Finally the sun came out today and we decided to catch up on some sunshine poolside. This gave me the chance to finish Brick Lane by Monica Ali and I realized it had been a long while since I have done a book round up. So here it is:
Brick Lane is a book about a Bangladeshi woman who is married off to a man she has never met and moves from her small village to East London. The book traces about 15 years and over the course of the novel we meet a wide array of colourful characters that live in her neighbourhood and on her estate. These are the poor Bengali women who wear saris, walk a few steps behind their men; who drive the mini cabs that zip all over London. Ali writes these characters with such detail and empathy, I ended the book feeling that I had spent real time in their company. It is a good read, I really enjoyed it perhaps because it is predominantly character driven. For some reason it didn’t touch me as much as similar books have, and I’m not really sure why butI do recommend it highly.
Norwegian Wood was the book I finished in Sipi Falls. It is by Murakami and is apparently the most popular book ever in Japan. It is a sad, nostalgic story about one young man and the girls that have come into his life. It really is more about these strong female characters than it is about the main character. The streets of Tokyo feature strongly and I felt such bitter sweet nostalgia for Japan. I liked these people despite their total kookiness and I liked the writing which was sparse and elegant. It was a cold book in some ways, and not richly descriptive or melodramatic but in that sense it was very Japanese. The characters walk a lot, through Tokyo and the mountains of Northern Japan, they have sex a lot and they drink a lot. It is set in the late 60’s and the references to music of that decade pepper the book.
I read an Anita Shreve book called Testimony. She is what I call my rebound author. You know? Like the rebound guy you have a fling with between serious relationships. She is generally the lightest thing I read and what I turn to when I just want a good easy story. The other author in this rebound category is Jodi Piccoult. I was looking for a rebound book and I was lent two books by friends at school. One was The Memory of Water by Karen White and the other was Testimony. I became extremely impatient with the Water book and found the characters flat and uninteresting so I put it down ( Life is too short to read a book you don’t like so put it down and don’t feel guilty) and picked up Testimony . Testimony was predictable, written by formula, flat and frankly a bit boring. But it was quick and set in the snow and did the job. By the way my favorite Anita Shreve books are The Pilot’s Wife and The Last Time They Met.
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B Edwards is a rich and rewarding journey through one man’s life. It is the told in the voice of Ebenezer as he remembers his life on the island of Guernsey. I like this man, his memories, his friends, his island and his brutal honesty. I was sad to have to say goodbye when it came to an end, it was that sort of book. I got it as a birthday present last year from a very good old friend and he said it wasn’t easy to find. It is a rare and unknown book by a man that wrote this one novel in his whole life and died before it was even published by his good friend. It has a definite auto biographical touch to it, I wanted it to be true, in any case.
I adore David Sedaris and I bought his latest book in Heathrow on our way out here. He is my writing idol, in many ways. He writes about his own life and makes it hilarious, interesting and bizarre. The thing I love the most is the way that he sees things. It is called When you are Engulfed in Flames and it was great. I’ve read all his books and he never disappoints.
I love it when lodges and hotels have a book shelf filled with books we are welcome to read. The take one , leave one, idea is great , I, guiltily, do more of the taking than leaving, but anyway. I have had success a few times, I often find something surprising. In Ndali I picked up Rage Against the Meshugenah: Why it Takes Balls to go Nuts by Danny Evans and couldn’t put it down. It is a story about a man who goes into a deep depression and takes two years to come out. You wouldn’t think it possible, but this book is really very funny. I enjoyed it in a sort of voyeuristic way, I was intrigued by his ability to write about something quite mundane and make it readable. A bit American Jewish Trashy but fun, nevertheless.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an award winning book by a wonderful Nigerian writer. It is the story of a small family during the Biafra war and it is filled with love, joy, misery, questions of moral responsibility and the wickedness of colonialism. It is “epic” in the way that it constantly forces you to ask big questions and raises complicated issues and subjects. I am not sure if I was as haunted as I should have been, maybe I didn’t like nor care about the characters enough. Often I felt distant from the book even while I was immersed in it. Other times I was totally engrossed and appalled. Something held me back, though, and I think it was the unlikeability, for me, anyway, of the people involved in this fight for nation and home.
I have great books waiting on my bookshelf to read and I now just have to stand there, chin on hand and pick one. Some of my novel choices are: the underbelly of Montreal, British husbands and wives, a journalist in the Congo, a Cornish Family, Nigerian short stories, Nick Hornby’s world or the myriad that is Granta. I also have 13 new DVDs and a TV series on the same shelf but that is a different story.