Sunday, 4 November 2012

Reading notes on a Sunday morning…


On this Sunday morning I feel I’ve been granted an extra hour in my day thanks to Daylight Savings Time ending, and so have more time to enjoy my tea as I compose my post.

I finished reading The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda earlier this week, which was the book club selection for yesterday’s meeting.  This novel tells the story of two couples, one in India and one in America, and the tie that binds them, the daughter who is given up by one and adopted by the other.  It explores topics such as motherhood, cultural identity, poverty and affluence, joy and despair, and womanhood in different cultures.  It is a popular book club selection and the first novel by this Toronto-born author, and my ladies loved it.  They found the relationships of both couples to be realistically portrayed, and the characters to be very “human”, flawed but believable.  We discussed what it would be like to go to a different country and face the cultural challenges that are inevitable there.  We discussed what it means for a woman to miscarry, and how men can’t possibly understand the loss that is suffered, how there is no really acceptable method of grieving, but that grieving must be done or the loss never properly heals.  We also discussed the gender inequality in various countries around the world, and the problems these inequalities create or sustain.  All in all, it was an excellent discussion that covered a wide array of subject areas, and the book was definitely well received.  I met with a friend after the meeting and passed my copy of the book on to her - I hope she enjoys it!

I finished this book on Tuesday evening, and I knew I would get no reading done on Wednesday night, as it was Halloween, but I knew I would be faced with difficulty when choosing the next book to read.  The next book selection for my other book club is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I started reading that on Wednesday evening, and found this attempt to be much like my last attempt to read this book.  I find this novel very challenging to read, for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I’m not a fan of magic realism.  I prefer literary fiction, something realistic or believable.  I think I can define this style of writing as such:  Magic realism folds magical elements into everyday life and expects the reader to suspend their sense of disbelief and accept these magical elements as true.  I have a hard time doing this, and so I’ve decided not to read this book.  I will still go to the meeting, though, as I am interested in hearing what others have to say about their experiences reading this novel.  Maybe I will try to read something else by this author instead, so at least I’ve made some sort of effort for this group.

Then I got notification from the library that a couple of books I had requested had come in,  Stray Bullets by Robert Rotenberg and Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding.  I picked them up on Thursday evening, and started reading the Rotenberg novel that night.  If you recall, I wrote about his previous titles, Old City Hall and Guilty Plea, in earlier posts, and raved about them.  The characters in those novels were interesting and varied, the plots were complex and engaging, and the city of Toronto was so vividly described that it was almost as important a character in the novel as anyone else involved in the plot.  I think one reviewer said, of Old City Hall, “Rotenberg does for Toronto what Ian Rankin does for Edinburgh”.  I was quite excited to start this book, as it is a new plot but features many of the same characters as his earlier novels.  But somehow it didn’t grab me.  It must be the timing, or something to do with my reading mood, but I just couldn’t get past the first few pages with any enthusiasm.  That’s unfortunate, but I’m sure there will be a better time to read this book soon.  So then I read the back of the Harding novel, which I don’t recall requesting but must have done so.  The reviews suggest that this novel will appeal to fans of Anne Michaels and Michael Ondaatje, and I knew before I even opened the book that this would not suit my mood at that moment.  That, too, will go on the pile of items to be returned to the library.

So what is this frustrated reader to do?  I know I should read another title from my “required reading” box, but I just want to read something for fun, something I really want to read just because I like it, and it feels like I haven’t done that in a very long time.  While at work on Friday, I read an article by Ian McEwan entitled “Some Notes on the Novella” (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/10/some-notes-on-the-novella.html#entry-more).  In this online article, McEwan talks about the value of the novella, and the unfair dismissal of this form of prose fiction by critics.  He mentions his latest novel, Sweet Tooth, in this article, and at that moment I knew what I would read next.  I love the way McEwan writes, the way he uses every word so carefully and expresses every thought so succinctly, with no unnecessary description or superfluous language.  I haven’t read many novellas, but I think that they might appeal to me, as I prefer short novels that say a lot over long novels that describe everything in great detail.  I want novels that take a brief period in a character’s life and describe how something that happens to that character changes his or her life irrevocably.  A bit about Sweet Tooth... I started reading this title a while ago, but put it away because I had other books I had to read for one reason or another.  The novel tells the story of a woman who is recruited by MI 5 in 1972 to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer in order to allow the British Intelligence Service to fund writers whose politics align with those of the government.  At first she reports on the writer, then she falls in love with him.  How long can she conceal her undercover life from the man she loves?  I hope to find out soon!  I’m thankful for that serendipitous reading of the article for helping me select my next book, and will write about my reading experience in my next post.

Another problem I have today is selecting another audio book to listen to.  I finished listening to The Dark Room by Minette Walters on Saturday, which was excellent, and need something else to entertain me while I am walking or taking the bus over the next few weeks.  I will be checking what is available to download through the library’s online catalog today, and will hopefully stumble upon a “hidden gem”, or at least something that can hold my interest until the end.

That’s all for today.

Bye for now!
Julie

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