I’ve read a fair number of books lately – when Tom and I went to Paternoster and Tulbagh, I read continuously so got through some of my lovely borrowed and new novels. It was so wonderful to be able to read at my leisure and not just in the evenings after work.
Here are a few of the ones I just finished:
David Mitchell: Slade House: I finished this last night and had some consequential nightmares in between battling mosquitoes. The book tells the tale of a pair of human soul-sucking twins who inhabit a ‘lacuna’ called Slade House, which they use to lure victims into their warped world, which remains untouched by time providing the soul theft takes place every nine years. The book is divided into the twins’ victims stories, with each ‘engifted’ human ingeniously manipulated to enter the tiny iron doorway that leads to Norah and Jonah’s haunting abode. I continue to love Mitchell and this novel is already one of my favourites. With more references than I could keep track of; pithy, likeable characters; playful, indulgent horror; and a plethora of existential jokes and pokes, suffice to say I was in my element, and I finished the 200 page novel in an afternoon. The novel also abounds with Mitchell’s classic inter-textual pollination and character crossover, not to mention his usual wit and irony.Muriel Barbery: The Elegance of the Hedgehog: Possibly one of my favourite books I’ve ever read, this book is beautifully French and perfectly elegant. Secreted beneath an intellectual and philosophical veneer lies a simple story of two gifted women grappling with life, who simultaneously take refuge in the beauty of ideas. Our two narrators are Renee, the secretive, slipper-donning, dumpy concierge; and Paloma, the disillusioned thirteen year-old ready to end her own life. Neither heroine is what she seems: Renee is a fiercely intellectual autodidact with a love for Tolstoy (hence her cat is named Leo), while Paloma is a lonely and misunderstood child with many profound thoughts and ideas. Renee is on a mission to hide her true self beneath the concierge cliche, whilst Paloma is on a mission to find something worth living for. A man named Mr Ozu comes into their midst and suddenly, life changes, disguises shift, characters meet and beauty is born. I cried when I got to the end – an always within never.Yann Martel: The High Mountains of Portugal: Although I loved Life of Pi, I can’t say I really connected with this book. I slogged through the first two stories and loved the third one, but I never truly got into it. I’m not quite sure why. The first story sees a backwards-walking-man drive a car (having never driven before) into the mountains to find a religious artefact mentioned in the long-lost diary of a priest that he believes will change Christianity forever. We follow his journey to said object, and become immersed in his despair en-route. And then he runs over and kills a child and his body fills with vomit he can never purge. The second story is about a man who lost his wife and a woman who lost her husband. The old woman comes to the widowed doctor one night and asks him to perform an autopsy on her husband. She watches as he cuts her husband up, finds vomit in both his feet, a flute in his nether regions and a whole gorilla buried within his chest. The doctor unpacks the man’s contents into a suitcase then the old lady climbs into the embrace of the gorilla within her dead husband and the doctor sews them all shut. Lastly, a senator buys a gorilla, and they run away to Portugal to live a peaceful existence in the hills. There are some rather arbitrary connections between the three tales, but they didn’t grab me or make me believe.
I have a few more to add, but will do them in a different post. Out of these three, I’d go for the first two and give The High Mountains a miss.