1001 Books Round-Up August 2022
This months winners and losers
Life is a Caravanserai by Emine Sevgi Özdamar BOTM June 2022 What GR says: Life is a Caravanserai follows a lively, but rather unfortunate family from Istanbul to Bursa, then to Ankara and back to Istanbul. This is a women’s world: the mother, Fatma, nurtures her three children, with the grandmother Ayşe and the “aunties” of the neighbourhood, while Mustafa, the often unemployed father, recites Orhan Veli and drinks copious rakı, dreaming of building a larger family home. Here is the Turkey of the 1950s and early 1960s, with its political struggles, growing urbanisation, the Korean War, American comic books and the departure of the first wave of workers to Germany. The Anatolian grandparents carry with them their sagas of the war and the nascent Turkish Republic, enriched by wisdom, humour and village folklore.
The author’s wonderful use of local narrative, storytelling, proverbs and prayers, and a prose that moves from the lyrical to gritty humour, re-creates this microcosm of neighbourhoods from a young girl’s intimate perspective. We follow her as she sits in school, visits relatives, dreams, listens to stories and experiments with early passions. Reality merges into mythological visions as, naïve, witty and explorative, she absorbs the colourful world around her. I definitely lost reality…
My Thoughts: This went way over my head I often found myself confused as to what was happening to who and I was easily distracted while reading, this is not necessarily the books fault but it did take me a while to actually get engaged with the story and even when I was engaged there was a lot of repetition I tended to skim read.
This is a coming of age novel that explores what it is like to be female in the male dominated culture of Turkey while as a whole I didn’t really enjoy the novel there are some great one liners and some astute observations about men.
3 Stars – This could be a case of wrong book wrong time for me so give it a go.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe BOTM#1 – What GR says: To Arthur Seaton, Key worker on a lathe in a Nottingham cycle factory, life is one long battle with authority. You don’t need to give Arthur more than one chance to do the Government or trick the foreman.
And when the day’s work is over, Arthur is off to the pubs, raring for adventure. He is a warrior of the bottle and the bedroom – his slogan is ‘If it’s going, it’s for me’ – for his aim is to cheat the world before it can cheat him. And never is the battle more fiercely joined than on Saturday night.
But Sunday morning is the time of reckoning, the time for facing up to life – the time, too, you run the risk of getting hooked!
Arthur is no exception. Yep this is a book about a drunk man giving it to the man
My Thoughts – Let’s be honest Arthur is a d**k he goes out he gets drunk, he sleeps with married women and then expects the reader to have sympathy for him.
You can probably guess this is not my kind of book.
What it does do well is give the reader a real sense of time and place. In a factory town the only outlet for the young men is drink and sex there are little prospects and to succeed you need to cheat the system that is designed to keep you down.
3 Stars – Read it to see if Arthur gets what is coming to him
Caleb Williams by William Godwin – Tackle the TBR – What GR says: When honest young Caleb Williams comes to work as a secretary for Squire Falkland, he soon begins to suspect that his new master is hiding a terrible secret. But as he digs deeper into Falkland’s past and finally unearths the guilty truth, the results of his curiosity prove calamitous when – even though Caleb has loyally sworn never to disclose what he has discovered – the Squire enacts a cruel revenge. A tale of gripping suspense and psychological power, William Godwin’s novel creates a searing depiction of the intolerable persecution meted out to a good man in pursuit of justice and equality. Written to expose the political oppression and corrupt hierarchies its author saw in the world around him, Caleb Williams (1794) makes a radical call to end the tyrannical misuses of power. Or as I read it a “boy’s own adventure”
My Thoughts: I seem to be saying this a lot lately but I enjoyed this more than I expected to. This is really an adventure story where our hero must overcome the calamities of fortune before eventually finding peace.
Godwin took an interesting stance in the fact that even while Caleb is being persecuted he keeps his secret until the very last and that even while persecuting him Falkland does seem to in some way care about the young man even to the point of protecting him in certain instances.
The downfall of these 2 men all begins with an abuse of power by another man which has implications for Falklands reputation in a ironic twist of fate it is then Falklands turn to abuse his own power.
In some ways this reminded me of Les Miserables (albeit in an English setting) the relentless persecution, the imprisonment and escape and the never being able to settle without watching over your shoulder.
3 Stars more fun than I was expecting.
A gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore – September BOTM (My library hold came much quicker than expected) What GR Says: A novel on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America, on the insidiousness of racism, the blind-sidedness of war, and the recklessness thrust on others in the name of love.
As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer—his “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous—has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.
Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny.
The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own.
As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is forever changed. Well that basically tells you the whole story.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed most of this book the bit I didn’t enjoy? The ending which is a shame I can forgive a bad beginning if the book picks up but if the ending just fizzles out it makes the reading build up feel like it was in vain.
What I did enjoy the strange tension between husband and wife the reason for which is eventually revealed, the highlighting of casual racism from within the family and from outside, the idea of belonging and of place and time. The relationship between Tassie and Mary Emma is beautiful but the rest of the family unit are just weird.
Once the key event in the story happens (you will know what it is when you get there and it’s not the big reveal) the book kind of loses itself as if it doesn’t know what it wants to be it then meanders along before finally releasing the reader on a low note.
3 Stars – Not bad overall
Have you read any of these? Let us know what you thought