Lying around with my leg in a cast for six weeks meant that I finally got around to doing some reading. It was quite nice not to feel guilty for reading during the day. So I thought I’d do a brief summation of the books that helped me through my convalescence.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
I really loved this book set in WWII, though it can be very harrowing. I thought it was a well-deserved 2014 Man Booker prize winner, it takes me to dark places, even in some of my favourite places in the world. I remember hearing an interview with the author who talked about someone in his town who had been a refugee from a war torn country, was separated from his wife and tried in vain to find her, concluding in the end that she had died. He established a new life with a new family in Australia. Then one day many years later, on a business trip to Sydney, he was walking down the street and saw his first wife, walking along with a family. And the question was, would he stop or not? This was part of the inspiration for his book, but there was much much more to the story.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Another WWII book, set in Germany and France, telling the story of two children growing up in the 1930s, and as young adults in the 1940s. Perhaps an easier read than Richard Flanagan’s book, but an interesting story, with interesting perspectives of the war that I haven’t necessarily read about before.
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
A very easy read, light relief after the two WWII books, though perhaps this one was a little too glib, about a man with Asperger’s (though he’s never specifically diagnosed) and his life with his now wife, Rosie. A sequel to the Rosie Project, it didn’t really find anywhere new to go, so was a little disappointing, perhaps even slightly annoying.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
I haven’t seen the movie starring Reese Witherspoon, but after reading this, I’d like to. I like the idea of doing a walk like this, but know the reality would be completely different. I could feel the pain of every blister on my own sensitive feet, and still don’t know how she managed to keep walking! I enjoyed the book much more than I expected, and walked away from it with a useful piece of information – my new walking shoes are probably a size too small.
Heavenly Hirani’s School of Laughing Yoga by Sarah-Kate Lynch
Sarah-Kate Lynch is a New Zealand writer with a good sense of humour, and I gobble up her books in a day or so. They are light, comic, and set in exotic locales – this one is set in Mumbai, India, a city I’ve been to briefly for work. Whilst they probably fall in the chick-lit (I hate that name) genre, there’s always something a bit poignant in her books. They’re not great literature, but every so often we need to read something that makes us happy. That’s the conclusion I made at the end of 2015, and I’m pleased I did!
Adoration by Doris Lessing
I usually avoid compilations of shorts stories like the plague, because I find them so unsatisfying. Just as I become committed to a storyline or a character the story ends. But stories here are slightly longer – perhaps more like novellas – and were intriguing, with interesting (if occasionally unbelievable) characters. The fact that two are set in Africa also appealed. Again, there is a war theme in at least one of the stories. Ultimately, though, not as satisfying as the few other Doris Lessing books I’ve read.
We are Now Beginning Our Descent by James Meek
I haven’t read James Meek’s most famous book, The People’s Act of Love, much to the horror of some readers I know. I started it, and got stuck. This book is less well known, but I enjoyed it, though I will admit the characters frequently frustrated me. Part set in Afghanistan and Iraq, part in the UK and part in the US, there was definitely enough here to keep me reading. There were moments in his writing that captured me – one comment about hope gave me an entirely new perspective on the concept. I appreciate any writer who can make me think like that. Maybe I’ll give The People’s Act of Love another chance.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, this is only the second Anne Tyler book I’ve read. They are books focusing very much on family and interpersonal relationships. They might at times be frustrating, with flawed characters, but they are certainly not boring, and this one – which covers several generations – has a few surprises that I just did not expect.