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What I’m Reading: Episode 31, January 2021

The first monthly update in 2021 where I talk about what I’m reading currently, what I recently read and what I’m thinking to read next. 

What I’m reading now

In the final chapters of The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, a book club selection and my second book for the Japanese Literature Challenge. It’s an unsettling book, set on an un-named island in an un-indentified part of the world where things (and people) keep disappearing). Hats, birds, novels, roses – one day they are there and the next the islanders wake up with a vague sensation that another thing has gone. The sinister Memory Police actively patrol the streets to make sure the population doesn’t retain these items or even the memory of them. I think we’re going to have a lively discussion on this when the book club meets in a few days.

I’ve also started The Wild Silence, the follow up to Raynor Winn’s outstanding memoir The Salt Path which documented the 630 mile walk she and her husband did along the South West Coastal Path. Not out of desire for a good trek but as a response to being made homeless and robbed of their farm. The Wild Silence begins with Winn in Cornwall, living in a small apartment, dealing with her husband’s deteriorating health and concerned about the future.

What I just finished reading

The Japanese Literature Challenge hosted by Meredith is one of a small handful of reading events I’m going to join this year. My plan for 2021 is to avoid getting stressed out by over-committing myself so I’m just going to participate in only about six of these events over the year plans,

I kicked off this event with The Great Passage by Shion Miura (review coming soonish) is based in a small division of a publishing house where they embark on the creation of a dictionary that will comprehensively catalogue the Japanese language. The most interesting part of this book was the insight it gave into what is involved in compiling a dictionary . The over-arching theme of how the endeavour changes the individuals concerned, didn’t work as well for me.

Also recently finished is Advent, a debut novel by Jane Fraser set in 1904 and depicting a woman torn between loyalty to her family and her own desire for an independent life far away from Wales. It’s another great offering from Honno, the Welsh independent publisher.

So many books vying for my attention right now. The one definite will be The Heart Stone by Judith Barrow, a novel about a couple in love but separated by the start of World War 1. The synopsis gives me an idea that she’s left unmarried and pregnant when the boy goes off to war and this causes friction with her mother and stepfather. I’m part of the book tour for this novel which will be published on February 18 by Honno which, since they are an independent press, gives me a nice connection to #ReadIndies month hosted by Karen at kaggsysbookishramblings and Lizzy at Lizzysliterarylife .

I had planned to read A Burning by Megha Majumdar, a debut novel about which I am hearing a lot right now and all of it containing high praise. It’s a story of three intertwined lives set against volatile backdrop of contemporary India. I adore books set in India so am really looking forward to this.

That plan might need to go on pause however because two of my library reservations came through today.

Twelve Nights by the German author Urs Faes is a novella set in the Black Forest. It’s a very wintry-tale since it features a man walking alone through a snowy valley in the period between Christmas and the Epiphany. As he walks to his childhood home, he recalls his brother and the feud which separated them.

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste draws on the author’s family history of a tumultuous period in the history of Ethiopia. In 1935 the country was invaded by Italy prompting a call to arms by the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. The novel brings to life the women who answered that call, and went to war, sometimes disguised as men.  

I could end up reading all of these or only one. Such is the fickleness of my reading brain. If you’ve read any of them maybe you can give me a recommendation?

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