Red flowers were blooming in the front yard, but Nanase had no idea what they were: the names of the flowers did not interest her.
Well, the summary of this novel is going to be short and clear. Young Japanese woman is telepathic and listens in on the households in which she does maid-work. Any questions?
Nanase doesn’t really manage to hold on to a job for long, which could be quite understandable when you can hear everyone’s thoughts. It turns the novel into a collection of short stories: ever so often a new household. It also makes it quite repetitive: everyone only seems to think about status, money and sex.
So, yes, maybe that’s all what people think about when they think no-one else can hear them, but couldn’t there have been some kind of addition to prevent feeling like you’ve read this already the previous chapter? Sadly not. There’s no descriptions of surroundings and Nanase herself doesn’t seem to spend too much thought on herself and her future. It sadly turns The Maid into a creative writing exercise that went on for too long.
The Maid, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Alma Books 2010
When I woke up that morning, it was still pretty early.
I didn’t know there was a book before the film. Now I know the story, I’m … going to skip the film. There are amounts of pain/trauma you don’t want to go through twice. See also: The Green Mile.
Lean on Pete is a horse, but it’s Charley’s story, and it’s a collection of miseries. Charley and his little-good father move through the USA to wherever work is, his mother is mostly unknown and there’s never enough money, furniture or food.
Because his father disappears from time to time, and it’s the summer holiday anyway, Charley (15 years old) goes looking for a job. He finds one in taking care of race horses, with a dodgy fellow, because those seem to be the only kind in his life.
The story is hailed for being Americana, humane, a slice of life and so on, but for a large amount of time it is just sadness upon badness upon abuse. Don’t mistake this book to be something for horse fans, either.
The only reason I’d call this a summer read because in winter there isn’t even nice weather outside to distract you from the shit luck Charley has, again and again. Yes, all of it is nicely written, but just consider the sacrifice of happiness.
Lean on Pete, Willy Vlautin, Faber and Faber 2010
Zolang de historische mensheid bestaat, heeft zij het tafereel gekend van een eenzame man, oog in oog met zijn vernietiging, belichaamd tegenover hem in een college mannen, dat de samenleving vertegenwoordigt.
Om ons te schamen, hoeveel opmerkingen en ideeën uit dit boek (uit 1962) zo in het hedendaagse geplakt kunnen worden. De schuld die bij de slachtoffers gelegd wordt, “kunnen we nu er niet eens over ophouden”, het afschrijven van acties als ‘monsterlijk’ of ‘onmenselijk’ om zo geen verantwoordelijkheid te nemen. Combineer dit met de afwisselende beelden van Israël en hoe men zich er doorheen beweegt (van de Amerikaanse toeristen tot de journalisten) en je kan heel dit boek makkelijk afschrijven als te vreemd/grof/surrealistisch om waar te zijn.
Maar ja, tussendoor is er nog een zaak tegen Adolf Eichmann in Israël, de zaak uit de titel, de nazi die één van de hoofdverantwoordelijken was voor de Holocaust. Het boek is gedateerd, door de taal en sommigen van de gedachten, maar de conclusies zijn duidelijk.
Je zou denken dat we ten eerste dit allemaal al weten en ten tweede er ook naar leven, maar haha. Net zoals de herdenking elk jaar weer wordt betwist, is het lezen van zulke boeken, zo’n zestig jaar later, zeker ook nog nodig. Omdat beide opties niet als waarheid zijn aan te nemen.
De zaak 40/61, Harry Mulisch, De Bezige Bij 2010
Toen ik een kind was, begin jaren tachtig, praatte ik vaak met dingen in mijn mond – eten, slangetjes bij de tandarts, ballonnen die anders wegvlogen, noem maar op – en als er niemand in de buurt was, praatte ik gewoon door.
Is dit de eerste non-fictie die ik lees dit jaar? Jeetje! Nou ja, het is in ieder geval weer eentje van mijn To Read list op Goodreads, een lijst die ik met groot genoegen verklein tot ik vind dat ik wel weer een dozijn mag toevoegen.
Hoe dan ook, Elementen ontraadseld. Zoals non-fictie wel vaker de neiging heeft, vertelt de titel gelijk waar het precies overgaat. Ik heb zeer weinig tot helemaal geen connectie met scheikunde (behalve dat de wereld om me heen en ikzelf er uit bestaan), maar het was het ‘passie, gekte en geschiedenis’ deel dat mij wel aansprak. Plus dat ik vind dat je ook buiten je eigen tuintje van interesses moet kijken, zo af en toe.
Er is in ieder geval genoeg scheikunde en natuurkunde. Het scheelt erg per hoofdstuk of passie enzovoorts ook langskomen, waardoor het voor de leek echt een één-hoofdstuk-per-keer-boek is. Ook dan blijf je vast achter met het gevoel over hoe vreemd deze planeet in elkaar zit, en al het leven daarop zeker ook.
Elementen ontraadseld; De verdwijnende lepel & andere verhalen over passie, gekte en de geschiedenis van het periodiek systeem, Sam Kean, Little Brown 2010
The boy had finally fallen asleep.
