as magically bizarre as Life of Pi? One disappointment before I even open the first page “there are no tigers in this fabulous new book” announced the publishers Canongate. I call that mean….
And finally, a debut novel Shelter by Jung Yun, a young author originally from South Korea. I’ve been looking for an author from that part of the world and when I saw that Yun names J.M Coetzee as one of her influences, my interest level shot up. Shelter is about a husband, father and college professor who gets into such deep financial trouble he can no longer afford his home. His parents, whom he hates because they never showed him warmth, move in with him. Tension mounts, anger comes to the surface, deep seated resentment boils over..
So that’s it. Fairly lean pickings unfortunately.
What am I missing? Do tell me if you’ve spotted a gem.
Day 1 of a new month and it’s time to take a snapshot of what I’m reading, listening to and watching
I finished The Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo a few days ago. This was the book I chose to represent Burkina Faso on my book journey along the Prime Meridian. It wasn’t a brilliant novel but I am glad I read it purely because of the bravery that lay behind its creation. Zongo was a writer who died because the regime under which he lived was afraid of the power of his pen to challenge their authority. The Parachute Drop led to his arrest, torture and imprisonment. As I said in my review of The Parachute Drop this is an important book rather than a memorable one.
I’m now in that space where I need to decide what to read next. My request for The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt which was long listed for the 2014 Man Booker Prize came through at the library so I started that. But it’s too heavy for me to take on my travels tomorrow to USA. My choices will be between Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (it seems appropriate to read him in the month when his newest novel – Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki – is published) and Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave which has lingered on my TBR shelf for way too long. Maybe I’ll end up with both
I’m steadily working my way through all the audiobooks of Peter May’s Chief Superintendent Roy Grace crime series that are on offer via the library system. They’re perfect for the short drive time to work or to help me through the dreaded task of ironing. The latest one I heard was Not Dead Enough, in which our detective is confronted with a doppleganger mystery as he tries to solve a double murder.
The BookerTalk household has been enjoying Philomena and The Railway Man though the film version doesn’t bear a lot of relation to the book which I found harrowing. We’ve also been allowing to pass before our eyes, some old episodes of the crime series Lewis which was born out of the success of Morse. Lewis is nowhere near as good because although the lead actor is perfectly skilled in his craft, he just doesn’t have the calibre of John Thaw. It’s ok however if you just want something at the end of the night that isn’t too taxing.