The one advantage of holidaying in Ireland in bad weather is that you get plenty of time to read, with no glare from the sun and no sunscreen dripping into your eyes. Well, there are other advantages, but to be honest it suited me fine that it was raining as I’d plenty of time to read!
I decided to try and make my way through the Booker longlist (it’ll probably take me until my next holidays in October before I get back to this, but bear with me!). My last post mentioned Anne Enright’s The Green Road.
This is a very cleverly built story of an Irish family; the characters are really well crafted and their stories are utterly absorbing. The juxtaposition of the gay scene in 1980s New York and post-genocide Cambodia with Celtic Tiger era West Clare is shocking and visceral. Dan’s story stood out for me, and has brought me a totally new insight into the horrific environment for gay men when the AIDS epidemic was at its height, but how it’s woven into the overall narrative is just superb. It’s a superlative novel.
I also read Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread.
I love Anne Tyler’s writing, and this is a gorgeous novel. As always, the gentleness of Tyler’s writing belies the depth of it. This story, of an ‘ordinary’ suburban family in the US, has revelation after revelation introduced so gently that you almost don’t realise you should be shocked. It’s a gem of a read.
I also picked up The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud.
Like pretty much everyone who studied French in college, I studied the Camus novel L’Etranger. I hated it beyond words, but this novel intrigued me. It’s the classic story of a French colonist who murders the nameless ‘Arab’ turned on its head. The brother of the ‘Arab’ speaks to an unknown interrogator in a bar, chapter after chapter, about his brother’s death, the mystery surrounding it, and the almost supernatural after effects on his life. It’s creepy, it’s powerful and it’s an absolutely stunning account of colonial and post-colonial life from the point of view of the heretofore anonymous ‘native’. He’s not a revolutionary or a collaborator but, like most, somewhere in between, just trying to get by, in a life overshadowed by the world-famous death of a brother who became a non-person. Well worth a read.
I have also picked up The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, but haven’t got to it yet. I haven’t read a huge amount of Nigerian writing (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – whom I love – excepted) so I’m looking forward to reading it.
That’s the lot from the Booker list so far (next month’s pay cheque will have to pay for the next instalment!) but I have started into the collected short stories of Frank O’Connor, which I’m mortified to say I’d never read apart from a few at school. I’m finding them totally engrossing (at least in part because I’m so familiar with the areas he writes about), and I’ll blog about them at a later date!