Last month, I started a series of monthly reading roundups. This month, to my astonishment, I am continuing it for the second straight month. So here’s a quick summary of the books I read in September.
Life Begins on Friday by Ioana Pârvulescu
I was travelling in Romania for most of September, so I decided to read this novel by a contemporary Romanian writer that I bought at a bookshop in Iasi (which I wrote a bit about—the town, not the bookshop—back in August). Life Begins on Friday was a fresh, slightly bizarre but enjoyable tale of fin de siècle Bucharest, loosely structured around the discovery of two bodies in the snow but stubbornly eschewing any of the conventions of detective novels.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Wow, what a wonderful premise! Four children visit a fortune teller in 1960s New York City and are told the precise dates on which they will die. How does it affect them? Do they live their lives differently because of their knowledge, and is that a good or bad thing? Are those dates really set in stone, or is it the fact that they believe the prophecies that make them act in ways that render the prophecies self-fulfilling? Fascinating questions, but I was disappointed with how the book deals with them, and the structure of four separate stories for each child didn’t work well for me, especially as they seemed to be arranged in decreasing order of interest.
The Hotel Years by Joseph Roth
I picked this one up at a charity shop back in the UK a while back, attracted mostly by the title, which matches my life at the moment. It turns out to be a fairly miscellaneous collection of Roth’s writing on a variety of subjects—mostly feuilletons from German and French newspapers in the 1920s and 30s. Typically, he observes a scene for a page or two and links his very specific observations to some more general themes. Although the book wasn’t quite what I was expecting and the selections seemed quite random, I loved the style of Roth’s writing and the beauty of his prose, and I’d like to read more of his books now.
East of the West by Miroslav Penkov
As we head into Bulgaria now, this promise of “A Country in Stories” was too good to pass up. I’m not sure if this collection of short stories really does capture the essence of Bulgaria, but it does cover a range of different aspects of its history, from the Balkan Wars through the world wars and the Communist era to the present day. The author lives in the USA now and did his MFA there, and the final story gives an interesting look at the immigrant experience with its disappointments and yearning for home.
Again, I kept bad records, so I think I may have missed one or two. But of these books, my favourite was The Hotel Years. I admired the ease with which Roth could draw me into his scenes and make such short, disparate pieces so engaging.
What was your favourite read last month? Let me know in the comments. And check out more people’s September reads over at A Cocoon of Books.
There are 10 comments
This is a very impressive list of books. It is too bad that The Imortalists ended up being disappointing. The plot sounds fascinating. I tend to like stories that involve fate like this. Happy reading in October.
I like that kind of story too, Brian. The Immortalists definitely had a great premise and raised a lot of good questions. I enjoyed some of the stories too, but overall it left me a bit frustrated. Happy October reading to you too 🙂
I like doing monthly wrap ups as it helps me to see how well I’m doing on goals and it gives me the opportunity to give a shout out to a book that I might not do a full review for. I also linking up to the memes as I get to visit blogs that I might not otherwise discover. See my September wrap up at Girl Who Reads
I agree, Donna! There are so many books that I don’t have time to review, and this is a great way of mentioning them and recording a few thoughts. It’s also great to discover new blogs—I’m on my way over to yours now 🙂
This is a great list of reads. And I am jealous of your travels! Too bad about The Immortalists – I was intrigued by that one. Have a great October! Where will you be traveling next?
Thanks for visiting and commenting! Although I was disappointed by the Immortalists, I still think it has a lot of good qualities. Maybe I was affected by listening to it as an audiobook while bumping along potholed roads in rural Romania. The medium seems to matter for me! If you do read it, I’d be interested to hear your take.
We are in Bulgaria right now, and we plan to spend a few weeks here before moving on to Greece. We might slow down a bit soon—the travels are great, but I’m getting behind on various writing projects!
Your books are new to me so this post was very interesting to find different books. I read an adult murder mystery in September that ended up surprising me and becoming my favorite of the month. It’s titled The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I’ve recommended it to many people already. I usually read YA and middle grade, while most of my friends only read adult books, so my favorite book gave me a chance to talk books with them.
Yes, I like reading these monthly roundups by other bloggers—they’re a good way to discover different kinds of books. I’ve heard good things about The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle before. Thanks for the recommendation! I don’t normally read murder mysteries, but maybe I’ll give this one a try 🙂
Roth is wonderful. Try The Emperor’s Tomb. Since you’re touring the Balkans (lucky you!) I STRONGLY recommend Kapka Kassabova’s book Border, about Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey (Thrace, basically).
I wrote about it here: https://glli-us.org/2018/06/06/our-bitter-beloved-borderless-balkans-kapka-kassabovas-border-by-dorian-stuber/
Thanks very much for the recommendations! It’s funny—I was just thinking of reading The Emperor’s Tomb for fellow blogger Caroline’s German Literature Month. I’m having trouble getting hold of a copy, but if I can find one, I’ll read it.
I read Border recently, as it happens, and I loved your review of the book. Thanks for linking to it. I was driving through the countryside last week and unexpectedly saw those flames from the front cover in a huge concrete statue. It was a strange moment of thinking, “I’ve seen those somewhere before” and then suddenly remembering where!