Two very different kind of books to start this quarter. A couple of similar themed books to end it.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize with this novel centered around the titular character, a retired school teacher in Maine. There are 13 short, loosely interconnected stories, but not in a sequential manner with respect to chronology or story telling. Each of these stories goes into depth of an episode of some character, sometimes Olive, in the town. Sad, but not a tear jerker, in a very relatable way, this novel is not for someone in a funk. Highly recommend for everyone else.
The Farm by Tom Rob Smith
Quintessential Scandinavian thriller by the half-English half-Swedish Smith. I literally started and finished this novel in one single day, which I don’t think have ever happened in my life! This is a short-ish novel and a page turner and I had a bit of time on my hands. Dark, cold, and full of intrigue, this novel is highly recommended if you like thrillers. I had not heard about Smith before I happened to chance upon this novel. Seems like he is known for “Child 44” trilogy. That’s next on my reading list.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Set in post WWI London, this novel could have been a taut book but Waters decided to stretch the hell out of this and ends up being a laborious read of over 500 pages, about 200 pages longer than it really needed to be. Waters does not believe in sparing us details, and uses her words and sentences expansively. Delving into topics that were certain to be taboo at that time, the characters are real enough but their inner monologues run around in circles. Not a recommended read unless you have plenty of time and patience.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
After reading the short stories collection “Florida” by Groff, I was willing to give her another shot. But boy, did this disappoint. Her style of short, at times painfully short, staccato sentences which suited short stories falls really flat over 390 pages of this novel. The content seems contrived failing to soar even after repeated attempts to shock the reader into another manipulated turn. I’m banishing Groff to the list of writers I’ve going to avoid.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A 2017 YA (young adult) novel about a black teenaged girl witnessing a white cop shooting a black teenaged boy, and how her life changes. Compelling, powerful, and sort of the precursor to the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement that became mainstream in 2020. This was also made into a movie in 2018. Recommended read for everyone especially anyone living in America.
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Inspired by The Farm above, I dove into the first book by Smith. Set in Stalin’s USSR, where the winters are brutal but secret police are far more so, Smith creates the “first” serial killer in Communist regime, which leaders are quick to dust under carpet as it vilifies their agenda of no crime under Communism. I have the second and third books of the trilogy and should be done by the next quarter. Good read; recommend.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published in 2015, this is non-fiction work, written by Coates as a letter to his then teenaged son. Raw, powerful, and mincing no words, Coates lay bare the bedrock idea of being Black in America. I’m still not sure how to process this book. I leave you with this review from The Guardian. If you are not Black read because you need to be shocked; if you are black, I suppose you’d have read this already.
Books read in 2021 Q2: 7
Total books read in 2021: 11 (already surpassing the 7 from whole of last year)