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 13: The Reader

The Reader (Der Vorleser) is a novel by German law professor and judge Bernhard Schlink, published in Germany in 1995 and in the United States in 1997. The story is a parable, dealing with the difficulties post-war German generations have had comprehending the Holocaust; Ruth Franklin writes that it was aimed specifically at the generation Berthold Brecht called the Nachgeborenen, those who came after.

– From Wikipedia

I’m a bit behind on my blogging; in fact, I’ve just finished reading – and thoroughly enjoying – The Reader. After struggling with several of my 26 book challenge books it’s encouraging to have read two excellent books in a row, and specially encouraging to have read one – this one – with such ease and vigour.

Book 3: Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf is the tenth novel by German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse. Originally published in Germany in 1927, it was first translated into English in 1929. Combining autobiographical and psychoanalytic elements, the novel was named after the lonesome wolf of the steppes. The story in large part reflects a profound crisis in Hesse’s spiritual world in the 1920s while memorably portraying the protagonist’s split between his humanity, and his wolf-like aggression and homelessness. The novel became an international success, although Hesse would later claim that the book was largely misunderstood.

– From Wikipedia

My poor fecundity means I’m introducing Steppenwolf having already read half of it. Briefly, it is blistering, insightful and brilliantly poetic, but such very hard work. One unique element of reading this book is that I can’t help but be aware of the person who recommended it. It is in its style and substance Adam all over.

A full write up will surface when I’ve finished the book.

Has anyone else read Steppenwolf? Has anyone else who knows Adam read Steppenwolf?