It’s time to avoid winter’s cold clutches by lighting a fire and grabbing a good book. Of course accompanied by a glass (or two) of a cab sav or pinotage. Here are four of my recent reads, with a couple of words on each.
Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
This novel shall doubtlessly remain one of the most poignant I’ve read. With a writing style reminiscent of Marilyn Robinson, I savoured every word, and the concluding chapters are some of the finest writing I’ve ever read. Lee’s exploration of the character development, racism, and the human heart takes off from where she left us at To Kill a Mocking Bird, and then to new levels apart. We’re introduced to the adult Jean ‘Scout’ Finch, and see her world and it’s events through her astute eyes. Raw, real, and surprisingly relevant in the South African context where we still grapple with related issues of humanity and justice.
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
An upcoming trip to India meant I finally got around to reading Shantaram. It’s an epic in the truest sense of the word, and was only second to Tolstoy in terms of how long it took me to read it. Supposedly semi-autobiographical, Roberts is is equally faithful with giving a an authentic and lively picture of India as he is telling his story. It spans time, countries, cultures, characters, whilst exploring the links that connect them. The narrative was at times astonishly beautiful, and others agonising brutal – demonstrating the reality of life in India for so many.
The Famished Road – Ben Okri
Okri’s opus sat for months on my shelf and finally I sensed I was ready for it. Having been exposed to his poetry I knew I was in for a journey. In this familial narrative Okri manages to move rather effortlessly between reality and fantasy – and gives the reader the feeling that he is much more comfortable in the latter. I had to remind myself of this often, particulary when my reasoning was at arms with the text. A fascinating look into the African context through this eclectic storyteller’s eyes.
The Girl who Married a Lion – Alexander McCall Smith
A brief glance at the contents page is enough to cause a couple of chuckles at the names of the various short stories contained in this collection. Combining hilarity, fables, and folklore, they are a most charming look into African storytelling – of course in distinctive McCall Smith style. The type of book to accompany long trips, and will provide endless entertainment.