My reading resolution for this year is to be able to finish 25 books. I guess I started it quite well by reading 5 books in two months despite my busy schedule (though actually I’m sure I could be faster!). So here are the books I managed to finish in January and February:
A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara
I had been tempted by the hype around this book, so when I saw it in Kinokuniya, I immediately grabbed it. I was interested by the premise: the friendship between four college friends set in New York. However, as the story develops, it unfolds many intriguing things. The main character, Jude St. Francis, is a handsome guy with a complex personality. He’s experienced an abusive childhood and it has left a deep scar on his psychological condition. I love Yanagihara’s language in describing Jude’s conflicts and while I’ve never experienced the same thing, I felt somehow emotionally attached to him. I also find the charm from this novel through Jude’s interaction with the people around him.
What I didn’t really enjoy from this book is that some scenes are too graphic, too disturbing. But I guess the details are needed to show how traumatic Jude’s experience is. I also agree with some critics that A Little Life seems to detach itself from reality and context. The story happens in New York in a span of several decades, but the plot never shows it clearly in what era the characters live. Is it before 9/11 or after 9/11? I know that fictional works don’t always have to refer to reality, but somehow this fact makes the novel seem to be isolated while actually it has the potential to be a great novel about New York urban life. Overall, reading A Little Life was a reading experience that involves a lot of emotion and I felt so drained (in a good way) after closing the last page. Rarely a book does that to me. Highly recommended.
And I’ll always keep this quote in my heart:
…things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You is a story about family. Not just that, it also deals with racial and gender issues. James Lee is a second generation of Chinese immigrants. All his life, he always had to encounter stereotypes and racial prejudices from the society (the story set in early 60s and 70s when discrimination was still strong). He never became this popular kid at school. Meanwhile, Marilyn was a smart, rebellious woman who can’t achieve her dream to be a doctor because of her marriage to James. Both of them have unaccomplished goals in life, and knowing they no longer have the capacity to achieve it, they ‘transfer’ their dream to their daughter, Lydia. But then Lydia is found drowned in the lake near their home. Their dream is crushed, and the story slowly tries to reveal to the readers what actually happens to Lydia.
Reading Everything I Never Told You is like watching a family movie with calm, soft colours and many silent scenes. The narration relies much on description of the actions instead of powerful dialogues. There is this one beautiful scene that focuses on Hannah (Lydia’s little sister) who in her naive way realizes what really happens around her siblings and in their family. I think this is Ng’s strength: the ability to reveal emotion of the characters through what they silently do. This debut novel convinces us that we need to watch more of Ng’s works in the future.
Lelaki Harimau by Eka Kurniawan
I don’t really read Indonesian literature that much, but I love Eka Kurniawan’s two novels, Cantik itu Luka and this one, Lelaki Harimau. The way he writes reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and his technique in blending reality and magical sphere in his plot is amazing. Lelaki Harimau tells about a young man named Margio who wakes up in the morning and finds a white tiger next to him. Is the white tiger real or is it just a representation of Margio’s hidden desire? This is what makes Lelaki Harimau so psychoanalytically interesting. Kurniawan’s language is vulgar yet poetic. He always manages to narrate the conflicts of common people with the most unfamiliar, unexpected and violent way. Read the shocking last page of the Lelaki Harimau and you’ll know what I mean.
Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
I stumbled upon Maresi when I was browsing in Book Depository. Got immediately interested since it’s claimed as a feminist book. It’s the first book from The Red Abbey Chronicles, and it can be added into that list of young adult books with dark themes. The world in Maresi is the world when men take control over everything and women are stll buried alive for commiting adultery (well, somewhere in our world people still practice that …). Fleeing from poverty, Maresi goes to Menos, an island inhabited only by women. In this island, Maresi can satisfy her thirst to study and she learns the meaning of sisterhood. But then the peace in the island is disturbed when a group of men come and want to steal the treasure in The Abbey. Adding fantasy elements to her story, Turtschaninoff brings up relevant women issues and makes Maresi a powerful, gripping story. I can’t wait to read the next book in the chronicle, Naondel.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I finished this book but gotta say it’s not my cup of tea. I think We Were Liars is too pretentious. It tries hard to be emotionally dark but somehow it ends up too much for me. I also think the main character Cady is a spoiled white teenage girl. I can’t pity her at all. I should’ve written a detailed post why I can’t like this book. Too lazy for that though hahaha.
Going to Singapore next weekend, and I’ve already made a list of books that I wanna buy there. Having read the samples in Play Book, I’m thinking to buy London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins, The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and Euphoria by Lily King. Kinokuniya Takashimaya will make me broke, really broke.