I'm going home for a long weekend next week to visit family and friends; I have a friend visiting from overseas so it will be a busy time with a belated Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by lunches, coffees and drinks plus some quality time with my parents, sister and my cat, Mandoo. I probably won't have much reading time except for when I'm at the airport and flying up but nonetheless that does not prevent me from planning which books I am taking with me. Whenever I venture out, I have a book in my bag as I like to be prepared for all eventualities and potential reading time. For four nights at home I am conservatively packing two books -preferably chunky ones- but I have books at home, some of which I am planning to bring back with me.
Now this is where you come in. I have a shortlist of potential reads to take with me but I am having difficulty deciding between them. Which would you recommend/suggest travel with me?
What is the What by Dave Eggers: this comes highly recommended by Claire of Kiss a Cloud. The copy I have is from the library so reading it is time-sensitive. 560 pages.
Synopsis: At the heart of this astonishing novel is a true story of courage and endurance in the face of one of the most brutal civil wars the world has ever known. Valentino Achak Deng is just a boy when conflict separates him from his family and forces him to leave his small Sudanese village, joining thousands of other orphans on their long, long walk to Ethiopia, where they find safety - for a time. Along the way Valentino encounters enemy soldiers, liberation rebels and deadly militias, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation. But there are experiences ahead that will test his spirit in even greater ways than these...Truly epic in scope, and told with expansive humanity, deep compassion and unexpected humour, What is the What is an eye-opening account of life amid the madness of war and an unforgettable tale of tragedy and triumph.
Manja by Anna Gmeyer: the latest Persephone to pique my curiosity, a reader very kindly sent me a copy of my own. 552 pages.
Written in London by a young Austrian playwright in exile, Manja opens, radically, with five conception scenes one night in 1920. Set in the turbulent Germany of the Weimar Republic, it goes on, equally dramatically, to describe the lives of the children and their families until 1933 when the Nazis came to power. 'What is so unusual,' wrote the playwright Berthold Viertel in 1938, 'is the way the novel contrasts the children's community - in all its idealism, romanticism, decency and enchantment - with the madhouse community of the adults.'
Synopsis: 'Nothing interests Maman today, not even Jean, her favorite child ...She acts dumb, bewitched, like a goat that the neighborhood children have fed sorghum beer.' This extraordinary collection ranges from the depiction of a street family's poverty in Kenya, illegal trading of children in Gabon to inter-religious conflicts in Nigeria and Ethiopia and the terrible situation faced by a mixed Hutu-Tsutsi family in Rwanda. Say You're One of Them is fiction with real emotional punch and told from the viewpoints of children - the innocent victims - is powerful, vivid and deeply moving. Uwem Akpan's ability to capture a child's imagination and his skilful portrayal of the situations they have to endure makes this a truly compelling read.
This book comes with both a caveat and a concern. JoAnn of Lakeside Musing recommends taking this collection slowly, perhaps a story at a time, as it is emotionally draining so perhaps it is not the best choice for a short break. Furthermore, I would prefer not to read this consecutively with What is the What due to similar subject matter.
The Bell by Iris Murdoch: I have been meaning to read Iris Murdoch for some time and she comes highly recommended by Naomi of Bloomsbury Bell (the "bell" of her blog name is taken from this title) who suggested I start here. 352 pages.
Synopsis: Dora Greenfield, erring wife, returns to live with her husband in a lay community encamped outside Imber Abbey, home to a mysterious enclosed order of nuns. Watched over by its devout director and the discreet authority of the wise old Abbess, Imber Court is a haven for lost souls seeking tranquility. But then the lost Abbey bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered, and hidden truths and desires are forced into the light.
Kieron Smith, Boy by James Kelman: I have been wanting to read this book for several months and seeing as I am going home to Glasgow, it seems a perfect choice. 432 pages.
Synopsis: Rejected by his brother and largely ignored by his parents, Kieron Smith finds comfort - and endless stories - in the home of his much-loved grandparents. But when his family move to a new housing scheme on the outskirts of Glasgow, a world away from the close community of the tenements, Kieron struggles to find a way to adapt to his new life. Kieron Smith, boy is a brilliant evocation of an urban childhood. Capturing the joys, frustrations, injustices, excitements, revels, battles, games, uncertainties, questions, lies, discoveries and sheer of wonder of boyhood, it is a story of one boy and every boy. It is James Kelman at his very best.
There are a couple more contenders -including a book or two that may or may not turn up before I go- but these are the front-runners. Any opinions either way? If this is me planning for a long weekend, think what I'll be like in the lead-up to Christmas when I'll be spending two weeks at home!