This year I made a conscious decision not to set myself a reading goal. Over the last couple of years I’ve been making the effort to track what I’ve read, while working towards a set number of books finished.
I’ve enjoyed having a record of books read, but at times aiming for a goal has been stressful. So this year I’m going to go with the flow and read what I want to read, without worrying about that I’m reading enough.
So far it’s going well.
In January I completed four books: one was a Christmas gift, one had been on my TBR for over a year, and the other two were from the library.
I began the year with The Lola Quartet, by Emily St John Mandel. This is the third book I’ve read by the author, who is best known for the wildly popular Station Eleven.
In this, one of her earlier books, New York journalist Gavin is confronted with a photograph of a child back home in Florida who looks just like his sister did at the same age. The little girl also shares the same surname as his high school girlfriend, who disappeared the summer before college. Already in a fragile place after the breakdown of his relationship, Gavin allows his life to spiral out of control. But what he doesn’t realise is that the photograph has already set in motion a chain of events that will end in tragedy.
After the lyricism and insight into the human condition displayed in the other books I’ve read by this author, I was a little disappointed in The Lola Quartet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great book. I once read an interview with Mandel where she described her earlier books as literary crime, and this novel felt the most suited to that description. As with her other works, the narrative follows the lives of disparate characters, each with their own personal tragedies, flaws and obsessions. I just found the characters harder to empathise with here, particularly Gavin in the way a split second decision snowballs and leads to the destruction of the career he worked so hard for. But that in itself is a metaphor for the world around us and the world of this story; in difficult economic times, lives crumble in an instant because of failures in the corporate world.
If you’re a fan of Mandel this is worth reading, but I’d start with one of her other books first.
Haruki Murakami has been one of my favourite authors for many years, but for some reason I haven’t got round to reading the last few books he’s published. I buy them and choose to save them, then they eventually become buried and I forget to read them.
But I finally decided to start his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. As with so much of Murakami’s work, this is a simple story revolving around one inciting event, years earlier, rediscovered under the influence of a burgeoning relationship.
At school, Tsukuru Tazaki was part of a group of five friends – two girls and three boys – with an unusually close friendship. But he always felt the odd one out of the group, as his friends’ names all contain a colour, whereas his doesn’t. After school, Tazaki moved to Tokyo to study, while his friends stayed in their hometown. The friendship continued for a while, until one day they simply cut him off without explanation.
Now in his thirties, Tazaki is encouraged to get back in touch with his old friends and find out why they rejected him.
I really enjoyed this book: it was beautifully written, and examines how we deal with rejection in a powerful way. This story lacked the fantastical elements that define some of Murakami’s work, but it was no less for it.
After receiving the sequel as a birthday present, I tracked down The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz at my local library. A modern addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon, this book imagines the famous detective on a new adventure that deals with Boston gangsters, street children, mysterious poisonings and torture.
Horowitz manages to effectively capture the style of writing that the original stories were written in, which I found a bit slow to begin with. As many writing teachers would observe, there was a lot of telling rather than showing.
But once the story got into full swing, the pace improved and I found this quite entertaining.
Also this month I read Dead Over Heels by Charlaine Harris, which I stumbled across in the local library. Having always enjoyed her Sookie Stackhouse novels, I thought I’d give this one a try. It’s part of another series following a character called Aurora Teagarden, who gets involved in various murders.
In Dead Over Heels, she’s drawn into a mysterious plot after the body of a local police detective is dumped in her garden – from a plane.
I think the best description for this would be mildly entertaining. The book falls midway through the series, so I did lack any knowledge of the characters or their world, but it didn’t hamper the plot much. I’d be interested to read some of the other books, but it never felt like much happened in this one as the action always seemed to be at arm’s length from the main character.
- The Lola Quartet, by Emily St. John Mandel
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
- The House of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz
- Dead Over Heels (Aurora Teagarden), by Charlaine Harris
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