What Was I Reading?

I managed to neglect things a bit while I was gallivanting off in Europe (more on that later), but for now a summary of some of the books I’ve been reading the past couple months:

Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson
Although Ferguson was raised in England, this her charming ode to Scottish life past and present. Written in 1930, it sways between the decaying manor house and Mrs. Memmary recounting tales about Lady Rose in her heyday in the 1870s. While Bonnie Prince Charlie runs rampant in every chapter, I would have adored it as a young teenager and found it quite light reading material, although a tad saccharine.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Having picked up this book on sale for $5 and noting it had won the 2006 Booker Prize, I thought it must have some merit. Desai begins a interesting story about a girl and her grandfather, a retired judge, dealing with the themes of post-colonization, separatism in northern India and individual definitions of national identity and the parallel story of an illegal Indian immigrant in America. What could be an engaging story becomes tedious and mundane and the characters unsympathetic. It’s too bad this is so highly lauded.

Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald, translated by Anthea Bell
While I do not often read “Holocaust” literature as the ending is usually the same shade of bleak, German writer Sebald instead discusses the effects of a tragedy like the Holocaust on future generations. Framed by the main character, Austerlitz’s, interest and passion for architecture, this book discusses how an individual searches for his past through the terms of buildings. The early scenes in a bleak Welsh landscape echo the British tradition of Wuthering Heights and the like, and are some of the most gripping moments of the book.

The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, this story about a middle class London family moving to Sheffield in the 1970s and their respective neighbors on the block is shockingly funny and poignant. While it highlights all the melodrama that can happen in once place at one time, it never feels like a melodrama. Unfortunately the later half of the book documenting what happens to the main characters throughout their lives moves into the realm of taking itself too seriously. Still worth the read even if it could have ended sooner than its 400+ pages.


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