I had the pleasure of reading really good books on vacation this year. One year I didn’t take enough books. After learning from my mistake, everyone has their own luggage and we take a sixth bag filled with books (and of course Boggle, Scrabble and Apples to Apples).
First book was The Gathering, by Anne Enright. This was probably my least favorite of the group although a really well written interesting book. The Gathering is about an Irish family told through the eyes of the middle child. The brother is dead and the sister (middle child) over the course of the book tells of her memories of growing up with him and a secret that she shared with her brother which she believe haunted him to his death. Bringing her brother home to Dublin from England stirs up old resentments before and during the wake. The story unfolds and the secret is revealed to the reader over time. This book won the Booker Prize last year.
The second book I read was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. A very quick read. The world as we know it has ended. We follow a 10 year old son and his father on the road trying to survive in an apocalyptic world that is possibly post a Nuclear war. Survival is rare with very little left in terms of food or basic items. There is an underworld out on the road that is evil. Think Mad Max meets The Handmaiden Tale. Really worth the read.
The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This book was on a variety of top 10 lists for 2007. Brilliantly written. I am actually going to purchase his first novel after reading this. Oscar is a first generation American who is a total overweight nerd consumed with women although that never seems to work out. His mother is from the Domincan Republic. Each characters development gives the reader insight into Oscar. His mothers life, his sister, and others. The connection to the Dominican Republic is quite interesting too. Diaz writes about the history of the island intertwined with the story of Oscar’s family which gives you better insight into the world of the Domincan’s living in the New York area. Tragic, dangerous, funny and clever novel.
Next up, Spud by John van de Ruit. I got this book for Josh and he was so into it, I figured I would read it and we could discuss. I really loved the book. Spud has been hailed as the Catcher in the Rye of South Africa. It is about a young boy, John, who is given a scholarship to boarding school. We learn of his trials and tribulations, his relationships with girls, his funny crazy parents, and his life in general. Laugh out loud and sweet at the same time. Perfect for any 12 year old boy.
Next up, Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris, First novel and I laughed out loud. At the very beginning of the book, I laughed so loud that I became hysterical. I still get a chuckle when I think about a particular scene in the book. Joshua Ferris writes about working in an advertising agency. The agency starts out at the peak of the of the mid 90’s when money was flowing and then slowly descends down hill. I haven’t worked in an office in quite a while but the book brings you back. The relationships with your fellow team members, the gossip, the stories, the camaraderie, the highs and lows. Really well written and a pleasure to read.
Last book was my favorite. The Mascot, Unraveling the Mystery of my Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem, which is a true story. A man in his 60’s, who lives in Melbourne, shows up at his son’s door where he is doing research in Oxford, and tells him a story about his life that he has been keeping inside for most of his life. He lost his family during WWII while he was living in Latvia. Latvia, although attempting to free themselves of the Soviet Union, was actually in bed with Germany. The father gets found roaming the woods by the Communist soldiers and becomes their mascot all the while keeping his Jewish identity secret. His father wants to find out who he is as his memories are surfacing. His son, through research, finds out who he is and where he came from. It is an incredible story of another survivor of WWII. Being Australia while reading it was a bonus since he settled in Melbourne as the war ended. I couldn’t put it down.
Except for the Gathering, all of these will be books that I will be recommending for some time, even Spud. Each sticks with you. All written brilliantly and so differently that it was a pleasure to read such interesting stories in such a completely different way.