Books we love

This week we are reviewing Left Neglected, written by the best-selling author of Still Alice, Lisa Genova, it follows the story of Sarah, whose life changes dramatically after a car accident.  Here is Silvia with her review…

A successful career woman, happily married mother of three small children finds out one day that juggling many hats can be more dangerous than she ever thought.  Following a road accident on her way to work that leads to brain surgery, the left side of her world vanishes.  Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she wills herself to regain her independence and heal.  She then learns that her real destiny lies far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets.

‘I think some small part of me knew I was living an unsustainable life. Every now and then, it would whisper, slow down. You don’t need all this.’

I really enjoyed this book.  I am quite impressed with what I consider an important wake up call from most professional women and men.  The well written plot manages to present in style, a theme often approached in other books: who and what is really important in our lives?

Silvia, Brompton Library

 

Books we love

This week we have Fani from Central Library reviewing one of her favourite books, The Interpretation of a Murder.  After a series of brutal attacks on young, society women, Sigmund Freud is called upon to use his revolutionary new ideas to help profile the killer and restore the memory of one of the victims.

The Interpretation of Murder is based around the real-life mystery surrounding Freud’s first -and only-visit to America in 1909. Dr. Stratham Younger, a Freud devotee, is asked to assist the second victim, Nora Acton, regain her memory. He turns to his teacher help in order they find the killer’s identity.

It is a novel with historical facts and exciting plot. One of my favourite books, which I recommend because it is a blend of murder mystery and biography.

Fani-Central Library

Books we love

This week, David from Brompton Library is talking about Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, a hypnotic and magical novel of talking cats and raining fish.  Over to David…

Any Murakami book effortlessly blends the mundane with paranormal fantasy, and Kafka on the Shore is no exception.

Two narratives take us on a journey combining magical realism with a sort of Japanese-adventure travel log. The story follows Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old boy who runs away from home and travels across Japan to disappear, and Nakata, an older gentleman with learning difficulties who has never left his neighbourhood in Tokyo, until now, and has the strange ability to converse with cats.

The two stories take us on an adventure where the two protagonists meet a range of engaging and interesting characters across the country. It’s a completely fascinating and addictive read, twisting often brutal and bizarre violence, intense sexual encounters, magical stones and other dimensions, all served up with portions of steamy Udon and cold beer. This all takes place within the backdrop of modern Japan- national characteristics such as efficiency, order and self-reliance exude from the pages, in a way that really immerses the reader as a sense of place in the only way good literature can.

-David

Kafka on the Shore can be downloaded from our cloudLibrary here, all you need is a Kensington and Chelsea Library card.  If you are not a member, don’t worry, you can join our library service here.  Its completely free to join and read our ebooks.

 

Books we love

 

This week on Books We Love, Georgina from North Kensington is reviewing Michael Rosen’s Book of Play. Michael is the much loved author of adult’s and children’s books, including our children’s book of the week, ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’.

In this non-fiction book, Rosen gives us 101 ways to be creative in fun and interesting ways and shows us how play is not only fun, but also helps us in other areas of our lives. Here is Georgina to tell us more.

Michael Rosen’s Book of Play: Why Play Really Matters and 101 Ways to Get More of It In Your Life 

As an admirer of Michael Rosen’s work with children I chose this book to read as I thought it may provide some practical inspiration to keep young children at home entertained. As it turned out it was as much aimed at adults as children. Rosen’s aim is to re-ignite the curious and playful in us all through a range of  creative ideas for both outdoors and indoors. Perhaps a good one to try if one ever finds themselves bored at home!

Michael Rosen’s Book of Play is available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is a Kensington and Chelsea library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.

 

Recommended Reads

This week, our Book of the Week is 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World. The novel deals with themes such as identity, family, and culture so we have put together a list of books with similar themes that we hope you will also enjoy.

 

funny boy book cover

Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

Growing up in the 1983 Sri Lankan pogroms as Tamil, identity is paramount to Arjie and his family. But even within his community, Arjie knows he is different. Follow his story in this beautifully written reconciliation of culture and sexuality.

 

freshwater book cover

Freshwater by Akwaeke Amezi

An extraordinary novel, Freshwater explores the notion of having a split self. Emezi’s protagonist, Ada, struggles with having ‘one foot on the other side’. Her fractured selves emerge as a result of this phenomenon, pulling her towards darker and darker paths as Ada fades into the background of her own mind.

 

half of a yellow sun book cover

Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Set to the backdrop of the Nigerian civil war, Adichie’s novel follows the intertwined lives of a University professor, a boy from a poor village, a young woman who has abandoned her privileged lifestyle, and an English writer. Half of a Yellow Sun explores the horror of war as the characters are pulled together and apart in unimaginable ways and have their loyalties tested to the extreme.

 

the bell jar book cover

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Plath’s only novel, the Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical tale of aspirations and struggle. When Esther Greenwood wins a dream internship, she expects to have the time of her life. Instead, Esther begins to slide out of control as she struggles to adjust herself within New York society.

All of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary  here.  All you need is a Kensington and Chelsea library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.

Three books read by Connell and Marianne in Normal People

A big part of Marianne and Connell’s world is literature.  Books are mentioned, talked about and read all the way through the novel.  Their shared love of writing is also what bonds them and makes them different from the people around them.  Here are three of the books mentioned in the novel that you can download now from our cloudLibrary.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of three young orphans living in Hailsham, a mysterious and oppressive boarding school, where all is not as it seems.  A tender coming of age story and a gripping mystery, intensified by a love triangle between the three main characters and their gradual uncovering of the sinister reality of their origins.  Marianne reads this while struggling with her own surroundings.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

The Golden Noteboook is the story of a divorced novelist, Anna Wulf, trying to find her identity and make sense of her inner turmoil through writing in a set of different coloured notebooks.  It has been called “inner space” fiction as it focuses on the characters inner life as a mirror for societal breakdown.   Not a likely choice for a typical teenage boy, but for Connell, who finds expresses himself through writing rather than words, and who struggles with his own inner turmoil, it is a fitting choice.

