The Reading List #31

How do you decide what to read?

Last year, I stayed with my cousin and his wife for the weekend, where Kath pulled out lists of books she intended to work her way through. There was The Guardian’s ‘top 100 novels’ and one from The Times, and from just about every other publication you can imagine. On each, she had crossed of what she had read, and highlighted some she was planning to move onto next. All-in-all, it seemed like quite a good plan, but takes a bit of effort to get started! What’s your ‘method’?

Here’s the latest things I can ‘tick off’ my list:-

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres

In 1941, Captain Corelli, an Italian officer, is posted to Cephallonia. At first, he is ostracised, but slowly proves himself. Alongside this, the local doctor’s daughter’s letters to France are being left unanswered.

This book addresses a fragile triangle, set against the backdrop of war. Parts of the narrative were beautiful and I liked the different perspectives from which the story was told. Overall, though, considering so many people rave about the beauty of this novel, I think I was left a little underwhelmed.

Lost Innocence, Susan Lewis

Alicia returns to the family home after the death of her husband, and has to face her sister in-law, who nearly tore the family apart. Sabrina’s daughter Annabelle then accuses Alicia’s son, Nathan, of a crime he didn’t commit…

This is a fairly easy read, but long enough to give it a bit of depth. There are a lot of tangled lies, but it remains believable, without running away with itself as can happen in some family sagas. It was interesting to not always be clear who was right and wrong, and for that reason it kept me turning the pages.

Daniel, Henning Mankell

Bengler is in the African desert, researching a new insect, and finds a young boy whom he adopts, names Daniel, and takes home to Sweden. Daniel yearns for the desert and his real family, with only one real friend to confide in.

Set in the 1870s, this was a beautiful exploration of what it feels like to be an outsider within a new culture. The themes of displacement and tragedy are made almost more tragic because of the simplicity of the language. Lots of themes of this novel tied into the subject of my dissertation at university, so it was nice to be reminded of some of the elements of those novels and writers I had studied.

Serena, Ron Rash

George and Serena Pemberton arrive in the North Carolina mountains after their marriage, and Serena quickly gets involved in the timber work, and pursuits like hunting rattlesnakes, until the news she can’t have a child sets new events in motion.

This book has it all: revenge, betrayal, violence and ambition. But what it also captures perfectly is the everyday lives of the workers in the town, with fantastic characters set against the bleak, mountainous landscape. I’m a huge fan of Rash’s short stories, and this novel showed me he is equally good at length as he is in his short collections.

Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear what you thought.


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