It’s been a while since I updated on the books I’ve been reading and there have been a few! Three that count towards the 100 countries and 1 that doesn’t, but which I enjoyed nonetheless. The three that are going on the 100 countries list are:
1 – The Alcehmist, by Paulo Coelho (Brazil)
2 – Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka (Austria)
3 – The Book of Chameleons, by José Eduardo Agualusa (Anglola)
and the one that didn’t was The Secrets of Jin Shei by Alma Alexander.
The Alchemist was actually a sneaky re-read; I first read the book around 6-7 years ago and thought it was vastly overrated although I loved some of the imagery, particularly around the crystal shop. A few years on I’m in a different place in my life and can see why people rave about it. Don’t worry, I’m not about to rave about it, I still think it is overrated but perhaps a little less so than than I previously concluded. If you have never read The Alchemist, it is one to pick up when you need some help making life decisions. It is carefully written to send a message of affirmation to every reader – follow your dreams, no matter how hard it may seem along the way, and you will be happy. It is a heartening read and did make me feel temporarily more positive about life, but it won’t be something I’ll reread for a while.
Metamorphosis; I am ashamed that I have never read this before. I’ve never read any Kafka at all, in fact. Is it strange to say he reminds me of Ibsen? In a thematic way of course, using literature as social criticism, although I’m not quite sure why I would pick Ibsen out from all the authors who do just that. Perhaps it is something like Nora’s psychologial shift in A Doll’s House that contrasts with Gregor’s physical and mental changes in Metamorphosis and the selfishness both encounter from their loved ones as a result of those changes that make me link the two authors. Any rate, in a nutshell, a salesman wakes up one day to find he has morphed into a giant bug. What follows is how he and his family cope with his change (to be honest, I’m not sure I’d react well to my sister if she woke up as a super size cockroach). They don’t cope well. He doesn’t cope well. Far more subtle and thought provoking than The Alchemist but still very readable.
The Book of Chameleons recently won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize. Here is what Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor of the Independent said: “José Eduardo Agualusa’s The Book of Chameleons is a delightful, moving and revealing novel about modern Africa, about memory, grief and the endurance of hope. It is remarkable for its witty originality and profound humanity.”
It made me go to sleep. Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood for something like Chameleons, but I found it difficult to motivate myself to pick it up and continue reading once I’d put it down. I don’t even have any enthusiasm for thinking about the book retrospectively, so I’ll finish my musings here.
Finally, The Secrets of Jin Shei. Wnted to read it for ages, loved it all the way through and felt vastly let down by the end. The whole way through, I felt the author was building up to something big…and I got to a tense point in the text, turned the page, and it ended. How come? Definitely one for BookMooch, but can’t be faulted for gripping escapism.