I did promise myself but… oops, here we go again. For the second month in a row, I bought more books than I have read. Without further ado, here is a list of my February 2021 book haul. Happy reading!
Title: The Sound of Waves
Author: Yukio Mishima
Translator: Meredith Weatherby
Publisher: Vintage International
Publishing Date: October 1994
No. of Pages: 183
Synopsis: “Set in a remote fishing village in Japan, The Sound of Waves is a timeless story of first love. It tells of Shinji, a young fisherman, and Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village. Shinji is entranced at the sight of Hatsue in the twilight on the beach, upon her return from another island, where she had been training to be a pearl diver. They fall in love, but must then endure the calumny and gossip of the villagers.”
Author: Irvine Welsh
Publishing Date: 1996
No. of Pages: 344
Synopsis: “The bestselling novel by Irvine Welsh that provided the inspiration for Danny Boyle’s hit film Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting oan a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fuckin junk food intae yir mooth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total fuckin embarrassment tae the selfish, fucked-up brats ye’ve produced. Choose life” (Source: Goodreads)
Title: The Siege of Krishnapur
Author: J.G. Farrell
Publishing Date: 2007
No. of Pages: 313
Synopsis: “The year is 1857. In Krishnapur, the British community carries on its serene existence, complacently ignoring the rumours of trouble among the native troops elsewhere in Hindustan. Life is dull, but the trappings of Civilization must be earnestly preserved. Only the Collector, Mr Hopkins, senses danger.
When the sepoys in the nearby cantonment rise in bloody revolt, the British retreat in shocked confusion to the residency. Crowded behind makeshift barricades, surrounded by the Collector’s varied mementoes of the Great Exhibition, they set themselves grimly to fight for their lives – and for their way of life – with every means at their disposal.”
Author: Michel Houellebecq
Translator: Frank Wynne
Publishing Date: 2001
No. of Pages: 379
Synopsis: “Half-brothers Michel and Bruno have a mother in common but little else. Michel is a molecular biologist, a thinker and idealist, a man with no erotic life to speak of and little in the way of human society. Bruno, by contrast is a libertine, though more in theory than in practice, his endless lust being all too rarely reciprocated. Both are symptomatic members of our atomised society, where religion has given way to shallow ‘new age’ philosophies and love to meaningless sexual connections.
Atomised tells the story of two brothers, but the real subject of the novel is the dismantling of contemporary society and its assumptions, its political incorrectness, and its caustic and penetrating asides on everything from anthropology to the problem pages of girls’ magazines.”
Title: Silent House
Author: Orhan Pamuk
Translator: Robert Finn
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publishing Date: 2012
No. of Pages: 402
Synopsis: “A moving story of a Turkish family gathering in the shadow of the impending military coup of 1980
In an old mansion in a village near Istanbul, a widow awaits the annual visit of her grandchildren. She has lived in the village for decades, ever since her husband, an idealistic young doctor, first arrived to serve the poor fishermen. Now mostly bedridden, she is attended by her faithful servant Recep, a dwarf – and her late husband’s illegitimate son. But it is Recep’s nephew Hassan, a high-school dropout lately fallen in with right-wing nationalists, who will draw the family into Turkey’s century-long struggle for modernity.”
Title: The Orphan Master’s Son
Author: Adam Johnson
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 2012
No. of Pages: 443
Synopsis: “Park Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother – a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang – and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to King Jon Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”
In this epic, critically acclaimed tour de force, Adam Johnson provides a riveting portrait of a world rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.”
Title: Eugene Onegin
Author: Alexander Pushkin
Translator: Liet.-Col. Henry Spalding
Publisher: London Macmillan and Co.
Publishing Date: 1881
No. of Pages: 186
Synopsis: “Tired of the glitter and glamour of St Petersburg society, aristocratic dandy Eugene Onegin retreats to the country estate that he has recently inherited. There he begins an unlikely friendship with the idealistic young poet Vladimir Lensky, who welcomes this urbane addition to their small social circle and introduces Onegin to his fiancée’s family. But when her sister Tatyana becomes infatuated with Onegin his cold rejection of her love brings about a tragedy that encompasses them all. Unfolded with dream-like inevitability and dazzling energy, Pushkin’s tragic poem is one of the great works of Russian literature.” (Source: Goodreads)
Title: Nights at the Circus
Author: Angela Carter
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publishing Date: 2007
No. of Pages: 350
Synopsis: “Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe’s capital, part swan… or all fake?
Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney’s circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St. Petersburg, and Siberia.”
Title: The Cave
Author: Jose Saramao
Translator: Margaret Jull Costa
Publisher: Harcourt Inc.
Publishing Date: 2002
No. of Pages: 307
Synopsis: “Cipriano Algor, an elderly potter, lives with his daughter Marta and her husband Marcal in a small village on the outskirts of The Center, an imposing complex of shops, apartment blocks, offices, and sensation zones. Marcal works there as a security guard, and Cipriano drives him to work each day before delivering his own humble pots and jugs. On one visit, he is told not to make any more deliveries until further notice. People prefer plastic, he is told; it lasts longer and doesn’t break.
Unwilling to give up his craft, Cipriano tries his hand at making ceramic dolls. Astonishingly, The Center places an order for hundreds of figurines, and Cipriano and Marta set to work. In the meantime, Cipriano meets a young widow at the graves of their recently departed spouses, and a hesitant romance begins.
When Marta learns that she is pregnant and Marcal receives a promotion, they all move into an apartment in The Center. Soon they hear a mysterious sound of digging, and one night Marcal and Cipriano investigate. Horrified by what they discover, the family, which now includes the widow and a dog, sets off in a truck, heading for the great unknown.
Suffused with the depth, humor, and above all the extraordinary sense of humanity that marks each of Saramago’s novels, The Cave is sure to become an essential book of our time,”
Title: The Moor’s Lasst Sigh
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publishing Date: 1995
No. of Pages: 434
Synopsis: “’Mine is the story of the fall from grace of a high-born crossbreed – me, Moraes Zogoiby, called ‘Moor’, for most of my life is the only heir to the spice-trade-‘n’-big-business millions of the da Gama-Zogoiby dynasty of Cochin – and of my banishment by my mother Aurora, nee da Gama, most illustrious of our modern artists.’
It began with the watery disappearance of Great-Grandfather Francisco, swallowed by the bustling lagoon lapping his island mansion; and with the catastrophic family conflict that followed, an epic battle that led to torched cashew orchards, smouldering cardamom groves, and murders. Thus was a family divided, not just by greed and secrets, but by chalk lines drawn across floors, like frontiers, and spice-sacks piled up across courtyards, as though they were defences.
(Years later, Bombay would also go up in flames, victim of its own fatal divisons.)
Once a year, high above massed festival crowds, her white hair flying in long loose exclamations, her ankles a-ingle with silver bell-bracelets, Aurora would dance her rebellion against India’s immense perversity. And, in magical charcoal and oils, she tried to heal what-could-not-be-kept-whole, laying bare, on gallery walls, the secrets of her family and times.
From the Paradise of Aurora’s legendary salon to his omnipotent father’s sky-garden atop a towering glass high-rise built by invisible men, the Moor’s breathless story unfolds his family’s often grotesque but compulsively moving fortunes, and the tragi-comic transformations wrought by love.
Surpassing even the imaginative brilliance of Midnight’s Children, The Moor’s Last Sigh is spectacularly ambitious, funny, satirical, and compassionate. It is a love song to a vanishing world, but also its last hurrah.”
Title: My Year Abroad
Author: Chang-Rae Lee
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publishing Date: February 2021
No. of Pages: 477
Synopsis: “Widely considered a “master craftsman” (The Washington Post), Chang-rae Lee returns with My Year Abroad, the exuberant story of a young American life transformed by an unusual Asian adventure: a provocative novel about the human capacities for pleasure, pain, and connection.
The story follows Tiller, a very average, fairly unmotivated college student from New Jersey, and Pong Lou, a wildly creative, larger-than-life Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterious business trip across Asia, Tiller is catapulted from ordinary young man to talented protégé and pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong, and of himself.
In the breathtaking, “precise and elliptical prose that Lee is known for (The New York Times), the narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it. Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, mental health, parenthood, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion – on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs. Tinged at once with humor and darkness, electric with its accumulating surprises and suspense, this is a novel that only Chang-rae Lee could have written, and one that will be read and discussed for years to come.”