This has been a much quieter month on the reading front as I injured my ankle at the beginning of the month and Rich was taking me into work for a couple of weeks. I do most of my reading on the bus, so lost a lot of reading time, sadly.
But that just means I'm ready to inhale some new books over the coming weeks!
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Houseini
Absolutely fantastic! Houseini revisits his usual themes of place and family and culture - how all these things impact on who we are and who we become. I think he does so on a much grander scale than usual in this book - there are more characters, more places.
As always, it's just so wonderfully vivid. So evocative of time and place - even though I've never been to Kabul. He writes in such a way that it's almost familiar.
Of course it is heart-breaking, his work always is in one way or another. But he is never trite or melodramatic. Nothing feels like it's happening here just for effect - just to make you cry. It feels about as true as a book can.
The Muse by Jessie Burton
I devoured Burton's first book, The Miniaturist, when it came out a couple of years ago. I thought it was rich and powerful, but I felt let down by the ending. Perhaps I just didn't get it, but I felt it petered out rather than just ended mysteriously.
Not so with this follow up - it's amazing!! In 1967, Odelle Bastion has lived in London for five years, having moved there from Trinidad. After struggling to find work that fulfils her, she ends up working at the Skelton Gallery, where she meets Marjorie Quick and becomes entangled in the search for the truth about a lost masterpiece, recently rediscovered. When the painting was painted back in 1936, Olive Schloss and her family are living in Spain, getting caught up in the lives of Isaac Robles and his sister Teresa.
It reminded me a lot of Kate Morton's books - the two time periods, the gradual unravelling of the mystery. I thoroughly enjoy Morton, so I really loved this book. But what I really loved was the exploration of the themes - the idea of the muse, the tangle of art and love, the juxtaposition of creation and money. It's just so good. More please, Jessie Burton!
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
I'm only halfway through this book, but I'm enjoying it and really looking forward to the film adaptation starring Alicia Vikaander and Michael Fassbender.
I really do love books with a thorny ethical question at their heart. And this one is really good for that - if you were to find a baby in a boat, her father dead, wouldn't you look after her? Is the right thing to do to raise her as your own? Or is it better to tell the authorities, hope that she has a family and won't end up in an orphanage? What would you do if you had lost your own children?
The characters are all good and decent people, which doesn't allow for easy answers. What it does allow for is good conversation, which is why I'd recommend it!