Last year I decided to keep an official record of books I wanted to read. I would read blogs and other sites and learn about new-to-me books and jot the titles onto little bits of paper which I would promptly lose. I found a beautiful notebook:
and it quickly became essential to me. It is primarily a list of books that I've read about accompanied by the person or blog who has suggested it. It has also become a catch-all for other bits of paper about books. Every few weeks, I look through the pages and sometimes I notice patterns. The same book turns up again and again. I begin to think, hmm..obviously there is some reason I keep writing down the title of this book....I'd better just read it. The Ghost Writer by John Harwood was one of these books.
The Ghost Writer is about Gerard, an Australian librarian who has always felt, no, known, that his mother is hiding something from him about her past in England. Gerard's closest friend is Alice, his English pen pal to whom he has been writing since he was a young teen. Alice refuses to meet Gerard in person until she has recovered the ability to walk - she was in a terrible car accident that killed her parents. Eventually Gerard decides to find out the truth about everything for himself and travels to England where the action and the answers come to a climax. I was really enjoying this book until I came to the last 1/5 or so. I really do not like novels in which it feels as thought the author is writing a screenplay. That is to say, there is too much description of place and action. I don't really care to try to imagine the layout of a large and confusing house....I just want to know what is happening. The author has included four stories within the book. I'm not sure if I just didn't remember that or just glanced over it but either way I'm glad I didn't remember. I'm not a big fan of short stories and realizing this might have turned me off from reading this book. In this case I enjoyed the stories within the story, and it didn't feel too jarring to me going back and forth. I took a peek at the reviews at Amazon and realized that people seem to either really like or dislike this novel. It is not really my regular fare, and I'm certainly glad I decided to read it.
I asked Literary Feline recently about books set in India or by Indian authors. One of the authors she recommended was Amylya Malladi and I decided to pick up her first novel at the library. A Breath of Fresh Air was a quick yet intense read. It is the story of Anjali, a woman whose first marriage ended in divorce. Anjali is remarried and after a fair number of years comes in contact with her ex-husband. This was a very interesting story to me on a number of levels. It explores the relationships between men and women and Anjali's conflicting feelings about her stable marriage and her more wealthy ex-husband. The fact that the book is set in India adds another dimension to the story, that of a culture in which divorce is particularly rare (that is my understanding here, please correct me if I am wrong), and a culture whose expectations of women are so different than that of my own, even now. Anjali and her husband have a child who is ill, which was a very sad part of this book and really touched my heart. I certainly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.
If anyone has any other recommendations of books to read about this part of the world, I would really welcome them.