The Reading List #11
These posts are normally once a week, but I’m so behind where I’m actually up to in terms of reading that I thought I’d sneak in an extra post this week. I’m still in the phase of pulling things off the downstairs bookshelf and then seeing what I think, so it’s a mixture, as ever…
The Paris Wife, Paula McLain
This is a fictional telling of the life of Hadley, Earnest Hemingway’s wife, and is based on biographical events. It begins in 1920, when Hadley is a young girl caught up in the flushes of first love, and tells the story of her years as a wife and mother. I didn’t know much about Hemingway’s life, certainly not as much as I do about those of some of his contemporaries, so found it fascinating for that point of view.
This book was brilliantly written, and so sad at times. Hadley’s perspective is believable and one that would have remained unheard at the time. You understand the decisions she makes, but some are heartbreaking, or you will her to take action sooner. Against the backdrop of the literary scene of the 20s and 30s, it is a beautiful look at an ill-fated marriage, and well worth a read. I was a big fan.
Friday Nights, Joanna Trollope
This is my first Joanna Trollope novel, and she seems to fall into the ‘comfort read but not so trashy you’re embarrassed to admit to it’ category. A group of six women, all of different ages and life experiences, find comfort in spending their Friday evenings together. The novel is about what happens when some of these bonds are neglected or begin to fracture. As the characters’ priorities change, there are passages on friendship and on the passing of time, which are worth a look. There was an overarching sense of sadness and loneliness to the book which was maintained well, but not overplayed.
I think including six women was slightly too many when you then took into account all of the peripheral characters. I think it may have had a bit more impact if it was four or five women that we learned more about. I wouldn’t shout from the rooftops about this one, but it was a good read.
A Week in December, Sebastian Faulks
Faulks, to me, is a true ‘professional writer’. I can’t think of a book of his which has let me down, and his research is so thorough that he seems able to write about any topic with such authority. This novel covers seven days, and features seven characters, all from different walks of life. Altogether, it builds a picture of modern urban life.
Lots of complex stories were intertwining here, each with complex and fully-developed characters, but it never felt too much to keep track of. There were also a lot of potentially more controversial topics, such as Hassan’s religious views, that were handled with great care, and made fantastic reading. I’ve raved about this to so many people already, you just all need to grab a copy and get reading!
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
This was the 2008 Man Booker Prize winner, and I think I understand why. I was more than impressed. The novel takes the form of a letter from an Indian man, a self-proclaimed ‘servant, philosopher, entrepreneur, murderer’. It crafts an image of a certain slice of Indian society, and the author has a sharp eye for reality, but then delivers this with a hard satirical edge.
The ‘letter-writing’ voice was sustained throughout, and some of the descriptions were absolutely fascinating. This one man’s story illustrates certain issues in the society in which he is living, and I really enjoyed reading it.
So there we have it, one fine, one really good, and two fantastic – it was a successful period of reading!
Have you read any of these novels?