Monday, February 19, 2018

My very belated Japanese Literature Challenge Reviews

I am a huge fan of this challenge, hosted this year my Mel U @ the reading life and Dolce Bellezza, the 11th Japanese Literature Challenge ran from June 2017 to January 2018... Sadly, I didn't get much read during my University studies, but I did enjoy these two books over the summer. 

Having participated in most of the 11 years of this challenge,  I have read nearly all of Murakami's books, some novels in themselves, but many compilations of short stories. Murakami has a reoccurring set of themes in his stories, and these short stories, in Men without Women, are the same. Music, trains and transport (including train stations), school friends and universities as a period of life, and intersections between relationships. While these short stories are written from a mans perspective, I appreciated the reflective approach of Murakami on life, in the moment, and the people you share it with..  While I haven't finished all of this yet, it hasn't disappointed. 
 I have, again, read others by Banana Yoshimoto (and by the way, I love that name), so this one was definitely on my list. My niece studied Japanese at high school, and the one thing I remember about Japanese language that she taught me (when we had the pleasure of travelling together in Japan), was that Moshi Moshi is what you say when you answer the phone. Its a pleasantry like Hello.

So this book is about telephone calls... between the dead father and the living and grieving daughter. But its much more than that too. Without going into the details of her fathers death (I don't want to spoil anything), the narrator is joined by her mother in grief. This is about both of their coming to terms with their loss, but also finding their new..

I really enjoyed this. Banana introduces new ideas and new themes that weave together the fully story of a young women discovering her place in the world. I can safely say, I'll read more from Banana Yoshimoto..


Sunday, February 4, 2018

January Reading

In November last year (2017) I finished an assignment for Uni and some large work, and promised myself I would read some books over summer. As I started to compose this review, I surprised myself... I did  read some books. All very different. 

I'm better at listening to podcasts than reading books, and I heard about this book listening to ABC's Conversations with Richard Fidler. Conversations draws you deeper into the life story of someone you may, or may not, have heard about - someone who has seen and done amazing things. I listened to the interview with Shankari Chandran, and learnt that she had written this novel. The promo for this podcast said this

How the daughter of a Hindu brain surgeon made her mark on Guantanamo BayShankari Chandran grew up watching her father operate on the brain. But rather than following her parents into medicine, she chose an unexpected path

Shankari studied law, and worked in one the worlds largest law firms, and set up that firms human rights law division. She had been involved in some of the era's largest and more complex human rights cases. With her growing up around medicine, and experience of law and international human rights concerns, she wrote this novel. The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia in 2040, after an ebola pandemic and wars have destroyed the world.

This is not my usual choice of reading material - but I was engaged. I felt Chandran took me to a new understanding of global politics and how science can be used for good or not. each new theme opened my eyes to some possible reality. 
Again, from podcast to book. One of my favourite podcasts is Chat10Looks3 with Annabel Crab and Leigh Sales. The podcast is like having Sunday brunch with friends, as Annabel and Leigh (both well known Australian Journalists who focus on politics and current affairs) talk about the books, movies, TV shows and food they love. They never stop talking about the work of Helen Garner. Helen is an Australian author who's words capture the reader and explain cleverly but simply,  every day interactions and emotions.
Helen Garner writes novels, stories, screenplays and works of non-fiction. In 2006 she received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature, and in 2016 she won the prestigious Windham–Campbell Prize for non-fiction and the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award. Her most recent book, Everywhere I Look won the 2017 Indie Book Award for Non-Fiction.
In the Spare Room, Helen tells us of when her long time friend, who lives in a different city, moves in with her while she is accessing an alternative cancer treatment centre in her final months. It's a lovely story of love and anguish, generosity and pain, family and community.  I was really touched by this story.
This next book was one I got for Christmas. Having previously read the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, I thought I'd like this one too. However, I felt this was a bit light on. 
The Zanzibar Wife is a bewitching novel of clashing cultures and conflicting beliefs, of secrets and revelations, of mystery and magic, by the author of the international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of KabulSet both in Oman and on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, The Zanzibar Wife is the story of three different women, each at a turning point in her life . . .
For me, it was a little fanciful and fake, but still I allowed the descriptions of the marketplaces, villages and flavours of Oman and Zanzibar to transport me to a foreign place. It was a easy read. 

I have two  more reviews to write, but a different post will follow, as they are for my Japanese Literature Challenge, which I have again really enjoyed! 
Now, as I'm writing this, I realise that I haven't got something in my kindle for the next read. I do have a hard copy of 'the First Casualty' by Peter Greste which is described as...
Extremely timely, enlightening and passionate, The First Casualty is foreign correspondent Peter Greste’s first-hand account of how the war on journalism has spread from the battlefields of the Middle East to the governments of the West
So here's to the next month of reading...