Books lately – January 2015

IMG_5622One of the things that has fallen by the wayside since becoming a stay at home mother (and giving up the hour long train journey into London and back) has been time to sit and read. This Christmas holiday I have loved getting stuck into a few books and wanted to share some thoughts…

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

It took me ages to pick this up, mainly because I knew from the blurb it would be quite a serious read. I was right, but I’m so glad I got around to it. The writing is beautiful, and I alway love to read about times and places I’m unfamiliar with. This is set in Malaya before, during and after the second world war, as the Japanese prepare to, and then finally invade before being driven out after Pearl Harbour. It follows an English-Chinese boy, Philip. He is torn between his duty to his family, their company, his home of Penang and his duty to and love for his Japanese martial arts master Endo-san.

It is fascinating to see how choices made with the best intentions have devastating results, how cultures collide, and how relationships can be good and also destructive all at once. Philip’s actions and alliances have far bigger implications that he realises. It is very gripping and I’d definitely recommend it. If you’ve already enjoyed it, try The Garden of Evening Mists also by Tan Twan Eng.

The Cookoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

As most people will know, J K Rowling wrote The Cookoo’s Calling under a pseudonym before being outed by the media as it’s author. I enjoyed reading it in the light of this, and wondered whether I’d have spotted the similarity in style which I can now see clearly. This is a fun and gripping murder mystery. It’s not a children’s book (a bit more ‘language’ than in Harry Potter!), but isn’t hard to lose yourself in. Mysteries are one of my favourite genres so I found the ending a little predictable but it was very enjoyable anyway. The biggest draw for me was the two main characters – detective Cormoran Strike and his new receptionist/secretary, Robin. We see the story unfold from both perspectives, which I think adds to the telling. Robin is efficient, keen and observant but doesn’t yet have Strike’s experience. I liked the interplay between the two of them as well – it was good to see their working relationship and friendship developing as both also juggle intrusive personal lives. I’ll look forward to reading more – a follow up book, The Silkworm is out and I’m hopeful there will be more!

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

A really interesting book. There is a basic mystery – when Rosemary was five, she was sent to her grandparents’ house. When she returned home, her sister Fern was gone. The first half of the book leads up to a twist which I won’t reveal. At the time the twist was disappointing – it was not at all what I expected and changed the book completely. After a while I decided I liked the twist – it’s unusal for the premise of the story to be so turned on its head, and as a reader it was challenging to let go of my ideas of what the book was, and to enjoy the reality. It became a story about family relationships, trust, morality and loss. In the end the story it became was even better than the one I’d hoped for. The ending was satisfying, and hopeful. Definitely one I’d recommend. I’ve skirted around the main theme so as not to give away anything important, but let me know if you’ve read it and what you think – I’d love to hear someone else’s perspective!

I was excited to receive a Waterstones gift card for Christmas, and have queued up The Awakening of Miss Prim, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Miniaturist to read next. I’ll be back with some more thoughts in a few months…

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