Old Filth (Old Filth #1)
By: Jane Gardam
Format/Source: Paperback won from #FerranteFever contest held by Europa Editions
Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the English bar. Yet through it all he has carried with him the wounds of a difficult and emotionally hollow childhood. Now an eighty-year-old widower living in comfortable seclusion in Dorset, Feathers is finally free from the regimen of work and the sentimental scaffolding that has sustained him throughout his life. He slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, Feathers approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away.
Borrowing from biography and history, Jane Gardam has written a literary masterpiece reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s Baa Baa, Black Sheep that retraces much of the twentieth century’s torrid and momentous history. Feathers’ childhood in Malaya during the British Empire’s heyday, his schooling in pre-war England, his professional success in Southeast Asia and his return to England toward the end of the millennium, are vantage points from which the reader can observe the march forward of an eventful era and the steady progress of that man, Sir Edward Feathers, Old Filth himself, who embodies the century’s fate.
I had heard of this book in passing but never thought much to look twice at it until I won a copy from Europa Editions back in the summer of 2015. The premise of this novel sounded really interesting as it dealt with a part of British society in the early 20th century that I wasn’t terribly familiar with, especially in association with the former Empire and the way it operated.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
By: David Mitchell
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, and costly courtesans comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland. But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken—the consequences of which will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings.
Omg you guys, this book has been on my TBR queue forever. Whenever I update my TBR lists (yes, I do keep a written list of the books on my queue), it’s always there, at the top (well, top 3), indicating that it’s been on the queue for a very long time. After years of listing it on seasonal TBR lists for Top Ten Tuesdays, I finally opened the eBook and started reading it 😀
The Tsar of Love and Techno
By: Anthony Marra
Format/Source: eARC courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley
This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.
I read Anthony Marra’s first novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (review), two years ago and absolutely loved it; it was one of my favourite books read that year. I had no idea he was coming out with this story collection until early this year when fellow bloggers were talking about it so I was pretty excited about it. I was fortunate to have been approved an eARC of this book by the publishers through NetGalley for review. This book was published on 06 October 2015.
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 🙂