My March Favourites
What made me nominate the three titles as March Favourites? the Remy Ngamije novel was finally an African novel that told a darn good story, as opposed to the usual polemic tub thumping, and the Joe Heap book posed such a fascinating What If: scenario, that kept me thinking and discussing with friends. Looking back, I see that the Joe Heap novel was a February read, so if I’m still rambling on about it in March, that’s a sure indication of readability & note?
Another Top Read in March came in late, at month end: The Motion of the Body Through Space – Lionel Shriver. What a fearless writer she is, slaughtering sacred cows left right and centre. She lets rip at the PC & Woke brigade (and how I do agree!), at the Born Again Christians, but most of all, she eviscerates our current obsession with Extreme Sports, specifically Triathalons. She also has the chutzpah to make her central female figure Seranata a thoroughly difficult misanthrope, who acts as the perfect counterfoil to the Lycra clad, manic personal trainer named – wait for it – Bambi. Oh, the book is a delight – don’t miss it!
The Hundred Year House is a novel with a retrogressive timeline. The story started in 1999, and divided into in five sections, finishing in 1900. The Prologue appeared second last, prior to the section starting in 1900. Rebecca Makkai’s writing is witty and clear enough, but the big cast of characters (an Artists’ Colony situated in Laurelfield house, hence the title, The Hundred Year House) ultimately led to confusion in my mind as to who was who, and who did what, and finally when the action happened. I checked other reviews, and discovered I was not the only befuddled reader. Adventurous and experimental plots, timelines and characters – why not? This is the world of fiction, after all. But, at books’ end, when readers are saying: Huh? I don’t get it, then maybe a more conventional style would work better.
I succumbed and bought a boxed set of Faith Martin’s DI Hillary Green Mysteries, #1 – 5. What a good buy it was! Set in England, written by a writer who thinks up unusual plots, peoples them with credible, contemporary characters and appears to have a good grasp of modern policing in Britain, especially as it applies to police women facing good old fashioned male chauvinism on the way up the ladder. I’m not a huge crime fan, but Faith Martin provides intelligent readable mysteries, that I enjoy reading.
I was looking forward to Raynor Winn’s follow up book to The Salt Path. In Book Two the couple battle bravely on, despite the lack of money and a permanent home, plus Moth’s deteriorating health. Despite the difficulties, they continue, in no small part due to their love for each other, and the natural world.
Raynor Winn has an intense, visceral relationship to and with the natural world. So Book Two provided lyrical descriptions of nature, particularly about their hike in Iceland, but I must confess I enjoyed The Salt Path much more.
The Eternal Audience of One – Remy Ngamije . Life, love, refugees, student life in Cape Town, from a Namibian writer’s viewpoint. Some laughs, surprises , heartbreak, hard times, confessions, life lessons. A contemporary African novel. Try it.
The Motion of the Body Through Space – Lionel Shriver. Brilliant! A dissection of obsession with extreme sports, and an examination of a long marriage. A vastly entertaining commentary on contemporary life. Best book I’ve read so far this year. Not to be missed.
The Porpoise – Mark Haddon. I didn’t enjoy this choppy narrative mashup between the old story of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, melded onto a modern tale of incest. Not because of the incest, which was sensitively handled, but because of the narrative switchovers. Not for me.
The Hundred Year House – Rebecca Makkai . A confusing novel about an artist’s colony in Laurelfield House, and the family who owned the house. Family, Fate, ghosts, and a house.
Waiting for Monsieur Bellivier – Britta Rostlund. But who is Monsieur B? this is the mystery at the heart of a novel set in Paris. The revelation of his identity delivers a Tunisian grocer from his humdrum life and his family filled with deceit. The quest also delivers Helena from a numb and lonely life. It was an okay read, but not rave material.
The Reminders – Val Emmich. Ten year old Joan can remember every day in her life since the age of 5. Her main goal in life is to be remembered, so she and her dad compose a song and enter it into a contest for songwriters. The novel is about family, music, ageing, dying, secrets, and gay men dreaming of a baby to complete their own family, narrated (mainly ) via Joan’s eyes. An unusual contemporary novel. Recommended.
Detective Hillary Greene Mysteries – Faith Martin. (e-books)
#1 DI Hillary Greene: Murder on the Oxford Canal
#2 DI Hillary Green: Murder at the University
#3 DI Hillary Greene: Murder of the Bride
The Wild Silence – Raynor Winn. Life after The Salt Path. Moth goes to University and Raynor struggles with living in the city. Then a stranger offers them use of his rundown neglected cider farm in Cornwall, and a temporary home in return for re-wilding the farm. A return to outdoor life and hard work, proves beneficial to both. They undertake a rugged hike along a wild trail in Iceland, which they survive despite appalling weather and really tough conditions. The book ends with their return to the farm, and the apple harvest.