What I Read – April 2018

READ:

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains – Yasuko Thanh (Hamish Hamilton, 2016)

IMG_8680

I went to school with Suko and so was familiar with her unique style and had an idea of where her interests lie. This historical novel set in Vietnam lined up with my expectations and I love her short stories (Her collection Floating Like the Dead is great) but I struggled with this one a bit. It came together in the end for me but took me a while to get oriented.

Funny Once – Antonya Nelson (Bloomsbury, 2014)

These short stories were great but it took me so long to read them that I think a lot of the impact was lost on me. The fault was my own – I borrowed this as an online resource from the library and so read it on my laptop. And reading books electronically just does not work for me. Turns out I’m kind of old-fashioned when it comes to books.

When I was a Child I Read Books – Marilynne Robinson (Picador, 2012)

Overall, I enjoyed this essay collection. I really like Robinson’s writing and I agree with her on a lot of theological and political questions. However, some of these essays felt really American and so I had trouble staying interested. They also felt overly optimistic about America, which made me realize how much the world has changed since 2012.

The great narrative, to which we as Christians are called to be faithful, begins at the beginning of all things and ends at the end of all things, and within the arc of it civilizations blossom and flourish, wither and perish. This would seems a great extravagance, all the beautiful children of earth lying down in a final darkness. But no, there is that wondrous love to assure us that the world is more precious than we can possibly imagine.

  • Marilynne Robinson, “Wondrous Love”

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – Hilary Mantel (HarpeCollins Publisher, 2014)

I found myself much more engaged by this collection of short stories. This was my first read by Mantel and although I enjoyed it I still don’t feel the need to read any of her novels. The title story of this collection did force me to do some reading up on Margaret Thatcher though, since I knew shockingly little.

Brother – David Chariandy (McClelland & Stewart, 2017)

IMG_6936

Loved this book. Read my full review here.

All around us in the Park were mothers who had journeyed far beyond what they knew, who dreamed of raising children who might have just a little more than they did, children who might reward sacrifice and redeem a past. And there were victories, you must know. Fears were banished by the scents from simmering pots, denigration countered by freshly laundered tablecloth. History beaten back by the provision of clothes and yearly school supplies.

  • David Chariandy, Brother

Black Swan Green – David Mitchell (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2006)

IMG_6966

I reviewed this one too! Maybe I’m on a roll! Check back on Wednesday for the review.

If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, “When you’re ready.”

  • David Mitchell, Black Swan Green

Didn’t Finish:

White Cat – Holly Black

Someone raved about this book to me once and so I’ve long had it on my list and finally got a copy of it. As soon as I picked it up at the library I knew it wasn’t my normal fare. I don’t read a lot fantasy but wanted to give it a fair go. I think I got about halfway through. I can see why a fantasy reader would love it but it’s not for me. (I also, in general, hate book series and that biased me against it further.)

Currently Reading:

The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien

The Redress of Poetry – Seamus Heaney

[Poetry] becomes another truth to which we can have recourse, before which we can know ourselves in a more fully empowered way.

  • Seamus Heaney, “The Redress of Poetry”

IMG_6987

The Boat People – Sharon Bala

 

Advertisements

What I Read – October 2016

The Autumn season is prime book-reading time. The rainy and cold weather means I want to stay inside and read and there seem to be so many books to read. The autumn is when many new books are released (leading up to Christmas) and many of the major literary prize winners (and shortlists) are announced. My To Be Read list is so long that I’ve been sorting books into piles and my bedside table is stacked high. A friend also loaned me the three memoirs in this month’s What I Read list.

Fortunately (maybe?) Pearl is going through a stage where she wants one of us to sit in her room while she falls asleep. When I stopped nursing, my reading time seemed to decrease drastically but it’s bounced back up this month. Most evenings I spend between 30 minutes to an hour in Pearl’s room, curled up in a chair, leaning as close to the nightlight as I can get. There are worse things.

Wenjack – Joseph Boyden (Hamish Hamilton, 2016)

The Trees – Ali Shaw (Bloomsbury, 2016)

An Invisible ThreadLaura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski (Howard Books, 2011)

The Dirty Life – Kristin Kimball (Scribner, 2010)

Half Broke HorsesJeannette Walls (Scribner, 2009)

Waiting for the Cyclone – Leesa Dean (Brindle & Glass, 2016)

Re-read: Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut (Vintage, 2000)

“You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamourous, war-loving dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.”

Currently Reading:

Prayer – Timothy Keller

By Gaslight – Steven Price

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

And a reminder that you can follow me on Instagram @karissareadsbooks and see up-to-the-minute photographic evidence of what I’m reading! Whether or not that sounds remotely appealing probably says a lot about you.

Book Review: The Trees by Ali Shaw

The Trees - Ali Shaw (Bloomsbury, 2016)

The Trees – Ali Shaw (Bloomsbury, 2016)

I’m not sure that I would have finished The Trees, except that it was loaned to me by an acquaintance and I didn’t want to seem like someone who doesn’t finish books. (They offered to loan it to me after I commented on how beautiful the cover is. Seriously, that’s a lovely cover, isn’t it?)

In defense of The Trees, the book did get slightly more interesting once I persevered. In my defense, that point was well over two-thirds of the way in. The main problem that I had was that while the concept of the novel is very creative, the execution and the characters themselves are poorly crafted.

The book begins “the night the trees come”. Our main character, Adrien Thomas, a lacklustre former teacher in suburban England, is awakened one night when a forest grows through his house. All through his town (and indeed, it appears, throughout the world) an ancient forest has burst through the human-made world. Suddenly, the world finds itself living in the middle of a forest. Adrien – generally lacking in survival skills or any real motivation – happens to meet up with Hannah and her son Seb and they set off west. First to find Hannah’s brother and then, maybe, to find Adrien’s wife who is on a business trip in Ireland.

Adrien is, I think, supposed to represent the weakness of modern man, softened by our luxurious lifestyle. The problem is that he’s extremely unlikeable and seems to spend most of the book whining and being carried along by the characters/action around him. I honestly didn’t care what happened to him and so it was a struggle to follow him through hundreds of pages. Most of which seemed to be the main characters walking through the forest and seeing strange things. When they finally reach their destination, it felt like too little too late and the ultimate conclusion is, frankly, bizarre. And not bizarre in a way that felt right to the novel but bizarre in a way that seemed to contradict what came before.

For an apocalyptic novel, The Trees lacks tension and excitement. While I didn’t necessarily expect a The Road style intensity, it seems likely there would be more conflict in a world where there is no longer any law or social structure. But aside from two characters, it seems like people are mostly carrying on as best they can and being respectful of others. There’s some mention of looting but even this seems very minimal. Perhaps this is the whole “stiff upper lip” British thing and this is, in fact, how the English would proceed if the world ended.