Books

My Year in Books: 21-25

20-25

My life is a constant battle with the Goodreads Reading Challenge. At the current moment I’m four books behind apparently. It seems that whenever I actually manage to catch up, I blink and I’m two books behind already. In 2014 I once managed to catch up when I was 13 books behind so I know I can do it. Somehow. Luckily I have two weeks off very soon (thanks Easter!) so I’m going to attempt to get ahead of the counter. Yeah, fuck you counter. You don’t own me. Yet.

Schindler’s Ark (1982) is a Man Booker Prize winning novel by the Australian writer, Thomas Keneally. It tells the true story of factory owner Oskar Schindler and his (successful) plan to emancipate imprisoned Jews during the Holocaust. It’s also a film but it didn’t do very well so you’ve probably never heard of it. This is one of those “real people – fake story” novels, in that the main plot points of the novel did actually happen but all the conversations and other trivialities are complete fiction. As with any Holocaust novel, Schindler’s Ark has the Promethean task of attempting to fit the horrors of war into a neat 400-page narrative. It ultimately works in this novels because Keneally dedicated literal years to interviewing the “Schindlerjuden” about the man and his “ark”. There are a lot of WWII novels out there, it’s probably the most saturated literary genre next to fantasy, but this is really one of the gems of the genre.

I recently went to see Anne Enright speak when she came to my university. She’s one of those authors who I just know I’d be best friends with. Is that weird? Probably. Oh well. Anyway, The Green Road (2015) is Enright’s sixth and latest novel. The novel is half-narrative/half-vignettes. The first half of the novel is concerned with vignettes that narrate the lives of the members of the Madigan family as they lead their diasporic lives in the late 20th century. The second half sees all the siblings return home for Christmas to see their aggressively Irish mother. The novel is… brilliant. If we need any proof that we are currently going through a second Irish Literary Revival then it is all here, plastered over the pages of The Green Road. I already know that this is going to be one of my favourite novels of the year and it’s only March. Anne Enright has a way of writing that grabs you even if she is only describing a sugar bowl. But, my god, it’s going to be the best sugar bowl you’ve ever read about.

My review of Henry VI, Part 3 can be found here.

It may have taken nearly two and a half years but I’ve finally finished The Chronicles of Narnia. The Last Battle (1956) is the end of days in Narnia. The land is being run by a donkey wearing a lion’s skin (really) and four-armed creature named Tash is killing all it sees. Enter Eustace and Jill from the last book. They, along with Narnia’s last king Tirian, must attempt to save Narnia from evil. It’s hard to write about the seventh book in a series without giving away any spoilers. So I’ll say this. It is overall a satisfying ending to the series but the allegory is really pungent throughout this one and I’m just really sad about Susan Pevensie (you all know what I’m talking about). So they’re done now. Narnia is finished. I’m glad I read them. Now what.

Anthony Trollope is one name that has always eluded me in Victorian literature. I’ve read Dickens, Hardy, Collins, Gaskell and Eliot but I’d never read Trollope. I don’t know how I missed him but that’s just how it was. So I read Trollope. I read the first in his famed “Chronicles of Barsetshire”, The Warden (1855). The short novel tells the tale of a warden of a hospital who is accused of earning too much money due to a loophole that he found in the will of the hospital’s founder. Riveting stuff, I know. While the plot (especially in the first half) is genuinely quite boring, the novel does pick itself up in the final third which is really its saving grace. I’m thankful Trollope didn’t follow Dickens’ example by making this 1000 pages, instead he rounds this story off (in my edition anyway) at well below 150 pages. It is a welcome lenght in Victorian fiction. Since I’ve began the Chronicles I may as well continue on with them so I’m guessing I’ll be reading Barchester Towers some time in the future. Wish me luck.

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