JULY 2020 READING ROUNDUP

 

IMG_20200721_075049_resized_20200728_105727496
Exit West- Mohsin Hamid, was my major foray into the backlists during early July. The story of two refugees, Nadia and Saeed, from an un-named Middle? Near? Far? Eastern country who manage to flee to the West. The book is short, but packs in a lot of ideas and events .It speaks about war, conflict, refuees, culture, nationalism, sexism, Moslem social mores, family ties, the concept of home, and above all the fluidity of modern life in the troubled times of the 21st century. It’s a genre bending book, partly speculative fiction because of the mysterious doors through which refugees transit from one life to a new life in another country, which lends a magical realism to the story. And there’s plenty of realism in the gritty, dangerous, difficult life of refugees.

 
The book lingers in my mind, and will probably do so for some time to come. South Africa attracts many refugees from the continent, and their problems feature often in our news bulletins. The novel is definitely a book of and for our times.

 
North and South – Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell. I think this can be labelled My Reading Challenge of 2020! I’m proud to announce that I persevered to the long and exhausting end. Its an early Victorian novel, that contrasts the old, bucolic, peaceful country life of the South with the growing, bustling, rapidly industrializing life of the North, particularly in the textile industry. I grew very weary of the many chapters delving into the endless agonies of conscience, whether over religious beliefs, or over correct social behaviour for young, unattached, middle class ladies. Oh the paroxysms of tears, the fainting fits, the prostrations upon sofas! Thank goodness I live now. The restrictions placed upon Victorian women by society were legion, and a spirited woman like Margaret Hale had to constantly rein in her energetic passions.

 
Another spirited woman: Tannie Maria, resident of the Ladismith district, in the Little Karoo, in the Western Cape. She’s one of my favourite literary characters, down to earth with a heart as big as the Karoo sky. I love her Agony Aunt weekly column in the local paper and I love her cooking. I snacked constantly while reading the book – the constant talk of food made me hungry! That said, this is #3 in the series, and in a sense, Tannie M grows up – among other things she learns to change a car tire! But she also is exposed to contemporary and historical South African issues. This book has more substance than the other two, plus an action charged plot. I think it may be the best in the series to date.

 
I Re-read one of my lifelong favourites: Kim by Rudyard Kipling. Yet again, it enchanted me.

FICTION
Exit West- Mohsin Hamid. A genre-bending novel, speculative fiction/magical realism /love story mixture that combines in a thought provoking story about refugees and global migration. Recommended.
North and South – Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell. A long, challenging read. But a fascinating portrait of social and industrial change during the early Victorian era.

 
Death on the Limpopo – Sally Andrew. Tannie Maria cooks and charms her way from the Little Karoo to the Limpopo. An action filled adventure, & the recipes are to die for. Heartily recommended.

 
Vows, Vendettas & a Little Black Dress – Kyra Davis. Ebook . Sophie Katz is on the hunt – someone shot her best friend Dena; hence the Vengeance in the title. And the LBD? The antidote to the planned Disneyland wedding featuring peach taffeta bridesmaids’ dresses. Oh the horror! Madness, mayhem, her sexy Russian boyfriend – hugely entertaining.
Kim – Rudyard Kipling. Master storyteller Kipling writes a wonderful book brimming with adventure, unforgettable characters and a panoramic background of the colourful, chaotic, turmoil of daily life in the India of the British Raj.

NON FICTION
The Last Train to Zona Verde – Paul Theroux. A clear-eyed, pull-no-punches account of his journey through South Africa, Namibia & Angola. Published 2013. Definitely not a feel-good read, but a pretty accurate account about post-millenial Africa. Thanks to all the gods I don’t live in Angola.

Advertisement

READING ROUND UP JUNE 2020

indexI didn’t spend much time between the pages this month, due to ongoing eyesight problems, but I did read two print books : The Tim Winton memoir, and a re-read of Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant – Confessions of Cooking for one and Dining Alone; edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. It’s a collection of writing by foodie writers, and a perfect dipper (pun intended).
Other than this, it was the Kindle and the world of e -books, mainly Cozy Mysteries. A happy discovery was the Kirsten Weiss CMs. A prolific writer she has produced several series, and I preferred the Tea & Tarot mysteries She writes well and is thoroughly entertaining.
Another happy discovery was Whitney Dineen’s series ‘Relatively’ where Scottish heritage collides hilariously with the American mid-West; a feisty, trouble-making Granny McTavish makes a welcome change to the world of Cozies.
I read other Cozies, all e-books, but some were not to my taste, while others were too formulaic to merit a mention.

FICTION

Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides. E-book. Twisty, very dark psychological novel with a shocking end reveal. In retrospect, the main character motivation was less than credible, but I must admit to being engrossed nonetheless.
(Steeped in Murder – Kirsten Weiss e-book)Gorgeous sunny, colourful Californian coastal settings, with a dash of Tarot readings threading through a Cozy Mystery set this book a step above others in the genre. For once, a well written cozy. Enjoyable.
Hostage to Fortune – Kirsten Weiss (e-book). #2 in the Tea & Tarot series. Also enjoyable.

Relatively Normal – Whitney Dineen and Relatively Sane – WD. (e-books) Quirky and funny.
The Wizard’s Butler – Nathan Lowell (e-book). The title hooked me. It got off to a good start, but lost momentum and the ending provided more questions than answers. Disappointing.

NON-FICTION

The Boy Behind the Curtain – Tim Winton. Fascinating insights into the man behind the fiction. A dedicated environmentalist, lifelong beach/surfer devotee. One of the best non-fiction reads of 2020, thus far. Not to be missed if you’re a TW fan, and NTBM if you’re interested in nature writing & the environment.
Zhoozsh!Jeremy & Jacqui Mansfield – a cheerful and slapdash cookbook, more of a family photo album, presented in a scrapbook format. The recipes feature simple, quick and one-pot dishes using (mostly) basic ingredients. Gourmet cooking – nope; camping cooking – yup. Have another dop* seems to be JMs catchphrase! Like I said: cheerful!*dop – tot/ drink