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!
The Remains of the Day
By: Kazuo Ishiguro
It is the summer of 1956 and Stevens, an aging English butler, embarks on a holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past. For the first time in three decades, Stevens looks back on his long life of service and finds himself confronting the dark undercurrent in the life of his previous employer, Lord Darlington, and his own conflicted relationship with the housekeeper, Miss Kenton.
A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful and haunting meditation on life between the wars, love denied, and the high cost of duty.
I actually read this book some three years ago but I decided to re-visit it (as part of my great re-readathon this year), especially as I’ve been (every so slowly) watching Downton Abbey lately. Contains some spoilers ahead!
By: Salman Rushdie
Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.
This book has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read since last summer. I’ve heard of Salman Rushdie long before that and of his books but I never bothered picking one of his works up until last summer. This book in particular has gotten a lot of attention, winning the Man Booker and then winning the Best of Bookers just a few years ago. I also wanted to read it because I heard it was really the book to turn to showcasing India. Having seen the recent state of my TBR list, I decided to take the book up with me to res and read it.
By: Hilary Mantel
England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages. From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.
Despite being an avid reader, I haven’t been so much into the award/shortlist stuff. The list of books that were shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker award intrigued me and when I heard the premise of Wolf Hall, I figured to give it a try at some point. Chapters Indigo was selling it online shortly after it won for a very sweet price so I snatched it up right away but only got around to reading it now. Spoilers ahoy!
By: Ian McEwan
On a chilly February day two old friends meet in the throng outside a crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane. Both Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday had been Molly’s lovers in the days before they reached their current eminence — Clive as Britain’s most successful modern composer, Vernon as editor of the broadsheet The Judge. But gorgeous, feisty Molly had other lovers too, notably Julian Garmony, the Foreign Secretary, a notorious right-winger poised to be the next prime minister. What happens in the aftermath of her funeral has a profound and shocking effect on all her lovers’ lives, and erupts in the most purely enjoyable fiction Ian McEwan has ever written.
This book has been on my want-to-read list for a very long time, probably around the time that I finished reading his book Atonement (which I absolutely loved to pieces; you can read my highly spoilerish review over here). I finally got my hands on it last week and read it last night; it’s a slim volume and I decided not to try updating my website layout so I just delved into the novel in one go. Spoilers ahoy!