At the end of 2016 I read The Guest Cat and Ghostwritten, and in many ways they have paved the way for the books i’ve been reading for most of 2016. I already wrote Cats & Ghosts about what I thought of those two, plus they were 2015… this post is this year.
Before I left Thailand and headed back to Kochi, I picked up a copy of David Mitchell’s ‘The Bone Clocks’. I saw David speak about the novel earlier in 2015 as part of a Waterstones live event, yet at the time I was too broke to buy it. However Ghostwritten was so incredible I was keen to get hold of more of his work. The Bone Clocks was worth the £3 and the extra weight, mainly because I consumed the majority of it whilst lying on the carpeted floor at Kuala Lumpur airport waiting for my transfer back to India. In many ways, it is far easier to follow than alot of the previous books, I mean it’s almost chronological -and it needs to be, because otherwise, well your head is just going to get squished up. It does get confusing in places, or that could just have been my exhaustion, jetlag and being near a childrens play area. Was it as good as Ghostwritten? Not quite, but it was still a phenomenal way to spend a 5 hour transfer and I am still in love with him. Possibly even more so.
After finishing the Bone Clocks and landing back in India, I was still missing Thailand. And as mentioned, I was struggling to feel the India vibes. After making the decision to stay, I decided to try and immerse myself back in India and read some of the ‘India’ books I had on my kindle, ones I’d stared at and never clicked open despite their award winning accolades.
I started with ‘The Lowland’ by Jhumpa Lahiri, followed it with Family Life by Akhil Sharma which gave two beautiful insights into the frustration of Indian Family Life. The Lowland, giving me a brief insight into an aspect fo North East Indian politics that I hadn’t grasped, and further cemented thoughts I had in relation to the months spent in Kochi… especially regarding The Tolly Club and Sharma’s Family Life holding onto the spine of respect and persistent that is so persistent within the heart of Indian life. Not only did both books bring back to India, they also made me want to explore…
The next three months, I tried not to read, and instead to focus on my own writing. However… I still found myself reading the incredible Our Happy Time by Gong-Ji Young, which is possibly a new favourite – the story of a girl, who has had several suicide attempts, is taken under the wing of her religious aunt and finds herself meeting and becoming friends with a man on death row. You see two sides of the story, it’s beautiful, heartbreaking in so many ways. It was also set in Seoul, so it felt like a very bizarre walk down memory lane at some points as well.The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng was the next book, following on from the Asian theme and kind of making me want to go and live in Malayasia, and again told the history of Malaysia; in vague terms, in an incredibly beautiful way – a story of culture, of relationships and of duty. I’m keen to pick up a copy of The Garden of Evening Mists – the more well known of Tan Twan Eng’s roster
Things we have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh was a massive diversion from all things asian and is the story of Yasmin, a lonely girl, desperate for a friend It’s unsettling,. disturbing and a little along a similar vein to The Lovely Bones – and current BBC drama, Thirteen.
Somewhere in the midsts of it all – after The Bone Clocks definitley this year and I think in Gokarna, I also read How Should a person be? By Sheila Heti which is the story of her brilliantly messy twenties, her friend Margaux, her work, her men – it was really really good – light and funny, a step away from what I was writing and what i had been reading – a little like pink buttercream ontop of fruitcake, if you can accept the extended metaphor as an explanation!
For me 2016 has been light on the reading.Normally I read huge amounts of fiction, and okay, these books have been topped up by a number of more spiritual ashram texts, including, ahem, The Bhagavad Gita, yet with my focus being on my own writing I haven’t wanted to be too influenced, I know what my mind is like! What I do know, is that I have a huge stack of books in my amazon basket all waiting to be somehow aquisitioned…
Treats by Lara Williams, Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Porter, Asking for it by Louise O’Neill, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, I have the right to destroy myself by Young-Ha Kim and Quicksand by Steve Toltz are just a few!