What I’m Reading : Episode 40, November 2021: From Korea to Angola

November is going to be all about novellas but before I get stuck into that, let’s take a look at what I’ve been reading lately and what might be next in line.

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What I just finished reading

A River In Darkness by Masaji Ishigawa: I read this memoir to mark Novellas in November. It’s a terrifying account of how an ordinary man became an unwitting victim of a con trick. And then attempted an extraordinary journey to escape the brutal dictatorship of North Korea. It’s fluently written (a testament to the two volunteer translators Risa Kobayashi and Martin Brown) but that doesn’t make it an easy read because the situation he portrays of hardship and hunger is unbelievably bleak. For more details check out my review.

The China Room by Sunjeev Sahota was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2021. It’s a dual time frame narrative set at a rural farm in the Punjab region . One narrative focuses on Mehar, a new bride in 1929 whose desire to know which of three brothers is her husband, puts her future at risk. In the second narrative, her grandson travels to the now deserted farm in 1999 to spend a summer recovering from heroin addiction and to contemplate his future. The historical thread worked far better I thought than the modern day narrative.

What I’m reading now

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller: I’m a latecomer to Claire Fuller’s work but on the basis of what I’ve read so far of her second novel, I have some treats in store. Her latest novel, Unsettled Ground, was selected just this week for the shortlist of the Costa Book Awards while her debut work Our Endless Numbered Days, won the 2015 Desmond Elliott prize.

Swimming Lessons is the story of a marriage, between Gil, a professor in creative writing and one of of his students, Ingrid. She writes letters to him about their relationship, hiding them in his vast collection of books. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach. Twelve years later, when their daughter returns home to care for her father, she discovers the letters, and the truth about her parent’s marriage.

News and How to Use It by Alan Rusbridger: Alan Rusbridger was until four years ago, editor of The Guardian newspaper and one of the most respected incumbents of an editor’s chair. Concerned about the decline in trust in news organisations during the pandemic, he decided to write an insider’s account of the business of journalism. The resulting book isn’t a guide to journalism or an investigation into the way it operates. It’s really a series of essays and jottings on topics ranging from “fake news” , fact-checking and attribution to the over-reliance on metrics and the pressure in an online media world, to get the story out fast and correct mistakes (or not) later.

I never know with any certainty what I’m going to read next until the last moment.

I’m tempted by one of my recent purchases: A General Theory of Oblivion by the Angolan author Jose Eduardo Agualusa which is a strange story of a woman who, on the eve of Angolan independence, bricks herself into her apartment, where she will remain for the next thirty years. 

There are also some NetGalley proofs I should get to soon including A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe which is set in a Welsh community not far from where I was born. You may have heard the name of Aberfan from a tragic event 50 years ago when the waste from a coal mine slid down the mountain and buried children in the local school. Wroe’s novel features a pathologist who volunteers to help the community by identifying the children who died.

A friend recently gave me her copy of The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton, an Australian author I’ve yet to read and I also took delivery of The Well by Elizabeth Jolley, a novel recommended by Kim at Reading Matters who’d heard how much I’d enjoyed two of Jolley’s other novels.

And of course there are the hundreds of books that I bought years ago and have yet to open. Maybe their time has come?

What are your reading plans for the next few weeks? If you’ve read any of the books on my “reading next” list you can help me make a decision.



I

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

13 thoughts on “What I’m Reading : Episode 40, November 2021: From Korea to Angola

  • November 27, 2021 at 6:49 pm
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    I hope you enjoy all of these books! I love reading nonfiction, too, but don’t have much in my queue at the moment from that genre. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by my Top Ten Tuesday post recently.

    Reply
  • November 27, 2021 at 6:20 pm
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    I rarely know what I’m going to read. I enter then library with a few titles in mind from blogger reviews, get sidetracked, and come back with a whole miscellany of titles..

    Reply
  • November 25, 2021 at 1:05 pm
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    I’m frantically finishing novellas (three to go!) and catching up with reviewing (three to go! oh) and then as December begins I’ll be picking off Christmas books from the TBR, getting an earlier start on them this year!

    Reply
    • November 26, 2021 at 9:21 pm
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      Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about that

      Reply
  • November 25, 2021 at 4:28 am
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    I just finished The Satanic Verses, for the readalong I was co-hosting, and I’m glad to take a break with something much easier, hopefully: A Man Lay Dead, by Ngaio Marsh

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    • November 26, 2021 at 9:22 pm
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      I should think you definitely need a break after Rushdie

      Reply
  • November 25, 2021 at 4:23 am
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    A River in Darkness was moving and unsettling. I’m glad I read it, but life certainly was hard for the author and central figure.

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    • November 26, 2021 at 9:22 pm
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      I wish there had been a happier ending but it doesn’t seem to have been the case. Poor man

      Reply
  • November 25, 2021 at 12:23 am
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    The River of Darkness and Swimming Lessons appeal to me. I loved the Shepherd’s Hut. It was quite popular here.

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  • November 24, 2021 at 7:39 pm
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    I have a proof of A Terrible Kindness which I’m a little uncertain about reading although I’m sure I will.

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    • November 26, 2021 at 9:23 pm
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      I was dithering on it too…Aberfan is quite literally too close to home

      Reply
  • November 24, 2021 at 7:33 pm
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    Some really interesting titles there, I especially like the look of ‘A river in Darkness’ – straight onto my list.
    I have only read one Tim Winton – Cloud Street. The story just didn’t do it for me, a bit rambling, but I liked his writing style so will definitely try another one.

    My reading plans involve tackling my Netgalley pile, which I have neglected and find myself down to 40% (!). Looking forward to Jan Carsons new one. Once I finish Frantzen’s new one, and Yanagihara’s 700 page doorstepper, I know I’m going to love Claire Keegans new one “Small things like these.’

    I have about fifty titles unread between shelves and kindle and am currently devising a system to randomly read them.

    Reply
    • November 26, 2021 at 9:25 pm
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      River in Darkness is very bleak but insightful. I think I started an audio book of Cloud Street but abandoned it early on – it might just have been a poor choice for an audio, and worked better in print though.

      Reply

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