There have been so many recent reads that I have been wanting to tell you about, that I decided to take the easy way out and condense it all into this one post. And, er, resort to some Goodreads links too, if you want a synopsis of the book (just click on the titles). Because I’m
lazy efficient like that.
The Royal We – Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
A bit of a guilty pleasure this read. It was a modern fairytale of sorts. American girl meets Prince
William Nicholas, they fall in love, hijinks ensue. She meets the queen with a twinkle in her eye. Paparazzi, tabloids, paparazzi, gossip gossip gossip. That kind of thing.
It was Shannon at River City Reading whose post convinced me to read this. Her first two reasons didn’t work for me (not really all that interested in the royal family, never read Go Fug Yourself), but the last one really did. I too was all about the, eh, this doesn’t seem like my thing, but it really was a ball of fun.
One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories – Edited by Chris Brazier
As one can guess, the best stories came from the known authors like Jhumpa Lahiri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The rest of the stories sadly didn’t stand out as much. And some were so completely underwhelming but Elaine Chiew, originally from Malaysia, had a rather memorable story narrated by a Filipino domestic worker in Hong Kong. It also is a bit misleading, this title of a ‘global anthology’. Out of 23 stories, 6 were from Nigeria, 3 from the United States, none from East Asia or South America. I was disappointed by this collection.
Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller
Oh this book. It was glorious. It filled my heart and head with snow and cold. And I read a good part of it sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers at the Social Security office for two hours. So I have to thank Claire Fuller for writing such a truly amazing book that took me away from the fluorescent lighting and the plastic chair poking my back and the horrendous wait. Of course I did not know that an even longer wait was in store for me a couple of weeks later at the DMV. More on that later.
But Our Endless Numbered Days is as odd and wonderful as its cover and its title. I am a big fan of the band Iron and Wine and that was the first thing I thought of when I heard of this book, their album Our Endless Numbered Days, the title of which comes from the song Passing Afternoon:
There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days
And I think this is a very suitable title for the book, as well as a suitable song to listen to while reading this book.
There are things we can’t recall, blind as night that finds us all
Winter tucks her children in, her fragile china dolls
But my hands remember hers, rolling ’round the shaded ferns
Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I’d never learned
It’s a little as if Fuller was writing her book to this song. A gentle forest-filled afternoon. But with a hint of darkness and anxiety behind it all. A minor key, a snowstorm, squirrel-hunting, a desperate father. It hints of Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, in its deep darkest of forests kind of way.
Saplings sprouted unchecked against the walls, so it appeared as if die Hutte, ashamed of its dishevelled appearance, was trying, and failing, to hide behind them. I half expected a trail of breadcrumbs to lead off into the trees that pressed in from both sides.
It is quite apt to jump from Our Endless Numbered Days to this one. Sometimes when I read a work of fiction that moves me, stuns me even, I feel unable to pick up another. And instead turn to a comic or non-fiction. This one was on Scribd and when I lived in Singapore, I used to watch the River Cottage TV series, where disheveled Hugh whips up things in his little cottage, daringly doing things us homecooks wouldn’t like trying out roadkill. Ok so it wasn’t all about that, but Hugh F-W is big on the whole seasonal, local produce thing. He grows stuff in his garden, goes fishing, raises pigs, that kind of thing. And fittingly, in one of the articles in this collection, he eats squirrel, which he describes as “as succulent as frog’s legs, with a light, gamey flavour”.
Truth and Consequences – Alison Lurie
Lucie wrote such an excellent book – Pulitzer Prize-winning even – in Foreign Affairs (my thoughts). So to go from that high to this one in a few months was a bit of a dramatic drop. I liked that it was set in the halls of academia, but the characters just didn’t quite gel for me. Or maybe it was just that I was reading this during my agonising mind-numbing four hours wait at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. (The wait was horrendous, thankfully the staff who assisted me was excellent.)
But as I finished the rest of this book in the comfort of my own home, I don’t think the DMV excuse works here. In Foreign Affairs, Vinnie stole the show. She was one of those quirky eccentric types who had an original sense of humour and was rather charming that way. But the characters in Truth and Consequences were just all kinds of wrong for me. It does discuss chronic pain though so that was a rather different take on things.