My Week in Books
It’s been a busy week in Kirsti-world with poetry meetings and events left, right and centre, as well as rehearsals for an upcoming collaborative piece. And unfortunately it’s also been a slightly disappointing week of reading.
I was very excited to finally read The Slap, which was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize and has been recommended to me by both critics and friends over the years. I didn’t like it at all. I found the characters lacking in humanity and reality, and though plentiful backstory was given for each, they never seemed to really grow into their suggested history. The number of story lines wound together was interesting but became frustrating, as they never felt complete or even developed. The only character I thought was written well was the young Connie, which was interesting as I felt the other female characters were afflicted with a case of cliche.
As an ex-Melbourn dweller I enjoyed the frequent references to various suburbs and train lines, but by the end of the novel I had the distinct impression that the author’s main goal was to name each and every suburb in a pretty sprawling city. To me, it felt affected. I did like that the novelist portrayed the sense of separation and class distinction from area to area, as this is something I have tried to both explain and comprehend outside of Melbourne, and something I find very interesting.
It’s always hard to publicly hate on a book with so much acclaim. Above all else my problem with the book was that I didn’t connect to the writing style, and expected a lot more.
My other read this week was Pig Tails n’ Breadfruit, by Barbadian author Austin Clarke. It’s a culinary memoir, an interesting fusion of recipes, history and reflection. I would have liked more of the ‘memoir’ and less of the ‘culinary’ as the sections about growing up with his mother and the ways the author connected with her in the kitchen were warm and fascinating. The cooking sections were also well written and differed from the introduction and epilogue in their employment of local language and quickened pace. To be honest I think my only gripe with them was that they made me hungry, and as a vegetarian I couldn’t eat any of them!
But it’s not the best book I’ve ever read by any means, and didn’t really expand anything for me. I’d like to read some of Clarke’s other work as I think he’s a tremendous writer. This work seemed a little limited in its subject matter and lacking in direction. But if you’re interested in the food of Barbados (and have already eaten before you start reading), it’s not a bad read.
What a lukewarm review. If I do say so myself.
My book week wasn’t all bad, however, as I was lucky enough to be able to explore the bowels of Auckland Library this week, visiting the basement and its elephantine books, as well as witnessing a few of the gems of the special collections. My personal favourite was a first edition of Shakespeare’s collected works from 1623. Oh, the literary joy! I also got up close and personal with a magnificent edition of The Book of Hours, which Charles and Camilla (of the royal variety) only viewed behind glass. High roller. But not really, because as part of the public library, the special collections can be viewed by anyone. You need only ask. It’s a pretty wonderful service. And on your way to the collection a lovely exhibition of ‘Old Favourites: famous children’s books’ is currently on display (link here), and if you don’t giggle like your childish alter-ago and recollect on story times gone by, then you’ve a heart of stone!
As promised last week I have started a second reading of War and Peace, but as I read several books at once it could take me several months to complete.. watch this space!
Happy reading, hopefully I have some slightly more hearty recommendations next Sunday!