The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This is a good and slightly creepy mystery, which was originally published as a young adult novel in Spain. The main characters, a group of sixteen year olds from a Calcutta orphanage are very varied and I’d have loved to have heard more about some of them. The plot centres around one of the group, Ben and his long lost twin sister but I actually found some of the others more intriguing. The twins are stalked by a figure from their past who has vowed revenge – nothing very original but as you’d expect from the author of The Shadow of the Wind, it is well written and held my interest. It is a YA novel so doesn’t have the length or depth that would have made it a really good book but that doesn’t stop it being a fun read and definitely one to recommend to any teenagers you might know.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday
There was a lot I enjoyed about this book. Characters with depth and some that even developed throughout the novel. Some I liked, some who were awful. A wide range of themes were touched on – love, faith, friendship, fishing, engineering, politics, a little about Yemen itself. The story is told through diary entries, letters, interviews, emails and extracts from an autobiography. It progresses at an engaging pace and the constant shifts in narrator and style keep it fresh. I was surprised by the ending and am not sure whether it is satisfying, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. I have already passed this book on so it missed the photo call, and I would suggest giving it a try if you are looking for a new read.
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield
My sister lent me all four of these and I raced through them in a week of naptimes. They were a fun and quick read, but I never warmed to the main character as she complained for most of the four books. It’s dystopian teen fiction but it’s no The Hunger Games, which pretty much forms my benchmark for the genre.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
I don’t usually read short stories as I like to get absorbed in a book and spend a while with the characters. BUT. This was great and made me think I should try more collections like these. It opened windows into transitional periods of time in the lives of couples, families, communities and individuals and explored all sorts of themes. The people are all Indian emigrants in the US, and the juxtaposition of the two cultures was the best bit about the stories. My favourite was The Third and Final Continent, which followed a man, used to bachelorhood, as he awaits and then adjusts to the arrival of his new wife. Their growing together is painful, sweet, and finally, hopeful.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Despite my enjoyment of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, this was the winner of the stack this time around. It follows Sarah (the daughter of a rich plantation owner in 19th century South Carolina), and Hetty (the 10 year old slave presented to Sarah on her 11th birthday). Sarah has strong anti-slavery views, and Hetty is encouraged by her mother to understand that no one really owns her, so both girls face opposition as they become friends, grow up, grow apart and as the anti-slavery movement grows. It is inspired by the real Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina’s involvement in the abolishionist movement, and also touches on women’s rights, love and desire for parental acceptance. It’s beautifully written with strong voices from both protagonists, and has left me keen to read more of Sue Monk Kidd’s work – particularly The Secret Life of Bees which I’ve heard good things about.