Last month I read some excellent books, including Japanese literary fiction and some more Caribbean literature from local bookshops.
I was supposed to be back in Serbia by now, but we changed our flights and are still in Barbados. Like everyone else, I’ve been reading a lot about Ukraine online, but I also found time for some good books last month, including Japanese literary fiction and some more Caribbean literature from local bookshops.
Vagabonds! by Eloghosa Osunde
In this stunning debut novel, Nigerian writer Eloghosa Osunde turns Lagos inside-out to show us the city through the lives of its most marginalised people. It’s a chaotic mishmash of different stories and voices, blending realism and fantasy in unpredictable ways, and it works brilliantly.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
This was a completely different book from Vagabonds!, and I enjoyed the change of pace. It’s a quiet but emotionally resonant novel about a slowly developing friendship between a housekeeper and a maths professor. The professor’s memory only lasts eighty minutes, so each day they begin from scratch, and yet they still become close. It’s a great exploration of what happens when you take away the memories that we tend to think are so essential to forming relationships.
The Limits to Capital David Harvey
Another big change here! The Limits to Capital is a dense, highly theoretical exploration of Marxist economics. I have to admit that I found it a bit of a slog and quite a bit of it was lost on me, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book—just that it’s the kind of book you have to make more effort with, and I wasn’t in the mood to do that. I did get some useful insights from it anyway. The part about regular destructive warfare being a way of deflating asset bubbles and counteract capitalism’s inherent tendency for overaccumulation seems sadly relevant today.
Casuarina Row by John Wickham
I picked this up in a local second-hand bookshop, and it was an interesting read. It’s a diverse mix of short stories, essays and personal reminiscences by a man who was for many years the literary editor of The Nation, the leading newspaper here in Barbados. I particularly liked “Portrait of a Father”, his appreciation of his father, the radical journalist Clennell Wickham. Interestingly, I’ve been listening to John Wickham’s nephew (and Clennell’s grandson) Peter Wickham on the radio here and reading his newspaper columns without realising the family history. Peter Wickham wrote a piece about his uncle a few years ago in, of course, The Nation.
The Collapse of Yugoslavia by Alastair Finlan
Sometimes, books end up on my Kindle, and I have no idea how they got there. This was one of those. Anyway, it was short, so I read it this month. I’d recommend it as a decent introduction to the topic to people who are unfamiliar with what happened. Since I’ve done quite a bit of reading on it before, it didn’t tell me much that was new, but it was good to get a quick overview.
Devolution by Amie McCracken
Wow, my reading was all over the map this month! This last one was a sci-fi novel about a dystopian future in which humans have been almost wiped out by a killer virus and by their inability to evolve to cope with a world made hostile by the effects of climate change. Humanity’s only hope is to evolve, and a teenager called Selah is at the heart of a scientific project to alter children’s DNA to help them acquire the genetic mutations that will allow them to survive. But when her scientist father goes missing, she discovers that they’re all being lied to, and she must stop being a lab rat and take matters into her own hands to discover the truth and a hope for survival. It was an interesting premise, and I quite enjoyed the novel, but it felt a bit unbalanced, with a lot of time spent on world-building and scientific experiments, and the more dramatic plot developments coming in a rush at the end. As with The Limits to Capital, I probably wasn’t the right readers for this book, but I think it’s always good to try something different.
Over to You…
What have you been reading lately? How was your month? Let me know in the comments below. And let’s all hope for a good, peaceful month ahead.