When do I get the sound of silence?

This seems to happen to me every Christmas. In the run up to the festivities I contemplate all those hours when, sans work pressures,  I’ll be able to indulge in nothing more demanding than picking up a book.  I even list in my head the books that will be my companions during this time.

Seven days into the holiday now and my bookish idyll has yet to materialise. I forget just how much preparation the two days of Christmas seem to require so instead of reading I found myself in a seemingly endless cycle of gift shopping, food shopping, gift wrapping and cooking. Followed by a few days when it felt as if I was either preparing a meal, eating it, or clearing away. The closest I got to a moment of silence was an hour on Boxing Day but even that was a bit of a guilty moment since when you’re staying with members of the family it seems rude to shut yourself off from the conversations.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that now the big day is over and the visitors have gone, I can get some more relaxation time. And particularly some time to get acquainted with the new additions to my book collection courtesy of generous relatives.

books2014The newcomers to my bookshelves are a mix of genres from authors originating from three continents.

From Europe comes Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton. This was recommended by a number of bloggers who read my recent review of Wives and Daughters so I shall look forward to this. I’m told its more akin to North and South which I preferred to Wives and Daughters.  A review by Stu of Winstondad’s blog   led me to request The Search Warrant by the Nobel Literature prize winner Patrick Modiano  which traces the author’s attempts to discover the fate of a young girl who vanished from a convent school during the Occupation of France in 1941. Thanks to a review by Guy at SwiftlyTiltingPlanet I became the owner of The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe di Piazza which will take me to Sicily in the 1980s, an island plagued by drugs, death and – of course – the Mafia. My fourth book from the European continent is by the Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir whose novel The Silence of the Sea by which has been described as ‘a corker of a locked room mystery with one of the most dramatic twists in recent crime fiction.

The two remaining gifts are both going to be emotional reads I suspect because of their subject matter. From Australia I am welcoming Richard Flanagan and his 2014 Man Booker prize winning novel,  The Narrow Road to the Deep North which the publishers describe as ‘a savagely beautiful novel’ partly set in a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway. Death is also prevalent in my last acquisition, Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. This is a true life account of the five days  at a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina. I remember reading an extract in a Sunday newspaper supplement and being moved to tears by her depiction of the ethical dilemmas encountered by the hospital staff who knew that they could not save all of those patients in their care.

Now my only dilemma is which of these tremendous books to read first. What would you choose?

About 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

Posted on December 28, 2014, in Man Booker Prize and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. I hope your quiet time has finally arrived! You got some lovely books. The Flanagan is really good! I’m on the waitlist at the library for one of Modiano’s books but I can’t remember the title at the moment.

    • There are very few Modiano’s available in English it seems. At least thats what my husband discovered when he was trying to get one for me – he could get them in Latvian but not English oddly.

  2. No, I’ll look for that article, too. It’s interesting about the Neopolitan trilogy. At first,mo was thinking, “What’s the big deal?” Yet after finishing My Brilliant Friend I can’t get the characters or their lives out of my mind. After tiring of waiting for Book Two to arrive from the library, I bought it for my kindle. The writing is quite compelling, and all the more so after reading the indepth review you led me to from the NYTimes.

  3. The only one on your list which I’ve read is The Narrow Road To The Deep North, which was harrowing yet unforgettably worthy. I haven’t formed my top ten list for 2014 yet, but when I do (if I do) it will surely be included.

    Isn’t it strange how the time to read during Christmas vacation escapes us? I, too, had great hopes for reading time. Yet, seeing friends and family, doing the things which lovely meals require, create such a frenetic energy I can’t seem to calm myself enough to enjoy a book. It’s a wonder I made it through My Brilliant Friend last night!

    I did read the link you left me on my blog, and I enjoyed it immensely having just read the novel. I did not capture the depth and wonder of the novel which the New York Times encapsulated so beautifully, so thank you for sharing it with me.

    • Harrowing but unforgettable -that sounds like a brilliant combination Bellezza.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the NYRB article on Ferrante. I seem to see her name cropping up everywhere now – The London Review of Books has an article in the latest edition on her novel Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Have you come across that one?

  4. Silence of the Sea attracted my eye. I’ve not read this author. Put it on my 2015 list.

    • I hadn’t heard of her either Paula but it was highly recommended in the Sunday Times newspaper and since I’ve never read anything by an author from Iceland it went on my wish list

  5. Lovely looking book pile there. Hope you manage to find the peace and time to read them now Christmas is over. I have the Richard Flannagan book on my kindle but keep putting off reading it, people keep using the word harrowing about it.

    • I know what you mean Ali – I read The Railway Man many years ago which covered the same ground (the one by Eric Lomax that became a film) and found that very difficult to read because of the subject matter.

  6. I’m curious to know what you’ll think of Yrsa. I read My Soul To Take and found it dull and quite weak to be honest. The twists mentioned on the book’s jacked seemed very contrived at times and at others just plain ridiculous… I think My Soul to Take was her first book, so I’ll be looking to your review and decide if I will give her another chance.

  7. Save for ‘Mary Barton’ (which I liked very much and perhaps better than North and South) I know nothing of the other titles. They sound interesting, though – especially The Silence of the Sea’ and ‘The Road to the Deep North’.

    I’ve discovered that the Christmas season is the busiest one of the year. I have so many bundles of answer papers waiting to be corrected within the next one week, and I still haven’t found the time!

    I hope you get your sound of silence soon. ^_^

  8. I know exactly what you mean – it’s an exhausting time. We had 10 here for Christmas meal, and 8 for Boxing Day. A lot of work – preparing, doing, cleaning. Still, it means other meals have been easy – just eat leftovers!

    I’d probably go for Mary Barton. I haven’t read it but have read several Gaskells – North and South (my favourite), Wives and daughters, Cranford and Ruth (probably my least favourite, because it’s the most moralistic, but still a good read.) I’ve had MB on my TBR for a while.

    • There comes a time doesn’t there where no matter how much you love your friends and family, you are glad to see them return to their own homes…. I’ve not read Ruth but I didn’t care for Cranford at all. It was far too episodic and whimsy for me

      • Yes … I know exactly what you mean.

        As for Cranford. I read it a few decades ago when I was in my late teens, or early 20s, and enjoyed it then. It was a bit Jane-Austen-lite, if that makes sense. Have no idea what I would think now. I think she’s best with her more social justice type novels like North and South (and I believe Mary Barton.)

  9. I am almost through The Narrow Road to the Deep North. It is a bleak, brutal and beautiful book. I wasn’t sure I could read it — didn’t know if I wanted to make my way through a POW camp. Now need something lighter. So difficult for me to push through the surgery and the beating scenes at the heart of the book. But yes, I understand why it received the Man Booker. How could it not?

  10. It depends on your mood. Right now I’m bleak and dark. How about you?

    • I can look at the shelves and decide what I don’t feel like reading at that particular time which obviously is connected to the mood I’m in. But its an unconscious choice really Guy – i’m not aware that I ever think ‘I feel like something uplifting/funny/dark etc.

  11. I’d choose The Silence of the Sea but that’s only because I’m into crime fiction, but it caught my eye first thing anyway because I wasn’t familiar with it and thought it would be a good one. I’ll be interested in hearing whenever you do get to it.

    Lately, I’ve been suffering (last few months) from tinnitus so when you mentioned the sound of silence, it made me think of that. I don’t get too much of that anyway, but am thankful for when I have those days or hours that I do have the silence. It can be a wondrous thing. That said, hope you can find yours soon, to read whichever book you choose.

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