I did it! Despite it being a bit of a crazy year, I managed to read one book per month in 2016. These last three books of 2016 were not particularly strenuous reads, with one having less than 200 pages and one being a children’s book. However, I think I need to learn that a book does not have to be really difficult to get through in order to be worthwhile!
All of these books were purchased in Waterstones, which is really one of my favourite places to visit. I love spending an hour in a Waterstones on a quiet lunchtime or a grey Sunday afternoon or any time really, although I doubt my bank balance appreciates it so much.
The Reader on the 6.27
The Reader on the 6.27 was originally written in French by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
and has been translated to English by Ros Schwartz. I first picked this up because the physical book itself is really aesthetically pleasing. The pages are very thick and good quality, inside the typing is well-spaced out, the font is clear to read and the colourful cover also interested me (I really like trains so will probably be intrigued by anything that has a train on it).
Didierlaurent’s novel is a beautifully written tale of people who are each connected deeply to writing and books in very different ways. Guylian, the eponymous reader, escapes his sad, lonely existence by reading out loud to strangers in different settings, a toilet attendant wiles away her dull days by writing her own story and an injured man gathers back what he lost in the pages of someone else’s book.
This simple story of individuals finding their saviour from the harsh and unforgiving world they inhabit in reading and writing is a real meditation on books and their value in our world. It is a joy to read and although I really wished Guylain would just quit his torturous job and find some happiness in doing anything else, the poetic language used by the writer to describe the machinery where he works was very evocative.
I saw the new film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s BFG back in the Summer and found it very enjoyable. Like so many people, Roald Dahl’s works and their many film adaptations very much helped shape my childhood. Although I don’t often buy children’s books, I came across this gorgeous, hardback version of The BFG, with all of the original illustrations by Quentin Blake that didn’t make it into the final book, after seeing the film and couldn’t resist. Embarrassingly, I then left it behind when I went Canal Boating and we had to stage a grand rescue of the book, avoiding dropping it into the canal, just as our taxi arrived!
Like all of Dahl’s work, The BFG is wildly imaginative, beautifully written and has enough grossness and mild jeopardy to keep both the young and young-at-heart engaged. Alongside this, Dahl’s detailed descriptions of the many fantastical characters he creates and the magical settings they embody, mean that The BFG is a prime example of his talent that has entertained children for years. It was also fun to read something with illustrations, and it made me really wish it was still a fashion for adult books to be illustrated as was de rigour in the 19th century.
The Kite Runner
With its themes of conflict in the Middle East, refugees trying to make their home somewhere anew, and intolerance towards groups of people, I felt it was a very timely decision to read Khaled Hossein’s The Kite Runner. This is an amazing book which, as in his foreword the author mentions many people have told him, made me really think about a part of the world I know little about and a period of history that took place a while before I was born and see in it many similarities to the world in which I live.
The book starts in Afghanistan following Amir and Hassan, young boys growing up in 1970s Kabul. One of the keys things that distinguished the novel for me, was how often and skilfully Hossein pulled the blanket out from under the reader once they were comfortable and suddenly moved the story on in time and/or place. This continues to happen throughout the novel as time and setting change with little warning, every time simulating a shock which represents the lack of stability and consistency in Amir’s life, both literally and psychologically, after the actions of Chapter Seven.
Aside from the obviously very important and relevant social and historical context, The Kite Runner, for me, is mainly about personal forgiveness. Throughout Amir’s life he is unable to forgive himself for something he does as a child. He lives believing he deserves bad things to happen to him and, in the end, the only way he can find personal forgiveness is by putting his life at risk. The novel therefore demonstrates how one moment’s poor decision making causes a lifelong pain because Amir won’t allow himself forgiveness.
Please do comment and let me know what you thought about any of these books if you have read them? Or give me recommendations for anything else you think I may enjoy!