Books catch up: The Emigrants, Ghostwritten, Long Walk to Freedom, The Book Thief

Sorry, sorry, sorry for the lack of blogs recently. I know just how disruptive my apathy can be to the lives of my million-odd readers. Some of you have emailed to complain of panic attacks, shortness of breath and hysteria. I can only apologise and, by way of repentance, offer a blog about four books (four thoroughly enjoyable books) at once:

Book 17: The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg

A misleadingly chunky book, this is one of the easiest reads I’ve had this year – despite being set variously in the 19th century in rural Sweden and the Atlantic ocean. I’ve barely been in either of those places ever, let alone in the 19th century. But it’s such a pleasantly and simply told story, you can’t fail to enjoy it. I’m only sad that The Emigrants is the first part of four books the final three of which, until next year, I won’t have time to read.

Book 18: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

This one of only a few contemporary-set novels I’ve read this year, and it was a refreshing departure. David Mitchell has an astonishing talent for covering a multitude of voices (the novel is told in the first-person by nine unique characters) and to match it a gift for clever, convoluted plots. This is one to read quickly but carefully.

Book 19: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

The only non-fiction book, – indeed the only (auto)biography – on my list. There’s not much I can say to add to the multitude of compliments this book has been paid; only that I began reading wary of a tale so inextricably connected with history, politics and geography – three things to which I’m not very good at paying attention – and was delightfully welcomed by its human warmth and clarity.

Book 20: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Several pages into The Book Thief I really didn’t expect to enjoy the subsequent 500; it has a tone and a style that takes a few moments to embrace; at first seeming a little twee, a little contrived. But so very quickly it wins you over with quiet aplomb. A story narrated by death, a character who every day encounters humans at their best and worst, but will never fully understand them; what a shining manner in which to explore Nazi Germany: a time and a place when humans encountered death so much, and did things so difficult even for humans themselves to understand.

Next up: The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

Book 6: Great Expectations

Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens. It depicts the growth and personal development of an orphan named Pip.

– From Wikipedia

Great Expectations is a new addition to my 2012 26 book challenge list. I needed a replacement for Michel del Castillo’s La Guitare, which is sadly only available in French. I had considered dropping a Danny Wallace-style twist on myself and forcing myself to read the book in [my dreadful, GCSE-standard] French, but Great Expectations seemed a good fit for three reasons:

  • The book representing New Zealand on my list is Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip
  • During the longlisting process, Ben had suggested I read a Charles Dickens novel
  • I’ve never liked Dickens and his paid-by-the-word verbal extravagance. For that reason I haven’t read anything by him in about 10 years, so it will be interesting to revisit his work.

So this is the second (or, rather, the first of two) books by English authors on my list (the other is David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten). Naughty, but justified, I think.

484 pages of Dickens, here I come. Does anyone else find the prospect stultifying?