Thursday, March 6, 2014

Read This: My February Reading List

Happy World Book Day! There are a lot of little English children going to school today dressed as their favourite characters (and I'm a little bit jealous). Carrying on with what I started in January, in February I read immersed myself in these three books.  Once again, I recommend them all. This month, I've added my rating out of 10, and I've updated January, as well.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

"All children have to be deceived if they're going to grow up without trauma"

I watched this film when it was first out back in 2010 - the one with Kiera Knightly and Carey Mulligan - and I must not have been paying very much attention to the trailer (don't watch it now - it tells you the whole story) because I was expecting some kind of romantic drama but not sci-fi, as such.  

Never Let Me Go tells the story of three students who grew up at Hailsham, a school where there is a heavy emphasis on art and staying healthy.  They grow up somewhat in the dark about who they are and how the wider world around them works, and their naivety is both touching and sad.  The reader is similarly in the dark, with the story narrated by Kathy, one of the students, having to guess at what lies ahead for the students, what human society has done and guided by Ishiguro's subtlety.  The book also focuses on the friendship between Kathy and Ruth and the love triangle of sorts that forms with Tommy.  This is a story of friendship, innocence, love and loss.

Rating: 7/10

Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris

"Every day we're told that we live in the greatest country on earth. And it's always stated as an undeniable fact: Leos are born between July 23 and August 22, fitted queen-size sheets measure sixty by eighty inches, and America is the greatest country on earth. Having grown up with this in our ears, it's startling to realize that other countries have nationalistic slogans of their own, none of which are 'We're number two!

Me Talk Pretty One Day is the third of book by David Sedaris that I've read (the other two being Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and When You Are Engulfed in Flames). Other people had always told me that this was Sedaris' best book, and it was certainly my favourite of the three that I've read. Like his other books, this is a collection of short stories, although several of the chapters have themes carried over from others. They tell humorous tales from Sedaris' life, with topics ranging from his lisp to his stint as a meth head/artist to his struggles to learn French.  This book had me pulling a grinning a large portion of the time and occasionally laughing out loud in public (something I generally try to avoid whilst alone to avoid looking crazy).

Rating: 7.5/10

White Teeth, Zadie Smith

"But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears - dissolution, disappearance."

"They cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow."

White Teeth was also the third book that I've read by Zadie Smith and her most well known.  In the past year, I've also read her novels NW and On Beauty, and I really liked the second but thought that the first was pretty mediocre.  White Teeth, Zadie Smith's debut novel written at age 24 when she was just out of Cambridge, is a story of the lives of Samad Iqbal and Archibald Jones and their families. Each section of the book is told from a different character's perspective, with all of the threads running together in the final section.  In this novel, Smith really sets herself up as an expert on characterisation - her ability to make multiple characters immediately come to life in a way that makes them so familiar and feels so intimate is fantastic (a technic she uses in her later novels, as well).  Throughout the book several themes are woven, including the influence of the past, immigration, chance, assimilation, fundamentalism, race and religion.

Rating: 8/10

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