Books: schools for peculiar children

Alternate title: one topos, three books… and they could not be more different! Oh, except in that they all have a story that cannot be told without giving out too much! So no summary = no spoilers!

The book: Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

The edition:Italian translation by Paola Novarese, as published by Einaudi, softback, 295 pages

The good: I love Ishiguro’s writing, the detail, the tone, the language. (Or maybe I should say I love Ishiguro’s writing translated, because I never read him in the original.) And this book has a very interesting premise, believable characters, and a lot of potential for discussion.

The bad:the characters felt like they were only playing at emotions, playing at being human, but I’m not sure whether that’s the whole point of the book (as in, showing that they would not have a soul) or an unwanted byproduct. (Or even, an unwanted byproduct of what, at face value, seems a good translation.) Also, the whole premise was a bit far-fetched, and I was disappointed in how such a sensitive and controversial subject was brought up only to be downplayed.

The verdict: I’m very much on the fence about this one.

More: I went online and read many reviews, but there’s not one of them that does not give away the central mystery of this book.

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The book: Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta

The edition: American paperback edition by Harperteen, 422 pages.

The good: well, I had read good reviews, but did not expect such a good book. I love the way the story unravels, little by little and mystery by mystery. I love the sense of place, of magic, of the hidden links between characters. I love the enclosed world Marchetta created, its rites and costumes. I love the different characters and how each of them goes on looking for his/her own way to adulthood.

The bad: Taylor’s whining and being something of a stereotype character (on this note: has anyone noticed how Katniss Everdeen is totally copied from her? The my-mother-doesn’t-care-about-me whining, the though attitude, the leading role, the “my name is Taylor/Katniss, I’m 17 years old” mantra, and even the unfriendly and savage cat?)

The verdict: this is why I keep reading YA books. The way the story is told is enough to put this book up in the same circle with some of my most loved ones (The God of Small Things, Goodbye Little Women).

More: this counts for the Aussie Author (although it did not feel very Australian to me), the Classic Double and the Semi-Charmed Summer challenges.

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The book: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

The edition: Quirk Books hardback edition, 352 pages

The good: you know how we all craved for adventures when we were 7-8 years old and reading, like, Verne, or Salgari, or whatever adventure book it was at the time? This book makes you feel like that again, and the adventure it brings on is a well-stuffed one.

The bad: I really hoped that this would not turn out to be fantasy, I’d have preferred it that way — but that’s just personal taste. Also, I found the photos a little bit overly unsettling, and I didn’t like the very open ending.

The verdict: a good read for a hot summer day, when you want something different.

More: oh no! I just discovered this is going to be a series! For me, one was enough.

Book: The Inheritance of Loss


The book: The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai

The edition: Italian translation by Giuseppina Oneto, as published by Adelphi, softcover, 391 pages with glossary

The story: an isolated house in Darjeeling, a retired judge, his estranged granddaughter, her Nepali tutor/love interest, an Indian Nepali insurrection, and millions of stories cascading from this fulcrum. For a better synopsis, try Goodreads.

My experience with the book & my thoughts: I didn’t know what to expect from this, except that I had heard generally good things about it a couple of years ago and that I was curious. Now I can see the charm, it is creatively and exquisitely written, and very well translated. It’s just a bit too bleak (in content) for my taste.

What I liked: the narrative technique: millions of different stories like separate threads that are brought together, or like waves originating from the same source and spreading throughout the world.

What I didn’t like: the complete absence of even the tiniest grain of “nice”: everything is in complete decay, no matter the historical period or the place a given scene is set in. There is absolutely no salvation from decay, not even the tiniest spark of hope.

Links to better understand this book:

Counts as: South Asian Challenge 2012 (wait, what? I never said I intended to participate? Well, I wasn’t sure — it’s the one I failed last year. But I love South Asian literature, and do plan to read more if they come my way… Maybe I can make it to 3 this year? Fingers crossed!); Back to the Classic Challenge – Classic award winner

Top Three Books I Wish I Could Read Again For The First Time

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for the list lovers among book bloggers, created and hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. And yes, it should be top 10, but for this week’s theme I could only come up with three make that two and a half books, because the third one I didn’t like that much.

These are the books I wish I could read again for the first time, because they are much less powerful once you know. There is a big mystery at the heart of them (*), a Life-Changing event, but you only get to discover it little by little, one touch at a time and from the points of view of different characters. Hints, foreshadowing, non-linear narration and several intersecting points of view, that’s how they call this style; I’d rather say the author builds the novel and tells about this crucial event in the way an oyster builds a pearl, layer by layer, so there’s no Big Reveal. And these precious novels are:

  1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  2. Goodbye Little Women by Marcela Serrano
  3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

If you know of other books constructed in the same way, please share.

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(*) I hear what you say: this applies to detective stories as well, these are the characteristics of a whodunit. And you’d be right (although there is a different narrative technique in these three, and I think that’s what makes them so precious). I guess crime novels would fit the “Books I Wish I Could Read Again For The First Time” description for many people, but not for me: I erase them completely from my memory as soon as I finish them, so that I am able to read them again and again, and each time is like the first time…