Friday, 6 August 2010

Kate's Reading Challenge 2010: Books 20-22

No.20. "The Slap" by Christos Tsiolkas, (Atlantic Books, 2010)

This is the book that everybody seems to be talking about and it's place on the Man Booker longlist will undoubtedly secure a fresh surge of interest. So let's begin by saying it's worthy of all this hype surrounding it...

It begins at a barbecue, friends and family have gathered, too much food has been prepared and as the drink begins to flow, differences of opinon are aired and tempers start to fray. And then a man slaps a (particularly precocious) child - the child is not his own. From this moment the lives of a host of characters are thrown into turmoil as the slap revererates through relationships and tests (some already rather shaky) family ties.

Tsiolkas focuses each chapter on a different voyeur present at the opening barbecue scene, creating an array of utterly believable and wonderfully complex characters. A cast that ultimately leaves the reader grappling with the indecision of who to side with.

I really admired the honesty with which the author portrayed contemporary Melbourne as a vibrant, culturally diverse city that is still struggling to embrace this diversity. Tsiolkas introduces Greeks, Indians and Australians - all with their unique and evolving beliefs about the concept of the family and epitomises these beliefs without falling into the trap of oversimplifying or generalising.

This is a truly remarkable and though-provoking novel that captures with great tenderenss how one brief moment can send lasting ripples through the lives of so many different individuals. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year so far.

Started: July 6th Finished: July 10th

No.21. "Brazil" by John Updike, (Penguin, 2006)

A tragic love story with a good old-fashioned dose of smut!

Brazil begins on the steamy sands of Copacabana beach, where Tristao - a black boy from the slums of Rio - spots wealthy white girl Isabel. From the almost the moment the pair meet they believe themselves destined for one another and both are quick to pledge their commitment to their relationship. However, as their families and complete strangers make repeated attempts to separate the couple it becomes apparent that their being together has condemed them both to a lifetime of fighting for their relationship.

The result is a life on the run, across some of Brazil's wildest landscapes, where Tristao and Isabel's physical differences always eventually prevent them from living the peaceful life together that they so badly crave.

Updike muddles travel, sex, love and some really top quality writing to create a concoction as irresistable as a caprihina! I love the slightly mystical twist near the end of this novel, which seemed to intensify all of the trauma of the lovers's journey in such a simple fashion.

This book made me weep like a baby and swoon like a total girl!

Started: July 11th Finished: July 16th

No.22. "Jezebel" by Irene Nemirovsky, (Random House, 2010)

My first taste of Nemirovsky and probably not the most natural place to begin! "Jezebel" was one of two items found in the safe of Fanny Nemirovsky (Irene's mother) when she died in her nineties. Nemirovsky had a famously troubled relationship with her mother so it seems rather fittting that one of the objects Fanny secretly saved is a novel about a woman whose increasingly volatile relationship with her own daughter leads to her final demise!

"Jezebel" begins in a courtroom, where Gladys - a self-obsessed socialite - is on trial for murdering a young man believed to be her lover. As the case unfolds, more and more witnesses take the stand and we are drawn into the life history of the accused. Gladys is revealed as a slave to vanity as her fixation with her appearance and how it is changing as she grows older leads her to the point of insanity.

Gladys's cruelty is heartbreaking throughout as she continues to turn her back on those around her in a desperate ploy to protect the secret of her age.

This isn't the most dynamic book that I've read this year, but the unfaltering poise of the Nemirovsky's prose has certainly awoken a desire in me to read another of her titles.

Started: July 18th Finished: July 19th

1 comment:

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Interesting posts and books reviewed here. Tsiolka's book is one I would love to read. I hate it when people are described by the things they write. We aren't what we write. We only reflect nature. Thanks for these and I would be following you