A new batch and four books I read recently.
Title: The Vegetarian
Author: Han Kang
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.
Okay, so I don’t know what to say. I really really loved this, no doubt, but am not able to form my positive opinions coherently, because I don’t think I can praise this book enough. It’s almost rare when you come across a book that doesn’t kill you with emotions, instead it slowly roasts you for being a part of the world that’s unfortunately downed with the saddening thoughts and stupid mindsets, without pointing a finger at you. It’s almost impossible to do but Han Kang does it effortlessly.
I don’t even think I should recount the plot lines or how the characters seem so real that it’s almost unfortunate, given the world they’re living in; what merely starts as a bad dream for Yeong-hye soon turns into a nightmare. The best part of the entire story is probably how a short little argument and difference in views, regarding vegetarianism, takes a full blow at the main character. She’s targeted by everybody she knows and the worst? Nobody even tries to understand her…scarily similar to what happens in real life. Without continually appreciating this work, I’ll just breeze through one of my many favorite things about this book—the story is narrated by three characters related to Yeong-hye; her husband, brother-in-law, and sister, and in three different tenses: past, present and future. If this doesn’t sound too good, I don’t know what would?
I recommend this to all those who’re looking for a read that would shake them up, not leaving devastated but definitely making a difference in your perspective.
Title: Bending The Universe
Author: Justin Wetch
The Internationally Bestselling poetry book Bending The Universe is a collection of 100 original poems written by Alaskan artist Justin Wetch in five sections– Society, Love, Life, Personal, and Nature. They encompass all aspects of life from a carefully considered, if pessimistic, perspective. Featuring incredible illustrations by Malachi Paulsen.
I genuinely liked this! I don’t often read poetry but these poems centered around realistic, common and current scenarios was a good enough reason for me to keep reading them. The collection is divided into five sections, five essential topics that basically sums up everyone–society, love, life, personal and nature. The first section opened with a bang and I couldn’t help but smile at how relatable some stanzas were; the commonly seen and felt instances were well-constructed in a manner that didn’t come across too harshly but the point was made evident. The other sections were good too, but a few poems in each part seemed a bit rushed and not particularly overwhelming, something I expect from poetry. While this erratic selection worked greatly in a few bits, they did tone down the excitement in a few.
Regardless, I would certainly recommend this to those who love their poems transpired from real-life experiences, thoughts and circumstances, giving the readers a transparent vision.
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book via Netgalley but that in no way influences my rating or opinions about it. Thank you Andrews McMeel Publishing and Justin Wetch!
Title: The Merest Loss
Author: Steven Neil
Genre: Historical Fiction
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.
When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?
Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?
The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.
I really liked this story, even though the latter parts could’ve been better. Ordinarily, historical fiction is a genre I try to keep at bay,
so much for reading two historical fics in one week merely because history doesn’t interest me as much. However, I found this one so much more than I’d anticipated. I’d dived into The Merest Loss thinking about a romance set in the times when political circumstances were taking over the world, but I was both pleasantly and not-so-pleasantly surprised to find the historical setting given as much so much more limelight.
The story starts off centered around Harriet and her life before she came in contact with Louis Napoleon. I loved that first part of the book! She is this defiant, uncontrollable and rebellious child who loves running away from the mainstream goals set for her as a woman n 1836. Her dialogues, tactics and uncaring attitude is perfectly drawn to give a gist of her personality. Not to mention the letters exchanged during that period, between her poor parents and school or between her and her parents. Since I’m already brushing through the pros of this story, let me appreciate the research that has gone into this work. Right from the words used to the mannerisms and reactions, given or received, give me the essence of the time it has all been set in. Furthermore, it isn’t simply giving away facts, instead the romance and instances are beautifully woven within the historical backdrops.
Having said that, the latter parts of the story, when the spotlight shifts from Harriet to the more serious plot line about bigger names and bigger conflicts…I didn’t prefer it over the character development that was kept at stake for this. Yes, it was intriguing but I’d mentioned when I picked up the book that I was more for a developed romance than the fictional historical recounts. Perhaps, this might be a it’s-not-you-it’s-me situation, and am pretty sure the book would be a 10 on 10 for for some readers out there.
All in all, this was definitely a good read and I would recommend it to all those who love a fictional story set in a factual historical setting and a character you would genuinely like, given the times.
Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book via Netgalley but that in no way influences my rating or opinions about it. Thank you Troubador Publishing and Steven Neil!
Author: Henry Hitchings
Genre: Essay Collection
Edited and introduced by the writer and critic Henry Hitchings, these fearless, passionate, inquiring essays by award-winning international writers celebrate one of our most essential, but endangered, institutions: the bookshop. From Denmark to Egypt, from the USA to China, Browse brings together some of the world’s leading authors to investigate bookshops both in general and in particular – the myriad pleasures, puzzles and possibilities they disclose.
The fifteen essays reflect their authors’ own inimitable style – romantic, elegant, bold, argumentative, poetic or whimsical – as they ask probing questions about the significance, the cultural and social (even political) function as well as the physical qualities of the institution, and examine our very personal relationship to it.
Alaa Al Aswany (Egypt)
Stefano Benni (Italy)
Michael Dirda (USA)
Daniel Kehlmann (Germany)
Andrey Kurkov (Ukraine)
Yiyun Li (China)
Pankaj Mishra (India)
Dorthe Nors (Denmark)
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya)
Elif Shafak (Turkey)
Ian Sansom (UK)
Iain Sinclair (UK)
Ali Smith (UK)
Saša Stanišic (Germany/Bosnia)
Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombia)
I was quite excited to read this, given the essays are from diverse writers around the world and all talk about bookshops. However, I soon found myself pulled out from the text for the typical non-fiction influenced writing and evident translation. There were run-on sentences and many of them left me utterly confused. Though I really liked a few bits here and there, especially those that recounted the little notes left in a book (and forgotten about) when it’s given to a bookstore and marked as a second-hand—cute.
I usually avoid non-fiction as a genre because the narrative, often, sounds too informative and ‘telling’, for me. The same happened in this collection and I once again, have decided to stay away from occurrences-retelling as much as possible.
Having said that, I would still highlight how the essays might be a good read for those who can relate to them. When the essay by Pankaj Mishra (India) came along, I wondered if the things he’d encountered would make more sense to my parents who were grown up in the setting he’d mentioned. And as expected, they did. So there is a possibility that liking this book or not depends largely on who’s reading it…and maybe it just wasn’t for me. But I definitely prefer books that take me somewhere rather than making sense only if I was already in that place.
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book via Edelweiss+ but that in no way affects my rating or opinions about this collection.
Review also on Goodreads