It's been a lean month this October, for one very good reason - Rich has been raving about A Fine Balance and, as I knew he was so close to the end, I couldn't settle to any other book until he'd finished it.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
I want to be able to say that this book is wonderful, a great read, just brilliant, but it is so heart-breaking I'm not sure that those are the correct words for it. And yet they are because the writing, the characters, the plot, everything is so clearly the work of an absolute master of his craft.
Mistry captures characters without any great lengthy descriptions, he lets their words and actions and the odd little quirky detail do the talking for him. And they are all so real. Which makes what happens to everyone even worse.
That's no spoiler - Mistry is writing about India in the mid-70s, the time of the Emergency, when the authorities were deaf to the poor or, apparently, to any kind of logic. It's that which makes this book such a difficult work - it's maddening, infuriating and downright devastating to read.
But read it you should because this is a book rich in unusual detail, full of life and hope and joy. It might not make you smile all the way through, but it will certainly be worth your while.
Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen
I follow Rachel on Instagram (@yoga_girl), as do millions of others. I bought this book out of curiosity more than anything and because this may be as close as I'll get to actually taking one of her classes.
I read it in a day (in which I spent a lot of time on the train) and while it's a good read, it's not exactly earth shattering. If you're reading it, you probably already have a passing interest in yoga. If not though, I think you would after reading this. Rachel has a lovely warmth that comes through in this book, where she's quite honest about the difficulties she's faced, how she's turned her life around and how she believes you can turn yours around. It's also a very beautiful book - the photographs are lovely, the layout is clean and easy to read and the recipes are really quite tempting. A nice, light read, but one that might actually get you onto the yoga mat or meditation cushion - I know it had that effect on me!
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I really enjoyed Eat Pray Love when I read it earlier in the year (I know, I just hadn't gotten round to reading it till then!) so when I heard about this, I thought I'd check it out.
Unlike Eat Pray Love, this is not a story, so much as a musing on creativity. Gilbert at one point calls it a 'self-help book' but I wouldn't go as far as that. While she offers a lot of advice, there is nothing prescriptive about it. This book is very much Gilbert's ideas and feelings about creativity, what seems to work from her point of view and her feeling that perhaps it will help her reader too.
I really really enjoyed this book. It's a quick read and I will be returning to it. I may write a longer post about this one as it left me so much to think about. But what I loved most about it was that it reminded me of something I had forgotten - I had never set out to be a writer from the get go. I had always planned on doing something else while I wrote for pleasure and, maybe one day, I'd get to just write all the time. There's been an explosion of 'do what you love' on the internet that has led me (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) to think this means that what you love has to pay your bills. Big Magic questions that and I loved it for that.
Seriously, if you're stuck at all, read this. It's a very interesting take on creativity that is not entirely in step with the current trends.