Well, I’ve decided to resume writing these little asides after a hiatus involving a long trip away and settling back in to drudgy life/work/study etc. Books are seriously a ray of sunshine through life. When I think about what makes me happy these days all I generally come up with is my husband (legend) and reading.
Anyway. I’ve just finished reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet and it was beautiful. I think having lived in Japan for so many years had a massive impact on the way David Mitchell told this story. While these stories of cultural contact are sometimes told from a foreign, outsider perspective where everything is foreign, strange and sometimes barbaric, this story was told from multiple perspectives, including Japanese and female. Also, the opening chapter was arresting and I thought about it for days afterwards, what a great way to start a book. It was visceral, engrossing, adrenalin inducing. I won’t write too much about it now, but I found the ending very moving, even though it was sped through in a matter of pages. I’m relieved there was a resolution, I was prepared for none, and as with Cloud Atlas it seems kinda of inevitable that time progresses and people die and are born and keep dying.
In between Game of Thrones and now, I have read a stack of books while travelling through Japan and Bali. It began with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and it really was a great book. It annoyed me at first and took me quite some time to get used to the style, but once I did I found it funny and unexpected and a great yarn. Very clever ending also.
After that was a spate of Agatha Christie novels or stories which all kind of blur together now. They are unexpectedly funny, not nearly as prudish as I would have thought, but they are tragically romantic. It fills in the time though, and I was becoming adept at predicting the plot arc of stories by the end. The Harlequin Man had to be one of the more unusual, with Mr Harley Quin the elusive figure throughout.
I also read (am I allowed to say voraciously? That isn’t too wanky?) Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel and thought it was fantastic. Completely original, exciting, intriguing etc. I think I enjoyed Sonmi’s story the best and the story on Ha’wai told by Zachry is the one I think about the most. It took me a good while to adjust to the vernacular but I managed just fine. The story of Tim Cavendish was hilarious and also kinda terrifying. That idea of ending up in a nursing home against your will and having to convince people you aren’t crazy is not a pleasant one to dwell on. But I think I had a bit of trouble over the first story, of Adam Ewing. The story of the Moriori, which I initially thought was fabricated but now know if based on historical sources, was confronting and challenging. I had a hard time seeing the justice in portraying the Maori as colonising murderous folk in the context of the colonisation happening to them also. But then when I think about it in the context of the rest of the stories, I can see perhaps he was making a point about civilisations eating themselves regardless of race and cultural context. I liked that he didn’t make too much of the mystical links of humanity which the film seems to have done, I’m interested to know how they manage that. Overall a really great story. Sentiment tempered, loves realistic, fates uncertain and sometimes futile. Sounds kinda grim but it really wasn’t.
I’m now reading something completely different, for a bit of levity. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I catch myself smiling like a maniac, despite the preachy tone of Marmie. When I was a kid I loved the movie and thought my sister was Meg, while fancying myself as Jo. I certainly have Jo’s temper!