Monday, February 3, 2014

Read This: My January Reading List

I constantly have a book on the go.  I'm not sure that there's anything that I love more than books.  I'm also an avid hater of regular e-reading and need the real lief, physical experience - but I won't go off on a tangent and try to persuade you (at least not today).

Since the new year, I have been just plain hungry for reading.  I want to devour books as quickly as I can but am also very sad when they end.  I've managed to get through four this month, and I highly recommend them all.  

This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz

And that’s when I know that it’s over.  As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end…

The half-life of love is forever

The chapters of This is How You Lose Her read like a collection of short stories often linked by the recurring character and Yunior, who appears in Junot Diaz’s previous books, at various stages of life and the major theme of the infidelity of men in romantic relationships. Diaz himself has described the book as a young man’s struggle to overcome his Dominican cultural training and inner habits to create lasting relationships.  Yunior is certainly a man who appears to be seeking intimacy and, perhaps, lasting love, but he is ultimately terrible at succeeding in this.

Ultimately, I read the book as being a struggle with time in love, both familial and romantic. This book is presented in a very minimalist state, in that Diaz uses his words sharply and directly to tell these tales across a mere 224 pages, which in its own way adds to the conveyance of this struggle.

Rating: 7/10

Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple

"You are bored. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be."

I now understand why this book was widely very popular over the last year.  Where'd You Go Bernadette, which reads like Bernadette's daughter piecing together the events in her parents' lives, is a darkly funny tale of a modern family.  Bernadette, former famous architect, mother and wife, is a great character who has lost herself and then goes missing.  A quick and witty read.

Rating: 7/10

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

"...the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don't surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don't. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won't. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic."

"The air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside."

I thought that this book had lost me within the first chapter, which I found quite confusing - maybe due to switching between the direct writing styles of Junot Diaz and Maria Semple to something much more full of imagery and multiple meanings.  I'm glad I stuck with it.  The God of Small Things is the story of a family, of the caste system in India and of love - the Love Laws, that lay down who should be loved and how and how much.  It is the story of a widow, of a proud man and of two-egg twins who lose themselves to a tragedy that lingers throughout the book.  What I really loved about the way this book is written is how Roy plays with the words, using capital letters to make proper nouns out of important concepts and how a large part of this dark story is told through the innocent eyes of children.

Rating: 8/10

Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi

"He isn't sure he ever knew them, or could, that a man can know a woman in the end. So, the women he;s loved. Who knew nothing of satisfaction. Who having gotten what they wanted always promptly wanted more. Not greedy. Never greedy...They were doers and thinkers and lovers and seekers and givers, but dreamers, most dangerously of all. 
They were dreamer-women. 
Very dangerous woman. 
Who looked at the world through their wide dreamer-eyes and saw it not as it was, "brutal, senseless," etc., but worse, as it might be or might yet become.
So, insatiable women.
Un-pleasable women.
Who wanted above all things what could not be had. Not what they could not have - no such thing for such women - but what wasn't there to be had in the first place. And worst: who looked at him and saw what he might yet become. More beautiful than he believes he could possibly be."

Another story about family, Ghana Must Go, is about the Nigerian-Ghanaian Sai family living in the United States.  This is the story of the fallout of a family once prospering, after disgrace causes the head of the family, Kwekeu, to abandon his wife and five children and return to Ghana.  The family becomes fragmented and is brought together again after a decade by another tragedy.  Taiye Selasi's debut is beautifully written and completely captivating.  She elegantly portrays the effect of personal damage and grief and pays equal tribute to the lasting effect of one's scars and the ability to overcome. This novel has been tipped to win awards and deserves them.

Rating: 9/10

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