Reading is all about finding the perfect book to take to bed at night. I like the last half hour of the day to be spent absorbed in the pages of a book, something that takes away the day and leaves you absorbed in another place and time. I’ve struggled over the past couple of months to find the perfect companion, but this month I hit the jackpot.
Celeste Ng’s, Everything I Never Told You was the book I’d been looking for to take me out of my reading rut. I found it recommended on a blog, for which I am extremely grateful. For the life of me I can’t remember whose blog it was, which is really annoying because if this is the quality of the recommendations, I want more from where it came from. This is essentially a family saga. It details the life of the Lee family, a mixed race American/Chinese family living in a small university town in Ohio during the 1970s. The book opens with the middle and favourite child, Lydia, being found drowned in the local lake. Essentially the book is focuses on the family trying to find out what happened to Lydia, exposing a web of family secrets in the process. Although the novel explores the racism of the period, it is the relationships within the family that leave their mark. This is a highly recommended read.
Family Life by Akhil Sharma falls into the family story genre as well. This time it’s an Indian family migrating to the US seeking the better life they dreamed of back in their homeland. Their high hopes for life in a new country are thwarted when the prodigal son sustains a life changing injury. Told from the point of view of the younger brother Ajay, who lived in shadow of his high-achieving brother, the novel explores the impact of tragedy on individual members and the family as a whole. This is written in a very simple style, which takes a little getting used to. Once you get over the fact that it is what it is, and not expect anything more from it (is this a young adult novel, you may ask), you can sit back and consider the story that is being told.
To change it up a bit, I switched to a thriller/murder mystery. What I love about books in this genre is they are usually a fast read that keep you interested. They often start out at a cracking pace, level out in the middle and then fall a bit short in the end. This is certainly true of In A Dark Dark Wood (Ruth Ware). Here we have a hen’s weekend set in a cabin, in an isolated wood, with friends who used to be friends but aren’t really any more: an assortment of characters that are all a bit peculiar, but make the story a little more intriguing. There’s great tension in this novel, which is just what you want, but some of the scene building is a little over the top. The dark,dark wood; the cabin with large glass window walls making the inhabitants feel like they are on show; and the rifle mounted above the mantel, to name a few. Despite that, this is worth reading purely for reading’s sake.
Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover, saw a switch back to the family saga. This was in no way intentional. It’s just what happens when you rely on the local library for your reading choices. I really enjoy this author so of course I picked it up when I saw it. Once again a tale of how families survive in adversity and the impact it has on individual members. But it is so much more than that. This is the story of Alma, an 80 year old woman living in a residential complex for the elderly, reflecting back on her life to her assistant Irina. Loss, friendship, love and forgiveness all get a voice from both women whose individual stories are intertwined. Another great read for October.
Book number 5: Today Will Be Different (Maria Semple). Eleanor Flood’s life is a mess and today when she wakes up she decides: “today will be different”. And from there, it’s a steady decline. Eleanor is disorganised, self indulgent and a bit annoying, and this is a witty and entertaining insight into a day in her life. What more is there to say. If you’ve read Where’d You Go, Bernadette, you’ll know what to expect. This is an easy read that will leave you shaking your head, with a smile on your face, if people like Eleanor drive you crazy.
What a huge month of reading October has been. Five books in one month is a little bit crazy, but I really do only read before I go to sleep and whilst having my morning cup of tea. It’s probably more an indication that these books were great reads. My favourite would have to be Everything I Never Told You. You should give it a go.