I’m pretty sure the last time I read a Charles de Lint novel was before I started this blog, but Widdershins impressed me so much that from time to time I’d still check if I could find more of his in my libraries. The Painted Boy is clearly for younger audiences, providing a more accessible but less eerie, dream like and wonderful story (if those aren’t nostalgia goggles).
The Painted Boy from the title is Jay Li, a teenager that has a large dragon on his back (not tattooed) and is sent off to unfamiliar territory to finish his studies. Jay is part dragon, and will have to do something he won’t know until he’ll experience/see/know it.
Good thing (“”) he ends up in a town held hostage by different kinds of gangs. Of course he has to learn to become one with the dragon and his surroundings, but hey, all this was part of the learning curve, after all.
The magical elements add the necessary spice, else it would have been an oatmeal kind of story: okay for everyone, but nobody’s first pick.
The Painted Boy, Charles De Lint, Viking 2010
I AM NOT AS I ONCE WAS.
I’m so glad I gave this author another chance. The Fifth Season may have been a bridge too far or simply not the right book at the right time (when you read so many books, sometimes it’s weird to accept that you can’t ‘crack’ one right away), but girl, was The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the cool, easy accessible fantasy you just might need.
With accessible I mean that the story line is (mostly) chronological, the lines drawn between good and evil are (mostly) clear and that the world building takes enough of a back seat to not confuse you about which surroundings you’re supposed to read a situation in.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms starts with an unlikely hero, a young woman brought to the royal family. But instead of letting her work her way through the fitting tropes, N.K. Jemisin quickly turns it around, and keeps adding little turns to the regular ideas.
What I really liked was the mythology used, and although this is the reason that does make the book less clean cut towards the end, by then you’ll be too enamored to want to give up.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin, Hatchette Book Group 2010
Lightning has struck me all my life.
I don’t particularly feel like going to hunt fossils right now, but I am curious about the small village of Lyme Regis. Tracy Chevalier has a style in this novel that makes you forget you’re reading digital. The pages take on structures, the story adds a physical sensation, like the book shelters touchable details.
Main characters are spinster Elisabeth, wild and poor child Mary, and the beaches, fossils and water of Lyme Regis. In this short story (under 300 pages, which seems to be a common denominator in last books read), the reader goes along for the fossil hunt and discovering skeletons from creatures previously unknown. This is early nineteenth century England, crocodiles are the height of exotic creatures.
It’s a novel for the senses, filled with a variety of female characters. It’s lovely.
Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier, Penguin Books 2010
Lloyd shoves off the bedcovers and hurries to the front door in white underwear and black socks.
Oh boy, a novel involving journalists, editors and media. At least the title vouches for a neutral, not-myth-making point of view?
It definitely does. There (still) seems to be such a charm attached to the media making branch, while at the same time having entire populations look down on it. The Imperfectionists need neither, cocking up and showing human weaknesses all too often themselves.
The story is about the going-ons of an English-language newspaper in Rome. Editors, correspondents, even a loyal reader — all get a chance to share their point of view. Over fifty years there’s not only the societal changes, but also ones in the branch that show that decades of years at the same company isn’t a good idea for many people.
It makes things (all too) recognisable, funny, sad, and the reader possibly left with a craving for a visit to Italy.
It’s a light, quick read that might make you think differently about media and journalists, but definitely will make you feel less like a stubborn fool. There’s this crowd, after all.
The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman, The Dial Press 2010
I opened my eyes.
Between okay and “why did I put this on my list” non-fiction, I previously had the wonderful Fates and Furies to lift my reading experience up. Now I can add Guardian of the Dead as a delightful breath of fresh air (nothing bad about non-fiction meant, it just has to work harder to blow me away).
This book (a debut novel) did. This isn’t just another YA novel. The usual suspects of love triangle, unknowingly perfect hero(ine) and lack of any friendships/relationships are almost non-existent (the author has a good excuse for the last one). But probably the most exciting thing was the use of Māori mythology. And not in an ‘ Oh, Ah, how exotic and strange’ way, but very much as a part of daily, contemporary life. It shows that there’s more to mythology than another version of Zeus messing up things.
Not that messing up doesn’t happen. Main character Ellie walks into a bite-more-than-you-can-chew situation that might turn into the end of New Zealand as we know it. Throw in frustrations about family, school, and body, add a crush (there is a slightly mysterious love interest), some female friendships and enemies, some unexpected magic and you get a maelstrom of entertainment.
Read it, love it hopefully as much as I do.
Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey, Hachette Book Company 2010
Finally, after driving all night, Evie arrived.
Ah, wonderful, beautiful, (contemporary) fantasy as it should be. From the To Read list, and worthy of its spot.
Evie’s father is ill, terminally. This means she has to prepare for inheriting knowledge and subjects she never knew about, and which have a lot of pull on the less-than-human creatures in this world. But what and why and can her father please just cooperate instead of ignore everything?
Coming apocalypse(s), mythology and comic books are mixed into a story that’s coloured half in gray tones, half in the most vibrant colours in existence. It’s attractive and enticing, with a woman you easily root for at its centre.
Discord’s Apple, Carrie Vaughn, Tor 2010