The fourth month of the year has finally concluded. But as the say, every ending is a new beginning. However, before I commence my May reading journey, let me first flash back to the month that was. Here is the second part of my book hauls in April. Happy reading everyone and have a great weekend ahead. Always keep safe, too.

Title: Waiting to Live
Author: Newa Ramgobin
Publisher: Aventura
Publishing Date: May 1986
No. of Pages: 240

Synopsis: “Nadine Gordimer: “Here is a novel by someone who himself lives at the center of his subject. It was written under government bannings, detention in prison and on trial for political resistance against apartheid. In this moving story by a new South African black writer, Mewa Ramgobin, the growth of the struggle against oppression and the growth of a strange family love fuse in strength. To get to know Ramgobin’s characters is to understand – through people so real one can feel their warm breath and hear their voices – how the will to freedom was germinated in South Africa and become invincible.”

A strong-willed, young South African black man, Elis Mzimande – seduced by technology and the ways of the whites – abandons his people and his traditional settlement to make a better life for himself in the city. The fate of his ambition dramatizes the frightening tensions and ambiguities of apartheid in South Africa. Powerful for the depth of its human drama, Waiting to Live is an astounding political act of literary imagination.”

Title: Solomon Gursky Was here
Author: Mordecai Richler
Publisher: Vintage
Publishing Date: 1991
No. of Pages: 507

Synopsis: “Berger, son of the failed poet L.B. Berger, is in the grips of an obsession. The Gursky family with its colourful bootlegging history, its bizarre connections with the North and the Inuit, and its wildly eccentric relations, both fascinates and infuriates him. His quest to unravel their story leads to the enigmatic Ephraim Gursky: document forger in Victorian England, sole survivor of the ill-fated Franklin expedition and charasmatic religious leader of the Arctic. Of Ephraim’s three grandsons, Bernard has fought, wheeled and cheated his way to the head of a liquor empire. His brother Morrie has reluctantly followed along. But how does Ephraim’s protege, Solomon, fit in? Elusive, mysterious and powerful, Solomon Gursky hovers in the background, always out of Moses’ grasp, but present-like an omen. (Source: Goodreads)

Title: Oryx and Crake
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publishing Date: May 2004
No. of Pages: 374

Synopsis: “Oryx and Crake, the first book of the MaddAddam trilogy, is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey – with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake – through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

Title: Mr. Vertigo
Author: Paul Auster
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: May 1995
No. of Pages: 293

Synopsis: “Paul Auster’s dazzling, picaresque novel is the story of one Walter Claireborne Rawley, renowned nationwide as “Walt the Wonder Boy.” It is the late 1920s, the era of Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, and Al Capone, and Walt is a Saint Louis orphan rescue from the streets by the mysterious Hungarian Master Yehudi, who teaches Walt to walk on air. The vaudeville act that results from Walt’s marvelous new ability takes them across a vast and vibrant country, where they meet and fall prey to sinners, thieves, and villains, from the Kansas Ku Klux Klan to the Chicago mob. Walt’s rise to fame and fortune mirrors America’s own coming of age, and his resilience, like that o the nation, is challenged over and over again.

Mr. Vertigo is a bravura celebration of a raucous age, an ambitious and enduringly brilliant tale of trial and triumph.”

Title: Vernon God Little
Author: DBC Pierre
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publishing Date: 2003
No. of Pages: 277

Synopsis: “”Reading his book made me think of how the English language was in Shakespeare’s day, enormously free and inventive and very idiomatic and full of poetry as well.” John Carey, Chair of the Booker Prize

The riotous adventures of fifteen-year-old Vernon Gregory Little in small-tow Texas and beach-front Mexico mark one of the most spectacularly irreverent, satirically acute and critically acclaimed debuts of the 21st century so far. The only novel to be set in the barbecue sauce capital of central Texas, Vernon God Little suggests that desperate times throw up the most unlikely of heroes.”

Title: The Ghost Road
Author: Pat Barker
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 2008
No. of Pages: 276

Synopsis: “Unforgettable, frightening… at the end, I had tears running down my cheeks.” Observer

1918, the closing months of the war. Army psychiatrist William Rivers is increasingly concerned for the men who have been in his care – particularly Billy Prior, who is about to return to combat in France with young poet Wilfred Owen. As Rivers tries to make sense of what, if anything, he has done to help these injured men, Prior and Owen await the final battles in a war that has decimated a generation.

The Ghost Road is the Booker Prize-winning account of the devastating final months of the First World War. “

Title: Hotel du Lac
Author: Anita Brookner
Publisher: Book Club Associates
Publishing Date: May 1985
No. of Pages: 184

Synopsis: “Edith Hope is in disgrace and working out her probation on the shores of Lake Geneva. Friends and family have banished her to seemly Swiss solitude – out of season – until such time as she may recover her lost senses. Her crime? It all subtly unfolds in Hotel du Lac.

Edith reminds herself that the hotel at least provides an excellent opportunity to finish writing her latest romantic novel. Fantasy and obfuscation are her business: they are also in her nature. In the quiet opulence of the Swiss dining room pampered widows languish in luxury, providing irresistible diversion to such an imaginative and compulsive observer: the carefully elegant Iris Pusey, ‘respectable duenna’, so utterly fulfilled in her desires that she prompts daring thoughts of possession even in the likes of someone as unprepossessing as Edith; Iris’s daughter Jennifer, determinedly gamine, who has inherited her mother’s profound, if good-natured, indifference to anyone but herself. Edith finds their simple greed heartening, enviable.

