Monday, 3 February 2014
What I Read in January
I had already decided that I wanted to read more books this year, so when Laura of Circle of Pine Trees posted launched the The Year In Books I didn't think twice about joining in as this was just the encouragement I needed to make sure I didn't go back on my resolution.
The first book I read in January was 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn. The book opens as Amy disappears on her wedding anniversary and pretty soon suspicion falls on her husband. Set in contemporary America, it's a real page turner with lots of unexpected plot twists but ultimately I found the ending unsatisfactory. As it's a thriller, I'll say no more.
The other book I read was 'N W' by Zadie Smith. Smith, of course, is a highly acclaimed young author and I was looking forward to discovering her work. In 'N W' I wasn't disappointed. I loved her adventurous use of language, particularly the streams of consciousness in the first section of the book which reminded me of the cadence of rap music.
'N W' tells the story of four people who grew up on a grim working class council estate in the cultural melting pot of North West London. Three of them, Leah, Keisha (who later calls herself Natalie) and Nathan went to the same school. The two women were among the few to go on to university while Nathan has become a drug addict. The women keep in touch but their friendship is brittle. Leah, still living in the area where they grew up, is married to a romantic Frenchman who dreams of improving their lot and of having children. Natalie's life seems perfect on the outside - she is a successful barrister, married with a handsome husband and two children, a nanny and beautiful house. But the cost of what it took her to achieve this takes its toll.
The other character is Felix. A one time drug addict, he has but his bad habits behind him. He's in love with his girlfriend, calls to visit his father (the description of his Rasta dad and his overheated apartment is outstanding), seals a deal to buy an old MG car from a yuppie, and calls in on an old girlfriend to seek closure on their relationship.
To say anymore would spoil the story which I would highly recommend if you enjoy a book which challenges and sparkles in equal measure. It might not be perfect, a couple of things jar, but then life isn't perfect either and this is a book that's all about life.
As I've been feeling poorly lately, with a sinus infection which refuses to go away, I've been doing a lot more reading than usual.
I've read some short stories from the Richard Yates collection 'Eleven Kinds of Loneliness', dipping into perfectly crafted and heart-breaking insights into the lives of 1950s New Yorkers. They're so good that I want to save them, like rationing a box of rich dark chocolate.
And I've even read my first February book, 'Italian Shoes' by Henning Mankell, which I'll review at the end of the month.
What next? At the moment it's a toss up between 'A Street Cat Named Bob' as I'm in the mood for some undemanding reading or 'Noctures' by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Of course, now that I've rediscovered my love of reading, there could be even more.
Thanks to Laura again for this great idea to bring readers and bloggers together.