The Reading List #39

Where do you get your inspiration for which books to pick up next? I’m in need of new ideas!

Here's the latest round-up of things I've been reading:-

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

Twins Marion and Shiva are born in 1950s Ethiopia to an Indian nun and a British doctor, and grow up in a country on the brink of revolution. This is a family epic, set against an interesting, complex history. When their father is in surgery, there are some stunning descriptions of the physicality and mortality of the human body, and using the biology of the body as metaphors for life. You can feel Marion’s pain sharply throughout, and there were some heart-breaking moments. Worth a read.

Burial Rites, Hannah Kent

In Iceland, in 1829, a woman is condemned to death for murdering her husband. A family take the woman in, and a priest is tasked with absolving her. This was a good story, but I didn’t enjoy the tone and voice at all. I couldn’t connect to any of the central characters, either to like or dislike them, which meant I struggled to keep engaged. This book was hugely hyped when first released, but for me personally it was a bit of a let-down.

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

I’ve wanted to read this ever since I fell in love with the musical, especially once I heard it was actually very different from the popular musical. Eponine, for example, does not exist in Hugo’s novel. It’s an incredibly detailed novel, at times maybe a little too much so – the bishop’s tale at the beginning takes up over 100 pages – but it was beautifully written. Marius’ character is much more developed in the novel when compared with the musical, and is a much more likable character, with a real backstory and reasons for his actions throughout. There are very long battle scenes from Waterloo onwards and it is a long, heavy read, but I’m very glad I’ve now read it.

12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup

In 1841, Solomon, a violinist, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Taken from a family in New York to the cotton plantations of the Deep South, he spends 12 years in captivity, and tells the story of living under his various masters. This is a personal tale which also gives an overview of the period and condition of slaves. He can view some of the wider issues, and see some of his masters as men he respects. He maintains the constant conviction he can be free once again. This was a fantastic read, and a real insight into slave narratives like many I studied at university.

Any ideas on what I should pick up next?


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