My contemporary literature course is well underway, so most of my reading has been the set texts. I’m not complaining because I have discovered some fantastic books – books that I would never have picked myself.
The first is Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines. This is classed as new nature writing, but also comes under travel. When I go into a book shop, I usually head straight for fiction, so I was unaware of this books existence. Thankfully, it was there at the top of my reading list. I read the first chapter, and I thought it was good, but I wondered where it was going. More of the same travel and exploration, I feared. I needn’t have worried because chapter two was amazing. I never imagined that I would be so captivated by a pathology lab.
I loved this book. I read it just after the death of my grandfather, and even though death is a theme, Jamie’s prose is so beautiful and poetic that there is something calming and reassuring about it. She has a wonderful ability to go from the smallest idea to the bigger picture. Since reading the book, I have recommended it to just about everyone. Please read this and let me know what you think.
The next book on my reading list was Zadie Smith’s The Embassy of Cambodia, which is a small book that says a lot. It’s a story that takes us into the life of a young woman, Fatou, domestic servant to the Derawals and escapee from one set of hardships to another. Set in 2012 just after the Olympics, the novel begins and ends outside the Embassy of Cambodia in Willesden, North West London. You’ll notice that I called the book a novel. Some people may call it a short story, because it is very short. I think it’s more than a short story. It’s so packed with imagery and symbolism and themes and ideas that it’s on a par with any novel. It has a lot to say and says it very well. When I first bought this novel, I was deterred by the price thinking that at £7.99 it was rather expensive. It was worth every penny.
The third book on my reading list was Other People’s Countries, A Journey into Memory by Patrick McGuiness. The book is a memoir of his childhood in Bouillon. It is beautifully written with lots of wonderful imagery and ideas of the past and present. Although it’s very melancholy, there is something particularly captivating about this book. For days afterwards I kept thinking of it. It demands another reading to understand the many layers and meanings. I especially liked the fragmented approach. There’s no story, just episodes and pictures – snapshots of a life. This works well because it’s how we remember. Memory is fragmented and unreliable.
The next book, the one I’m currently reading, is Scowler, a young adult novel by Daniel Kraus. This is definitely a book I would never have picked up. The front cover reminds me of the TV series Breaking Bad, although it’s nothing to do with that! So far, I’ve read the first chapter. The structure looks very tight, and it seems to have pace. I will let you know how I get on.
The great thing about my course is that I am reading outside of my comfort zone, and that’s always a good thing.
I hope you enjoyed my summary of books for Friday Reads. Have a great weekend.