Monday, 16 May 2022

Book Review: China Room by Sunjeev Sahota

China Room

China Room by Sunjeev Sahota
My rating: 4 of 5 stars 

Beautiful. One thread is the heart wrenching story set in 1929 Punjab of 15 yr old Mehar's misreading of who is her husband - how can this happen? she is one of three young wives to three brothers, all ruled over by the strict, often callous, family matriarch. The girls live together in a small room, and are veiled at all times, in absolute segregation. But Mehar is inquisitive and thinks she has worked it out. Intertwined with this is the modern storyline where a teenage recovering addict from the UK visits family in modern Punjab.

In what I think is one of the most honest author video interviews I have watched Sahota tells how a story from his own family gave rise to Mehar's, how structure is all important to him when writing. That structure, apparent to some extent when I read the novel, is one of the two threads circulating each other,  spiralling closer and closer, with shorter and shorter chapters building reader tension as he explores social and pyschological imprisonment and escape. Personally, I found Mehar's story by far the strongest, but at the same time the reflections of it in the modern line cleverly bring out more than the sum of the parts.

This is his only third novel, he is now an Assistant Prof teaching Creative Writing at Durham Univ in England. I read his second [book:The Year of the Runaways|42200524] which I thought was marvellous - see my review . It is clear that Sahota can write both men and women characters, in stories which totally engage the reader. Now I really must go and read his first [book:Ours Are the Streets|9826870].

Highly recommended

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Book Review: The Anomaly By Hervé Le Tellier

The Anomaly

The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was alerted to this book by a member of my online bookgroup who has similar reading tastes to myself. Not disappointed. 

It might be difficult to review this French book sensation without allowing any future reader to experience the organic reveals Tellier does so well. Victor writes a book entitled The Anomaly. Victor writes a book which bears witness to the anomaly. His editor says it is too complicated and he narrows his suite of characters down to eleven. Victor senses that even eleven is too many. The reader is reading a book called The Anomaly. It takes time to introduce so many characters and Tellier keeps the reader going as she begins to realise they all have one experience in common. How the outcome of this experience is managed, by them and others forms the second half of the book.
I loved the quips at Macron, and the unamed US President who would have stalled Twitter if the same experience happened on Air Force One! If on a Winter's Night....Circularity spirals.

A captivating read. Great ending. My advice is do not read book reviews of this book before you finish it.

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Friday, 22 April 2022

Short Story Review: Half Light by Tayari Jones

Half Light Half Light by Tayari Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Short story about twins Amelia and Camelia Hall who have identical faces but look nothing like each other in all other respects. They are on a mission to retrieve a portrait of their mother painted by Jacques Toussaint. While still in ‘till death do us part’ mode dermatologist Amelia had given the portrait, originally given to her by her mother, to her musician husband in return for one of his songs written on paper. He ended up with it after their divorce where Camelia had acted as Amelia’s attorney. This retrieval is of course illegal and we all know that the best plans go wrong in this case when they meet the much younger, cake baker, Melanie in the ex’s kitchen
This is the second short story I have read by Tayari Jones, the trouble is I’m just not normally interested in the domesticity of family lives that she writes about but I have to say this one held me so much more that my previous read, Dispossession. Once again this was a free Audible Original and I’m glad I listened to this one.

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