November reading, once again big thanks to people who keep posting links in the discount thread.
Chilean Poet - Alejandro Zambra - I’m a big fan of a lot of South American stuff having studied it quite closely for my degree, and have since become quite a fan of Bolano. This is a book that both pokes fun at, demystifies, and tenderly recalls a lot of his ilk - and there are a lot of stereotypes referenced throughout. It’s full of in jokes and I’m sure there are a lot that went over my head but it was still laugh out loud funny and really poignant.
Children of Paradise- Camilla Grudova - Totally devoured this and found myself, despite all the weirdness that takes place there, being able to visualise the Paradise vividly. There’s a lot of personal feeling and some really gnarly bits in there but the main thread I took away was around the loss of cultural spaces and the uniformity of the high street.
Instructions for a Heatwave - Maggie O’Farrell - This was my third O’Farrell - having absolutely loved Hamnet and tolerated The Distance Between Us. I enjoyed the family dynamics in this more than the general vibe of TDBU but on the whole it was closer to that than Hamnet. I’ve found in both this and TDBU that there are plots I focus on that never get closure and just fade away out of focus into the distance. Maybe that’s intentional but it doesn’t work for me.
Collected Short Stories - E. M. Forster - At this point I don’t think Forster is for me - I’ve still got a Passage to India to go but I found most of these stories quite flimsy, and told in a different voice they could have lasted a page or two rather than twenty - I kept thinking of Borges - what if Borges had told some of them! The economy of words can be a powerful thing.
The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver - The first BK I’ve read - got Demon Copperhead loaded up too. Really enjoyed relaxing into a mini family saga with little to no violence and no fantastical elements at all. Just the sadness and hopefulness of normal human life. Was very invested in the story and look forward to Pigs in Heaven now, which I’ll get round to at some point.
Cuddy - Benjamin Myers - This is absolutely brilliant - 5(I think) stories orbiting around the central figure of St. Cuthbert and the city of Durham. They link up so intriguingly and it’s told in prose, poetry, play, non-fiction and historical record, making for a richly realised world. I found it intensely profound. If you struggle with the first 20% or so of the book I’d still recommend pushing through as I found the payoff magnificent. Straight to number one on the updated Monk/Nun chart (see below).
A visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan - This might have suffered because I read it after Cuddy, which really is one of my favourite books I’ve read in a long time. I found it pretty easy going but incredibly skittish - I couldn’t really get my teeth into any of the characters. As soon as I wanted to know more about a point in time it was gone. Will still read the sequel, though.
The Vanishing Half - Brit Bennett - Really absorbing easy to read family drama about the identities we choose for ourselves and the people around us.
Updated MONK/NUN chart:
8 - Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
7 -The Western Wind - Samantha Harvey
6 - The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
5- Doomsday Book - Connie Willis
4 - An Instance of the Fingerpost - Iain Pears
3 - Q - Luther Blissett
2 - Narcissus & Goldmund - Herman Hesse
1- Cuddy - Benjamin Myers