All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
By: Darragh McKeon
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Russia, 1986. On a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year-old prodigy plays his piano silently for fear of disturbing the neighbors. In a factory on the outskirts of the city, his aunt makes car parts, hiding her dissident past. In a nearby hospital, a surgeon immerses himself in his work, avoiding his failed marriage.
And in a village in Belarus, a teenage boy wakes to a sky of the deepest crimson. Outside, the ears of his neighbor’s cattle are dripping blood. Ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unimaginable has happened. Now their lives will change forever.
This is one of those books that have been on my TBR pile forever (or, well, it seems like it was on my pile forever–I think I only got it early last year *can’t remember*). I kept putting it on my seasonal TBR lists on Top Ten Tuesdays in hopes of motivating it to pick it up sooner but alas, I kept putting it off (despite being especially interested in the premise of the novel). Anyway, this past autumn I decided yes, I am going to read it. And I finally did 😛
Everything Is Illuminated
By: Jonathan Safran Foer
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.
I first read this book around…2009/2010 perhaps? I was definitely in grad school at the time–hence why I never wrote a proper review on it (correction: I wrote a brief blurb about it in 2010)–but I had greatly enjoyed it then (especially as I was studying Ukraininan history about the same time). I had always wanted to revisit the book since and reading Aloi’s review at guiltless reading prompted me to finally pick up the book again, reading it during my breaks at placement 🙂
How to Be Both
By: Ali Smith
Format/Source: Trade paperback; my copy
How To Be Both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.
I’ve been hearing much about this book time and again in the last year or so after it was shortlisted for a number of literary prizes. It was only after it won the Baileys Women’s Prize in Fiction for 2015 that I decided to pick it up and see what everyone’s raving about.
The Story of the Lost Child (L’amica geniale #4)
By: Elena Ferrante
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery, uncontainable Lila. Both are now adults; life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship has remained the gravitational center of their lives.
Both women once fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up—a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books. In this final book, she has returned to Naples. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from the city of her birth. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Proximity to the world she has always rejected only brings her role as its unacknowledged leader into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, unforgettable!
Against the backdrop of a Naples that is as seductive as it is perilous and a world undergoing epochal change, the story of a lifelong friendship is told with unmatched honesty and brilliance. The four volumes in this series constitute a long remarkable story that readers will return to again and again, and every return will bring with it new revelations.
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw me tweet a bit of my exciting in the hours leading up to the publication of this book. I had pretty much devoured the first three novels of this series back in August and preordered this book. So yeah, pretty much hovered over the internet midnight of September 1st, waiting for the confirmation that my purchase went through and the ebook was downloaded. I meant to read it a bit slowly, reading only the first two chapters…which became ten…which became a third of the book…Then finally I said what the heck and just read the whole book :3 Contains spoilers if you haven’t read any of the books in this series!
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (L’amica geniale #3)
By: Elena Ferrante
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
In this third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her husband and the comforts of her marriage brought and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women have attempted are pushing against the walls of a prison that would have seem them living a life of mystery, ignorance and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to see each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.
And here we are, the third novel in her Neapolitan quartet. Having zipped through the first two books in the series within a day, it seemed I did not slow down with the third book, even though the fourth one was on pre-order and wouldn’t be released until September (now). Nonetheless I had to find out what happened next in Elena and Lila’s story. May contain spoilers ahead, especially if you haven’t read the previous installments!