If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
By: Italo Calvino
You go into a bookshop and buy If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. You like it. But there is a printer’s error in your copy. You take it back to the shop and get a replacement. But the replacement seems to be a totally different story. You try to track down the original book you were reading but end up with a different narrative again. This remarkable novel leads you through many different books including a detective adventure, a romance,a satire, an erotic story, a diary and a quest. But the hero of them all is you, the reader.
I must’ve had this book since I got back from my exchange two years ago and never gotten around to it. I’ve always felt that I needed to be in a particular mood or it has to be a particular season to read this (see my 10 books to read during the winter list). I’ve read his other notable work, Invisible Cities (review) earlier this year and absolutely loved it so I was definitely looking forward to reading this book.
The Sense of an Ending
By: Julian Barnes
The story of a man coming to terms with the mutable past, Julian Barnes’s new novel is laced with his trademark precision, dexterity and insight. It is the work of one of the world’s most distinguished writers.
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they navigated the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they swore to stay friends forever. Until Adrian’s life took a turn into tragedy, and all of them, especially Tony, moved on and did their best to forget.
Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a marriage, a calm divorce. He gets along nicely, he thinks, with his one child, a daughter, and even with his ex-wife. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove. The unexpected bequest conveyed by that letter leads Tony on a dogged search through a past suddenly turned murky. And how do you carry on, contentedly, when events conspire to upset all your vaunted truths?
This book had been on my radar since it won the Man Booker Prize for 2011. I’m slowly making my way with reading the winners and those short-listed (emphasis on slowly) but the premise of this novel caught my attention. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. I want to lay out my thoughts about this novel so this entry is more a commentary than a review; as such, major spoilers if you haven’t read the book at all. I will do my best to avoid mentioning in detail the major plot points but I am discussing the themes so feel free to skip to the end of the entry to know my overall recommendation for it ^_~
The English Patient
By: Michael Ondaajte
With unsettling beauty and intelligence, Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an abandoned Italian villa at the end of World War II.The nurse Hana, exhausted by death, obsessively tends to her last surviving patient. Caravaggio, the thief, tries to reimagine who he is, now that his hands are hopelessly maimed. The Indian sapper Kip searches for hidden bombs in a landscape where nothing is safe but himself. And at the center of his labyrinth lies the English patient, nameless and hideously burned, a man who is both a riddle and a provocation to his companions—and whose memories of suffering, rescue, and betrayal illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.
I’ve mentioned this in this week’s Teaser Tuesdays but this is the first time I’m reading a book by Michael Ondaatje. For a person who reads a lot, I admit that I hardly read any books by Canadian authors even though I am Canadian *blushes* I tend to lean heavily towards British, Spanish and Russian authors (and more Italian authors too) but it’s nice to shift gears and get around to some prominent Canadian works. So yes, The English Patient; it was adapted back in the 1990s into the Oscar-winning movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott-Thomas; I actually watched the movie first long before getting around to the book so I won’t be making any in-depth references to the movie. May contain some minor spoilers ahead!
By: Owen Sheers
1944. After the fall of Russia and the failed D-Day landings, half of Britain is occupied . . . Young farmer’s wife Sarah Lewis wakes to find her husband has disappeared, along with all of the men from her remote Welsh village.
A German patrol arrives in the valley, the purpose of their mission a mystery. Sarah begins a faltering acquaintance with the patrol’s commanding officer, Albrecht, and it is to her that he reveals the purpose of his mission – to claim an extraordinary medieval art treasure that lies hidden in the valley. But as the pressure of the war beyond presses in on this isolated community, this fragile state of harmony is increasingly threatened.
Okay, I admit, I found out about this novel through the movie adaptation it was based from (haven’t seen it yet; I wanted to read the book first) because Tom Wlaschiha is part of the cast (known primarily for his appearance as Jaqen H’ghar in Game of Thrones this season). I don’t really read books set in alternate history (the student in me who studied history for 7 years I think is a little reluctant to foray too far into the genre…although upon reflection I think Susanne Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (review) is considered to be alternate history) but the premise of this novel sounded interesting, one of those big “what ifs”, in this case what if D-Day had failed and the Nazis were able to occupy Great Britain. Contains spoilers ahead! (though I’ve marked out the section containing major spoilers concerning the ending)
The Tiger’s Wife
By: Tea Obreht
In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger’s wife.
This is a book that I’ve heard a lot of buzz in the past year. The author won the 2011 Orange Prize and received a lot of praise from the media. After hearing from a particular blog that I regularly visit that the book was one of the best he’s read in the past year, I decided to check it out for myself. Contains some spoilers ahead!