Saturday, January 09, 2010

easing back into it

before i even begin to talk about the wonderful trip i just returned from (and try to gloss over the horrendous flight delays, cancellations, and airlines i had to contend with to get back home), i thought i would do a relatively easy review of a few books i read on my trip that i must discuss (have i mentioned i need a book club to join?!).

Two Lives (Vikram Seth)
i had seen this book before and perhaps i didn't attempt it as i didn't get even halfway through the author's A Suitable Boy (which i know some people have raved about), but i picked it up in the dublin airport in case i made it through the other books i had with me and it is a good thing i did.  in my time at airports and hotels alone i finished all 500 pages of this beauty and i wholeheartedly recommend it.

the story is a true one and covers the relationship between a young indian man and his future german bride, all the way from when they both must leave germany before the first world war to his stint in the british army to her tracing of her jewish family's fate to the life they rebuild in england and his dental practice (with one arm!) and their relationship with numerous friends and family.

i was mesmerised with this book and gobbled it up.  i loved the transcription of letters that were written between all the 'characters' in the book and it made me think that it truly is a lost art.  the language that was used, the honesty with which they spoke to one another, and the incredible subject matter that they were required to discuss.  imagine writing to your friends about the nazis, the holocaust, the fate of your sister and mother, the betrayal of friends, and the state of post war europe in your own handwriting and language.

this seemed like such a rare story, the interracial and interreligious relationship between two people in the first half of the century and yet, as you read it, it makes perfect sense.  i sincerely insist that you pick this book up, a great way to learn more about our shared history, love, and why it is important to know where we come from.  fantastic.

The Good Mayor (Andrew Nicoll)
i finished this book begrudingly.  i didn't much care for the characters or their decisions and wasn't really sure where the 'love' in this love story was to be found.  i had to find out what happened though, so i finished it.  in the fictional town of dot, there are things like lust, obsession, and abuse, but not much love as far as i was concerned.

i have never been one for fable-like stories and this seemed one of those, something not entirely believable and not deep enough to really have a sense for who the characters were or what their intentions were.  so i was a bit disconnected throughout.

i read it, but i wouldn't recommend it.  not when there are so many fantastic books out there!

Something to Tell You (Hanif Kureishi)
after watching an interview with Kureishi, i picked up his book having never read anything he had written and not knowing what to expect. well, was i ever in for a whirlwind!

the story is largely about the search for pleasure (or at least that is what i took away from it).  it takes places in london and london is a character unto itself in the story (which is something i always love).  the main character seems to be at a crossroads that he never expected and is looking backwards and forwards to find out how to tie his loose ends while at the same time searching for something that will make him feel 'good.'  as you would expect, where he expects to find pleasure and contentment is not where he manages to find it and the twists and turns in the story are taken by the the main character, a psychoanalyst, in stride as they parallel the same search that is going on by those around him.

i am really not sure how i feel about this book apart from it really made me think and the characters are still alive within my mind.  and yet, did i enjoy it?  not particularly.  i liked the story, but i didn't like the experiences of the characters or what they were searching for.  and yet, it brings to light the fact that when anyone is seeking pleasure (and everyone does) that what they find often looks a lot more like pain, emotional or physical, but sometimes that is exactly as it should be.  and perhaps that is why i was uncomfortable with the story at times, because it was real.

i know i will be thinking of this novel for a long while, so in the meantime, if i have not done it justice, check out some other reviews at the guardian and the independent.  and if you wouldn't mind, could you please read this book so we can discuss it?!

and in this research, i found out that Kureishi and i went to the same uni in england!


Sandra said...

I put it on hold at the library and will give it a shot. I always love discussing books so consider me in if you want to make a book club.

lu said...

well that is two of us for a book club! do you know anyone who might be interested?

lu said...

oh and i forgot to mention that since i am done with it, i can lend the book to you so you don't have to wait for the library (assuming there is a wait).

Anonymous said...

Very much enjoyed "Two Lives" too. While since I read it though and must say that it didn't impact me half as much as "A Suitable Boy". As for Kureishi, I used to gobble up all his books, but I haven't read that one. My favourite to date was "The Buddha of Suburbia". At a certain point I came to find his writing/state of mind too harsh or abrasive, but I'll definitely read this one and let you know what I think. A

Anonymous said...

Really loved "The Northern Clemency" by Hensher, by the way. Epic tome. Dostoyevsky like. Impressive recreation of a time and place. Great attention to detail. Rich patchwork of characters. Inter-woven tales. Acute realism. Perceptive, articulate dissection of humanity. A (again)

Sandra said...

Just picked up "Something to Tell You" at the library so I'll get reading. No, unfortunately, I don't know anyone else looking for a book club right now. I'm not sure two fits the definition of a group but we can always get together for a coffee and chat:)

lu said...

we can have our own book twosome until we find more joiners, great idea!!