Enter Mr. Neville, devil’s advocate, also spreading the gospel of seizing what you want. ‘If your capacity for bad behaviour were being properly used,’ he tells Edith, ‘you would not be moping around in that cardigan… Whoever told you that you looked like Virginia Woolf did you a grave disservice.

With characteristic wit and beautifully observed detail, Anita Brookner has created perhaps her most memorable heroine yet. Edith Hope, as reluctant to be recruited by the ultra-feminine as by feminists, adept as a romantic writer yet contending with her own puzzled view of romance comes marvellously to life in this humorous and touching new novel.”

Title: The General in His Labyrinth
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Translator: Edith Grossman
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1991
No. of Pages: 268

Synopsis: “”Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s most political novel is the tragic story of General Simon Bolivar, the man who tried to unite a continent.” Bolivar, known in six Latin American countries as the Liberator, is one of the most revered heroes of the western hemisphere; in Garcia Marquez’s reimagining he is magnificently flawed as well. The novel follows Bolivar as he takes his final journey in 1830 down the Magdalena River toward the sea, revisiting the scenes of his former glory and lamenting his lost dream of an alliance of American nations. Forced from power, dogged by assassins, and prematurely aged and wasted by a fatal illness, the General is still a remarkably vital and mercurial man. He seems to remain alive by the sheer force of will that led him to so many victories in the battlefields and love affairs of his past. As he wanders in the labyrinth of his failing powers – and still-powerful memories – he defies his impending death until the last. (Source: Goodreads)”

Title: The Old Man Who Reads Love Stories
Author: Luis Sepulveda
Translator: Peter Bush
Publisher: Harcourt Brace
Publishing Date: 1993
No. of Pages: 131

Synopsis: “An aging widower lives quietly in a river town in the rain-soaked Ecuadoran jungle, where, increasingly, tourists and opportunists have begun to make inroads. He takes refuge in his books – paperback novels of faraway places and bittersweet love.

But a trader pushes nature too far, setting a mother ocelot on a bloody rampage through the village. The old man, a hunter who once lived among the Indians and knows the jungle better than anyone, is pulled from his peaceful life when he is pressured to join the expedition that will hunt down the animal.

An enchanting tale of adventure and personal honor.

Title: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Author: Julia Alvarez
Publisher: Plume
Publishing Date: 1992
No. of Pages: 290

Synopsis: “Uprooted from their family home in the Dominican Republic, the four Garcia sisters – Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia – arrive in New York City in 1960 to find a life far different from the genteel existence of maids, manicures, and extended family they left behind. What they have lost – and what they find – is revealed in the fifteen interconnected stories that comprise this exquisite first novel. Just as it is a feature of the immigrant experience to always be looking back, the novel begins with thirty-nine-year-old Yolanda’s return to the Island in “Antojos” (“Cravings”) and moves magically backward in time to the final days before the exile that is to transform the girls’ lives. Along the way we witness their headlong plunge into the American mainstream, but although the girls try to distance themselves from the Island by ironing their hair, forgetting their Spanish, and meeting boys unchaperoned, they remain forever caught between the old world and the new. With bright humor and rare insight, Julia Alvarez vividly evokes the tensions and joys of belonging to two distinct cultures in a novel that is utterly authentic and full of irrepressible spirit.”

Title: Death in the Andes
Author: Mario Vargas Llosa
Translator: Edith Grossman
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publishing Date: 1997
No. of Pages: 276

Synopsis: “In an isolated community in the Peruvian Andes, a series of mysterious disappearances has occurred. Army corporal Lituma and his deputy Tomas believe the Shining Path guerrillas are responsible, but the townspeople have their own ideas about the forces that claimed the bodies of the missing men. This riveting novel is filled with unforgettable characters, among them disenfranchised Indians, eccentric local folk, and a couple performing strange cannibalistic sacrifices. As the investigation moves forward, Tomas entertains Lituma with the surreal tale of a precarious love affair.

Death in the Andes is both a fascinating detective novel and an insightful political allegory. Mario Vargas Llosa offers a panoramic view of Peruvian society, from the recent social upheaval to the cultural influences in its past. (Source: Goodreads)”

Title: The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
Author: Rainer Maria Rilke
Translator: Stephen Mitchell
Publisher: Vintage
Publishing Date: April 1985
No. of Pages: 260

Synopsis: “”She this is where people come to live; I would have thought it is a city to die in.” So begins Rilke’s only novel, the brief, haunting Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. First published in 1910, it has proven to be one of the most influential and enduring works fiction of our century – an instance of lyric expression unmatched in modern prose.

Malte Laurids Brigge is a young Danish nobleman and poet living in Paris. Obsessed with death and with the reality that lurks behind appearances, Brigge muses on his family and their history and on the teeming, alien life he sees in the city around him. Many of the themes and images that occur in Rilke’s poetry can also be found in the resonant pages of the novel, which pre-figures the modernist movement in its self-awareness and imagistic immediacy. As Rilke wrote after the book was published, “Poor Malte begins so deep in misery and, in a strict sense, reaches to eternal bliss; he is a heart that strikes a whole octave: after him almost all songs are possible.”

William H. Gass has contributed an introduction to accompany Stephen Mitchell’s powerfully fluent contemporary version of this great book.

Title: The Painted Bird
Author: Jerzy Kosinski
Publisher: Transaction Publishers
Publishing Date: 2000
No. of Pages: 260

Synopsis: “The Painted Bird is a vivid and graphic portrayal of the hellish Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe as seen through the eyes of a boy struggling for survival, an alien child lost in a world gone mad. Some scenes of rape or murder are horrific and bloodcurdling. The Painted Bird is guaranteed to stir the reader’s conscience and haunt the reader’s memory.”