Saturday, 22 January 2011
Long Lost Friends
When you spend a lot of your time recommending books, you tend to focus on recent books the may not yet have seen, or else you delve into your brain to recall great reads from the past. Inevitably though, I forget some of the fantastic books I read many moons ago. So last night I had a good rummage into the dustier corners of my bookshelves and pulled out a handful of old friends I never remember to recommend but which I will endeavour to from now on. Here they are:
1. Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan. A extraordinary, original, grotesquely funny novel set in 19C Tasmania at a time when all the convicts were being shipped over. Beautiful writing, intense and fairly crazy in parts.
2. A Passage to India by E.M Forster. A classic but one I often forget to recommend. Superb novel set in 1920s India against the backdrop of the British Raj where a young British lady accuses an Indian Physician of attempting to assault her on a day trip out to the Malabar caves. A hot and dusty tale of prejudice and racial tension amid setting suns and rickshaws.
3. Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner. Also a classic - this time one for younger readers. A tale of smuggling in the 19C off the English coast. Storms, diamonds, castles, shipwrecks and a teary ending. Who needs Harry Potter?
4. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. A brilliant Nigerian novel (written in English) set in late 19C within a group of villages focusing on their leader, Okonkwo and his family and the influences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on their traditional way of life. A very powerful book which has really stayed with me.
5. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. This was one of those books I was vaguely aware of but didn't really know anything about until a couple of years ago and was then surprised at how much I loved it. The story of a very young German soldier in World War I and all the horrors and psychological trauma he endures. Sounds pretty intense and it is, but it is also poetic and beautiful and thought-provoking and tender and human. Ah. Just superb.