Monday, May 24, 2010

What I’ve Been Reading

It seems ages since I last wrote about books, so here’s a short rundown on the books that have accompanied me on the tram to work over the past month or so.

Despite not mentioning books on Cat Politics, I have been putting up posts fairly regularly on my Eye Candy for Bibliophiles blog, and have recently displayed my old collection of Picador books. This in turn inspired me to reread several of them myself, so that’s what I’ve been perusing recently.

skvorecky_misssilver (WinCE) As a result I have been choosing a diverse selection, the first being Miss Silver’s Past by Czech writer, Josef Skvorecky, It’s an interesting book, set in Prague during the Soviet occupation and is a satire on censorship in the publishing industry, a love story and a murder mystery. It of course centres on the delectable and mysterious Miss Silver, a person who is an object of fascination and obsession for the first person narrator.

The narrator himself is something of a cad and the final denouement really shows just how nasty he is.

From Czechoslovakia I moved on to Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoirs of growing up in a Chinese American family. The Warrior Woman covers her female progenitors, and China Men the men of the family. These two books are a mix of imaginative fiction and fact. They were highly lauded by the critics when they were first published back in the 1970s, and still pack a punch in terms of entertaining and interesting reading.

kingston_warriorwomen (WinCE) kingston_chinamen (WinCE)

Doris Lessing’s dystopian novel The Memoirs of a Survivor next attracted my interest.

lessing_survivor (WinCE) I don’t believe I have read it before as my copy looked pristine. I’m fond of dystopian fiction, and Lessing’s take on the genre, is both strange and compellingly readable. I’m not quite sure what it was all about; Lessing never explains the peculiar other world of the room beyond the wall, but it was clear that the society in which the book is set is in the process of disintegration.

The narrator remains unnamed throughout and records the unfolding barbarism with detachment while sheltering Emily a young girl who mysteriously arrives from beyond the wall. Emily is accompanied by Hugo, an endearing creature - half dog, half cat, certainly more lovable than the precocious Emily.

thomas_silverlight (WinCE) After Doris Lessing I ventured to the Wild West, with the novel Silver Light by David Thomson, another unusual book, the story being drawn from various western films. The fictional characters from The Searchers or Red River for instance, mingle with historical figures like Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. There’s an extensive bibliography /filmography at the end of the book explaining the characters’ origins.
tanazaki_makiokasisters (WinCE) Last week I delved into The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanazaki , which follows the fortunes of the four Makioka sisters of the title, and the attempts of the two elder sisters to marry off the second youngest sister Yukiko. It’s a leisurely read; nothing much happens, other the continuing drama of husband hunting for the reluctant Yukiko and the misadventures of the rebellious youngest daughter Taeko or Koi San as she is affectionately known.

It is set in Osaka and Tokyo during the early years of the Second World War and provides a fascinating behind the scenes look at Japanese society of the 1930s and early 1940s.

weldon_femalefriends (WinCE) For a refreshing change I am currently reading Faye Weldon’s Female Friends, which was indeed the first novel of hers I ever read. It has been years since I last read any of her novels, so I’m finding the acerbic witty prose of this feminist novel highly enjoyable.

I received David Mitchell’s new novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet last week from Amazon, so I couldn’t resist starting it on the weekend. So far I am finding it immensely enjoyable, delighting in Mitchell’s clever story telling and sparkling prose.


Clare Dudman said...

Sorry, I'm coming late to this. I've been a little preoccupied of late, and not getting out to the blogosphere as much. Great range of books here! I really like the cover of 'Silver Light' I am a little worried about them on that overhang, however.

Anne S said...

Clare, thanks for dropping by. I realise you must be quite preoccupied what with your new book being hot off the press. Look forward to reading it, when Amazon gets around to sending it.

As for Silver Light, it is quite a sensational photo - at once exhilarating and anxiety inducing.