21 August, 2006

The run of good books continues

I've barely read any fiction so far this year, but now I can use the library again I'm barrelling through decent novels.

Finished James Meek's The people's act of love on Friday, which was strange and beautiful. Set in a tiny village in Siberia in 1919, it's a sort of Wild East setting: a stranger comes to town; the townspeople are a small, closed off religious community; there's a garrison of Czech troops fighting for the Whites in the Civil War, and a beautiful, mysterious widow. Beautifully written and wonderfully evocative of the empty vastness of the Siberian landscape. [43]

Andrea Levy's Small Island was excellent too - funny and very well observed with lots of brilliant detail. It's about the experiences of the first black immigrants to Britain, following Gilbert, who fought in the RAF in the Second World War, and returns in 1948 thinking this experience will be an advantage to him, and his wife Hortense, who is deeply surprised to discover that the education and fastidiousness that marks her out as a more refined person in Jamaica is not noticed behind her black skin when she moves to Britain. I liked a lot of the little bits about culture clash, like when the RAF sergeant decides that Jamaican teeth-sucking is an insubordinate act. A rather pat ending spoiled the book, unfortunately. [44]

Now half way through something a bit heavier, the Hungarian writer Imre Kertesz's Fatelessness which is already very good: it's about Auschwitz, but from the point of view of a fifteen year oild boy (the age Kertesz himself was when he was sent to Auschwitz). The narrative voice is particularly good, showing the utter confusion Holocaust victims were plunged into when they were sent to the camps, but covered with a brittle facade of logic and confidence which I think is utterly characteristic of children of that age. [45]


weierstrass said...

yay for sympatische Kommunistin!
it's a really great picture, irony or no irony, and it suits you as a profile.

woodscolt said...

Thanks. I have the postcard on my pinboard.

weierstrass said...

as an avatar, i should have said