Take time out with these books
It might be school holidays for the kids but is it for you? It will be soon. Make a cup of tea (or a stiff drink), recline and read for a minimum of 30 minutes while the kids are sleeping/out/not destroying something or each other. Pure escapism. Here’s some suggestions of what to put in your hands…
This brilliant book will immediately transport you to another time and place. No longer are you in sweaty Singapore, but ensconced in the mythical and stark landscape of rural Iceland, circa 1829. Inspired by a true story, it describes the final days of a young woman accused of murder and awaiting punishment by death on an isolated farm. It’s a riveting and lyrical read with multiple voices including Agnes herself, who speaks directly to the reader.
Love him or hate him, Christopher Hitchens was a charismatic author, journalist and debater that had some compelling and contradictory points of view and a unique way of saying them. This is a fascinating read about an enigmatic character who lived large and made a big impact on the political and media landscape. He doesn’t shy away from his beliefs and even uses himself as a guinea pig to explore the concept of dying (which he did in 2011 of oesophageal cancer) in his brilliant book, Mortality. But that’s another story.
If short stories are easier to digest during holidays than a great big tome of a book but more engaging than chick lit, then this book is a great option. Each story is set in the town of Crosby, Maine and revolves around a community of characters, with Olive Kitteridge as the main observer and sometimes main protagonist. She is not always likeable but her empathy also you to identify with her, and when you do, you feel yourself understanding more about yourself. So while you can read each story in stages, as and when it suits, it really is quite transformative.
This is like good chick lit, written by a man! A light and lovely story about searching for love, told from the point of view of Don Tillman, a professor of genetics with undiagnosed Asperger syndrome. This may seem a challenge but Don has such a beautifully unique an dclear way of seeing things that he helps you to observe what a muddle we all get ourselves into over seemingly unimportant things. Quirky feel-good factor.
Forget Frank and Claire Underwood! This partnership was radical before open marriages, swinging, and living in a permanent state of ménage a trois (ala Tilda Swinton), became modern options. Beginning as a conventional marriage and evolving into a daring partnership that defied description against the backdrop of life-changing events, The Great Depression and World War II, this couple was ahead of its time. Franklin and Eleanor’s mutual admiration allowed them to create a relationship that fulfilled their own ambitions and needs. Finish watching House of Cards and read this.
If you still haven’t reached this one in your bedside table stack, start now. The film is coming. You’ll need mental agility to piece together the clues in this all-consuming book. It’s an expertly pulled off mystery (read it before you see the movie), commencing with Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary and revolving around Amy’s disappearance into thin air, but it really kicks in half way through. These guys might make you sick with their cool, secretive, unhappy lives, but it’s like a train wreck you can’t stop watching. Love to hate it.
A great holiday read if ever there was one. When an old man escapes from a nursing home, an adventure begins, not just in the present. But in re-telling major events of the 20th century. Though, in this book, the events became minor when seen through the benefit of hindsight. Also, in competition is the mysterious story of the old man himself: is he brilliant or silly beyond belief; is this structured or random; real or imagined. Watch out for surprises. Great fun, farce and laughs.
This is definitely a popular book. Want to start a conversation? Sport this book of the year on the beach. It’s important enough to generate enthusiastic comments and reachable enough to annoy lit snobs (see reviews by the New Yorker). We loved reading The Secret History many years ago and have been a fan of Tartt ever since. This latest book about Theo Decker, who loses his mother and acquires a famous painting does not disappoint us. Love, loss, identity and art.
Almost trumping the story in this book, is the story surrounding the unveiling of the real author. J.K. Rowling introduces us to private investigator, Strike, and a story with media and celebrity as central themes. Now that we know she’s the author it makes the insights on these a bit more compelling. Would we have read it if we still thought it was penned by her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith? Not sure. But it’s nice, for her sake, to think that the book stood up on it’s own in the fickle publishing world without her initial endorsement. If you read her first adult fiction novel, The Casual Vacancy, you will find this more accessible.
We’re yet to crack this one open but we’ll do so with glee when we get to it. It revolves around a distinguished yet crumbling American family, the Sinclairs, specifically 3 grandchildren and ill-fitting friend, Gat. Sibling Cady and Gat start a love-affair that is set for destruction and that’s about all we know for now – apparently any description of the plot reveals spoilers. Intrigue!