Emma by Jane Austen

When asked at college to name a divisive female protagonist, Connell names the rich, clever and high-spirited Emma Woodhouse.  Austen herself described Emma as a heroine that “no one but myself will like”.  Could she be reminding Connell of anyone…?

Fiona, Brompton Library

If you would like to read any of these books,  including Normal People, they are available here on cloudLibrary.  You can log in using a computer and download the app to start reading.  You just need your library membership number to log in.  Not a member?  Don’t worry, click here to join our library service.

Books we love

This week on Books We love, Adrian from North Kensington Library is reviewing This is Pleasure by Mary Gaitskill.

This book is the author’s take on the Me Too movement. Mary Gaitskill narrates events through the voices of her male and female protagonists and gives you the opportunity to make up your own mind.

The story charts the downfall of an editor and the relationship between him and a close female friend in the publishing world.

Mary Gaitskill weaves ongoing themes throughout her story from the very beginning to its natural end. Every word serves a purpose.

I was so captivated I had to read it twice in case I had missed something, so it was lucky because the book is only 56 pages long.

A great choice for a book group discussion which will probably last longer than it takes to read the book. But it is also worth reading with a partner, house mate or friend to provoke an interesting conversation.

This is Pleasure is available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is a Kensington and Chelsea library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.

Books we love

Join us every Sunday for our new series, Books We Love.  We will be sharing staff reviews off all the books they have been catching up with lately.  This week Richard from Brompton library is talking about Nutshell by Ian McEwan.

A slither of a book that seems to want to escape its confinement and declare itself a king of infinite space, like the quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – on which this story is reimagined, it may resonate currently with our sense of confinement and exclusion from everyday life during these days of Pandemic, when the contrasts between interior and exterior spaces, private and public are strongly felt.

The narrator, an unborn child, exists ‘dreamily in the bubble of (his) thoughts,’ a consciousness represented with a unique first person perspective that aside from passing judgement on the cultural habits of the characters around him, finds time to comment on the meaning of existence, not unlike Hamlet in his frequent ‘bubble’ soliloquies.

Hamlet’s atmosphere of surveillance and mistrust within a decaying State, is neatly reinterpreted by McEwan into the confines of a womb; the pregnant mother, Trudy, betrays her husband, John and then plots his murder with her brother in-law, Claude. The setting is located in a dilapidated Georgian house in London – former childhood home of her husband, whom she has recently ejected on the basis of a trial separation: ‘allowing time and space to grow and renew bonds.’

Like the play within the play in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there is buried within this novella a little gothic horror story that simply adds to the fun and humour of McEwan’s book. The language is poetic and comic grotesque.  At one point the narrator tries to hang himself with his umbilical cord.

Nutshell, a slightly macabre pastiche of domesticity in crisis, is a great little read that has the playfulness of a child at its heart.

Nutshell is available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  Or you can listen to it on RBDigital here.  All you need is your membership number and if you are not a member, don’t worry.  Just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.

17 Books for 2017

Here are seventeen books we recommend you read this year!

1. The Humans by Matt Haig
This book is about an alien’s trip to earth, but it’s also about what it means to be human. It’s funny and uplifting and it explains the difficulties and the joys of being alive.

2. Slade House by David Mitchell
This is a clever ghost story about a paranormal house. You never know whether you can trust what you’re reading.

3. The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
A dramatic family saga full of secrets and lies. Gripping! Continue reading “17 Books for 2017”

Booker Prize Reading Challenge: The Sellout by Paul Beatty & Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh

selloutThe second book in my Booker Prize Reading Challenge is The Sellout by Paul Beatty. This book is set in ‘Dickens’,  a farmland area just outside of Los Angeles. A man is recalling his childhood of growing up under a very peculiar father who carries out experiments on him and the wonderfully colourful people that he knows.

The only problem is that he is going to embark on something which is so profoundly against popular culture and society that he is not just going to be a sellout but the ridicule and laughing stock of America.

I cannot give away too much about this book but it is at times hysterically funny – I’ve had quite a few laugh out loud moments on the tube home. It leads me to think that Beatty could have had a career as a stand-up comic and his political monologues are very prescient, almost Doug Stanhope. The characters are really well drawn, also very very funny but people who you could sympathise with, especially the main character. The problem with this book (in my opinion) is that it doesn’t quite grab your attention the whole way through.

I think it is a very original piece of work and it’s probably the funniest book that I have read.

 

eileenThe third book on my list is Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh

 A considerably older woman (Eileen) is looking back on her life to when she was a 24 year old. Living in ‘X-ville’ with her drunken and disturbed father and without a Mum she has a very restricted life of a job she really can’t stand, people who she doesn’t really want to work with. The odd crush on the security guard keeps her going. That is until a new colleague, Rebecca turns up and breathes new life into her. Their friendship leads to an even darker place and Eileen has some radical decisions to make.

 This is a deeply unsettling book but it was so compelling that I could not put it down. The microcosm of Eileen’s young life is fascinating and her inner world is fuelled by awkwardness, self-loathing and flights of fantasy. You cannot help but cringe in parts, but that’s down to Moshfegh’s brilliant writing. I am not going to spoil the ending but it is seismic. Think of works by Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt and you are getting close.

 So thus far it is my favourite on the shortlist as it feels like a complete novel – it is chilling, diabolical and her descriptions of the landscape make you feel as if you are living inside it. Brilliant.

 Next book that I am reading is All That Man Is by David Szalay, I have high hopes for this one!

Katie