April Reads

Yes, yes I know. I did the thing I promised myself I wouldn’t do, I neglected my blogging duties and let me reading reviews slide yet again.

I won’t offer any further excuses because they’re much the same as last time but I can promise a little more commitment this time round because there’s nothing like a WordPress plan renewal fee sneaking out of your bank account to remind you to get your arse in gear.

So rather than hammer through three months of reading in one fell swoop I’m going to commit myself to not one but three quick-fire write ups to ease myself back in.

So, let’s see if I can sum up in 200 words or so, all the things I can actually remember about the things I read all those months ago shall we…

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I had to double check but this was actually my first venture into Adichie’s fiction. It was as utterly brilliant as I’d expected.

I’ve previously flicked through the opening chapter of Half of a Yellow Sun, which is where my confusion came from, and found it quite difficult to get into, perhaps I wasn’t prepared for the jolt of time and space, but Purple Hibiscus was like climbing into a well-worn armchair. The writing is superb, I’d broken my heart over the central characters within paragraphs of beginning and I found myself crawling into bed at night desperate to get back to the close heat of Nigeria to make sure that Kambili was going to be OK.

If you’re making your first foray into Adichie’s wonderful words, I definitely recommend this as a good starting place. It’s convinced me to pop Half a Yellow Sun and Americanah back onto my To Read Pile.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I picked this beautifully battered copy of Olive Kitteridge up secondhand after an old colleague recommended it but it’s taken me several years to get around to actually picking it up and opening it’s wilted covers.

As a reader, this book was fantastic. Beautiful writing which forces you to pause and reflect and reread, a strong sense of atmosphere that draws you right into the small town throughout which Strout propels us from one household to another.

As a writer, this book was phenomenal. I’ve always loved short stories but I can’t believe that I’ve not come across more of this kind of serialisation of stories – narratives that intertwine and crossover and weave together to create, not just a collection of stories, but a whole community. It feels almost like a Soap Opera and like a Soap Opera, it draws on every emotion you have to give.

I just know that this is a book I’ll begrudgingly give to anyone who asks for a reading recommendation because I’ll so desperately want to return to it’s brilliance for inspiration again and again.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

I avoided this book when it first hit the shelves following the controversies which emerged around factual inconsistencies and when I finally did take it up on the good recommendation of DH’s mum, I remained skeptical.

But less that 100 pages in and I was intrigued, though not quite convinced by the love story which was emerging. As the daughter of two historians I’m naturally cautious of historical fiction, conscious of the fine line where fact and fiction, history and story diverge from each other. But as a reader and writer, I do believe that literature has a duty to history as much as it has to storytelling and reading about how Heather Morris came to learn, and in turn, to tell Lale’s story, my scepticism waned. After all, so many people who experienced the holocaust were robbed of the opportunity to tell their own stories, important stories that should be told loudly and often to silence those who would unbelievably call them into question.

This book taught me things about Auschwitz and the holocaust that I hadn’t known, it unfolds details that I’ve not read about or seen in films before. Following a chat with my mum about it, she confirmed how many stories, how much details remains untouched by the storytellers and filmmakers, in archives and personal memoirs still coming to light. As the remaining survivors of such inhumanity approach the natural end of their lives, it’s important that their stories are captured and told and remembered.

Despite my reservations I was really struck by and greatly enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz and found myself full of questions and conversation to unravel anew the depths and devastation of such unimaginable evil and the unbelievable strength and sacrifice of those who survived it. Do read it, but do keep your reservations and seek to read and learn more about Auschwitz and the holocaust. It should be kept alive.

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