Books and more books

I’ve spent a lot of time tucked away reading and writing over the last couple of months. Spring is quickly turning into summer here and we’ve had the perfect weather f0r sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee and a book.

On Friday I head home for the holidays so I have downloaded Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the long flight(s). I’m also very exciting about heading back to a land of English language bookstores to replenish my to read list.

But for now, here is a round up of my most recent reads.

Eileen- Ottessa Moshifegh

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This book tells the story of a few months in the life of Eileen, a young girl living in a remote New Hampshire town. Eileen recounts those few months as an old lady and we know from early on that the events of that time in her life, changed the course of it forever.

It is a physiological thriller but if you are looking for something like Gone Girl you’ll be disappointed with this book. The reveal takes a long time to happen and most of the action happens in the last 10% of the book. However if you are more interested in character studies that plot then you may like this book.

Eileen as a character is complicated and fraught. She is self-loathing and lives a dark, cold world, with very little light and hope. The book spends a disproportionate time focused on Eileen’s bodily functions- I didn’t find this to be so disgusting but I didn’t find it that fun to read either. While I can appreciate this is a good book, I can’t say that I liked it. The entire book focuses on the dark, disgusting parts of life and I think I just prefer to read about the other parts of the human condition.

The Summer Book- Tove Jansson

This is a beautiful little book. There really is no plot, it’s just a story of a young girl and her grandmother and tales of their summers spent together on a remote island in Finland. I read this after Eileen and in some ways it was like an antidote to the sometimes gross parts ofthat book.

I adored the descriptions of the island, of the sea and the changing weather. The whole story was evocative of long stretched out summers I had as a child where everything seemed possible and the days seemed infinite.

All that being said, nothing really happens so you have to really enjoy beautiful sentences and prose to get satisfaction from this book. I would recommend this as a holiday read and think it would be best enjoyed in a relaxed state.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.- Adele Waldman

I enjoyed this book. It’s a highly readable account of Nate P and his adventures (misadventures) in love.

Nate is a 30 something male living in New York City in the prime of his life. Having struggled with his writing career throughout his 20s he is finally about to have his first book published and he has hit new highs in his career. Nate’s romantic life is also on the rise and the story follows him as he dates Hannah and struggles to fight off his urges to be alone or to be with other women.

Although this is essentially a book about a guy dating a girl, there is more depth to it than just that. Adele Waldman does a good job of picking apart the dynamics of early stage relationships, a lot of the stages that Nate and Hannah go through feel familiar. It’s also interesting because it’s all told from a male perspective.

Nate is emotionally quite stunted and some of his inner ramblings are frustrating to read, he is not a wholy likeable character and ultimately I found myself tiring of him. Overall however, this is a fun book and it would make a good holiday read.

Tender is the night- F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Tender is the night tells the story of husband and wife Dick and Nicole Driver. The story is largely set on the French Riviera where the Diver’s have a house and where they meet young actor Rosemary who is holidaying there. Rosemary falls in love with Dick and she also becomes infatuated in a way with Nicole. To complicate things further not only is Dick, Nicole’s husband but she is also her psychologist.

The premise sounds interesting but I found the whole thing really disjointed and annoying to read. The sentences were rambling and boring, there was none of the beautiful prose that is present in his other novels and I almost put it down a few times.

This book really wasn’t for me. I really enjoyed the Great Gatsby so I had been planning on reading Tender is the night for some time. I kind of wished I hadn’t.

Cloudstreet- Tim Winton

This had been on my to read list for the longest time so when I saw it at a used bookshop here in Buenos Aires, I snapped it up.

It follows two families, the Lambs and the Pickles, living in post WWII Western Australia who are thrown together as a result of a twist of fate and several streaks of bad luck. The two families share an enormous town house in Perth and we follow them as they grow up in the house and their lives develop. Cloudstreet  is an Australian classic and I think it is probably Tim Winton’s masterpiece. His writing is experimental and the story switches from strong plot driven scenes to prose like explorations of characters and place. I liked these changes of pace and they kept me interested.

I mentioned I was reading it to a friend in Sydney and she told me she too had read it when she was in Buenos Aires and it had made her nostalgic for home. I can see how this could happen. His descriptions of the land and of the people plus the fact that he writes the dialogue in the Australian accent makes it so that we are taken in our minds to post war Western Austalia.

I was absorbed by this book to the point where I was worried about the outcome the characters would face. I would highly recommend it, I’m not sure if it would translate too well to non antipodean people but I think the writing can be appreciated regardless.

And now I’m off to day-dream about my holiday which is just five short days away…

 

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