Today, I decided to take a break from travel and focus on what on my favourite activities when on the way to my next destination: reading.
Rose – or the House I Loved according to the English edition – by Tatiane de Rosnay is a delicate novel about the beginning of the era of dramatic transformation of the urban structure of Paris. Rose Bazelet’s resistance against the plans to demolish the house on rue Childebert involves more than social resistance, taking the shape of a complex remembrance process and coming at terms with the past. The story is emotional, well written and with many historical details about the beautiful city of Paris. I’ve read the French version which is very beautiful.
A couple of centuries later, a Frenchman says Bonjour, Berlin! This story involves some short coming at terms with the past too, but it is mostly about a past with many drugs and other adventures. And Friedrichshain’s Berlin is actually the last place on earth to start a new beginning. Note to self, to find some time to catch up with this part of Berlin one of these days.
Here comes one of my favourite books I’ve read in a long time: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. The love story between the Golem Chava and the Jinni Ahmad is a great writing, with a surprising development of the story within stories between a woman made of clay in a shtetl in Easter Europe, and a man of fire arriving from Syria in a vase. Although the context is based on old Jewish and Arabic legends, the author is creating admirably a new story that does not have anything stereotypical or academic that might diminish the literary quality.
On the other hand, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty was a disappointment, after my big enthusiasm a couple of years ago after reading the White Teeth. An ironic novel about political correctness and families in the academia, it is using perhaps too much creative writing tips instead of writing simple good stories.
My non-literary suggestion, but connected with writing though, is about How to create Non-fiction book ideas that sell, by James R. Thomson. It focuses a lot on intensive research and on pre-marketing and how to have the mindset of the non-fiction writer. The most useful tips: ‘When someone is buying a book, they really don’t care about you. They are buying the book with the hope and expectation that it will improve their life either in the short or long term’.
On the way to Hamburg, I finished yesterday The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell. Although I love the topic, dealing with foreign presence in Japan and the influence of Enlightenment on the mentalities and institutions of the secluded Empire. A Dutch-book keeper Jacob de Zoet is sent to Japan as a resilience test before eventually getting married with a rich girl, but sooner he will be involved in the cultural and social adjustment to the daily life as a foreigner, including falling in an impossible love with a Japanese woman. Although I loved the story and many of the historical references, I’ve found the writing a bit unappealing. I thought that maybe there was because the author tried to use an old language in line with the spirit of those times, but even so, I did not find the idea very inspiring.
For the next weeks, I have some secret reading plan, involving some special travel books, that I hope to keep up with while on the road.
Happy reading everyone!