BookerTalk

Can You Ever Have Too Many Books?

If you’ve ever watched the tv series Absolutely Fabulous, you might remember Patsy’s one piece of fashion advice: “You can never have enough hats, gloves and shoes”.

I feel the same way about books. Three hundred books in the house, as yet unread. But who can resist the temptation to acquire yet more? This week saw more than the normal number of new acquisitions, some which were purchases, others library loans and one title I won in a give away.

Starting at the top we have Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach. I loved her earlier book Without Reservations which documented a year she spent in Europe, travelling without any plan from Paris, where she found a Japanese soul mate; to Oxford and Milan, where she befriended a young woman about to be married. It was a warm and witty, account of how she learned to be an independent woman. Educating Alice sees her leave her job as a journalist with the Baltimore Sun and head off once more, but with the plan this time of taking courses in each destination. She learns French cooking in Paris, Border collie training in Scotland, traditional Japanese arts in Kyoto, and architecture and art in Havana. Sadly this is the last book by the Pulitzer Prize author – Alice Steinbach died in 2012.

Next we have Bound by Vanda Symon which is the fourth and latest in her crime detective series set in the environs of Dunedin in New Zealand. I was lucky enough to win this in a giveaway organised by her UK publishers, Orenda Books. I enjoyed the first in the series – Overkill – and I’m told by my dad who has read books two and three, that they are just as good. I have some catching up to do before I can get to Bound.

Emmet and Me is the second book by Welsh author Sara Gethin. My copy came via the Welsh independent press, Honno, in readiness for the book tour to mark the launch in May . Sara’s debut novel, Not Thomas, was set firmly in Wales with a disturbing story told through the eyes of a five year old boy. Her new novel also has a young protagonist but is set largely across the water in Ireland.

Continuing down the pile we have The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett which is the next book club selection. I hadn’t heard of this novel until it appeared on the Women’s Prize For Fiction shortlist this year. It sounds like its very much an “issues” novel, featuring twin sisters who run away from a small black community in one of the southern states of the USA. Though physically separated as adults, their fates and those of their daughters are inter-twined.

And finally two books I had on reservation at the library that I was able to collect today. Our Lady of The Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga is her debut novel and the first of her books to be published in the UK. I was blown away by a later novel of hers – The Barefoot Woman – which was written as a tribute to her mother, a victim of the violence and genocide in Rwanda. Our Lady Of The Nile foreshadows those events with an account of tensions at a school for privileged girls in Rwanda.

The last book in the list is one that’s a bit of a punt. Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka was a best seller in Japan and will likely sell even more copies internationally one the film version starring Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock is released (possibly later this year). I don’t normally read best sellers (usually find they fail to live up to the hype) but I’ve never read any Japanese crime fiction to put this on hold out of curiosity. Bullet Train is about five assassins – Satoshi, Kim, Nanao, Tangerine and Lemon – who find themselves on a bullet train to Tokyo competing for a suitcase full of money. The question is which of them will be alive when the train reaches its destination.

This little collection should keep me occupied for many weeks, especially at my current slow pace. I’m delighted to see it has a strong international flavour with authors from New Zealand, Wales, Japan, North America and Rwanda. Is there anything here that takes your fancy or, if you’ve read any of these titles, which would you recommend?

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