Posts tagged book review

What Would Radical Happiness Look Like?

How can you be happy when others are suffering? It’s a question that’s bothered me throughout my life. Part of the problem, I think, is that in Western societies, we have defined the pursuit of happiness as an individualistic endeavour. And so I lived for years in London and New York, doggedly pursuing happiness while stepping over the homeless people on the pavement. In Radical Happiness, Lynne Segal suggests an alternative approach. Radical happiness is essentially collective happiness, achieved not by closing your eyes to other people’s misery but by actively… Read More

Refined and Elegant Things: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

The eggs of the spot-billed duck. Shaved ice with a sweet syrup, served in a shiny new metal bowl. A crystal rosary. These are just a few of the items on a list of “refined and elegant things” in the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Then there are “things that make your heart beat fast”, “things that make you nostalgic”, and, on the other hand, “infuriating things” or “things later regretted”. And, beyond the lists, there are anecdotes, jokes, improvisational poetry competitions, and some quite beautiful observation of life. One… Read More

The Power of Words: The Great Passage by Shion Miura

The Great Passage by Shion Miura is a novel about a group of editors compiling a dictionary. If you’re looking for a fast-moving plot with plenty of action, this is not the book for you. But if you love language and are willing to be patient, it holds plenty of rewards. When I say this is a novel about compiling a dictionary, I don’t mean that the dictionary compiling is a loose frame for a more exciting story. I mean that it really is about the details of the dictionary,… Read More

German Literature Month: Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

November is German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzy and Caroline! If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an annual celebration of literature in the German language. There’s a schedule of readalongs, but I’m too disorganised for that, so I’m going for the “read what you want, as long as it was originally written in German” category. And what better book to choose than Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, a novel that I have been meaning to read for so many years that I’d almost given up hope of unearthing it from… Read More

A Shocking Memoir From a Stolen Generation

I learnt about Of Ashes and Rivers That Run to the Sea from Emma’s excellent review on Book Around the Corner. It’s a very moving memoir by a woman, Marie Munkara, who was taken from her Aboriginal family in northern Australia at the age of 3 and placed with a white foster family in Melbourne. The Stolen Generations Munkara was one of thousands of members of the “Stolen Generations” of Aboriginal children taken from their homes by the Australian government or church missions. According to Wikipedia: “Official government estimates are that in… Read More

Happiness by Aminatta Forna: Review

Although in her previous novels Aminatta Forna has grappled with wars and atrocities in Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia, her latest novel, titled Happiness and set in the heart of London, may be her most challenging undertaking yet.

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“H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald: Review

H is for Hawk is a beautiful evocation of grief and the way in which the sudden death of a loved on can rip away your sense of control over the world, reminding you that you are powerless in the face of mortality and that everything you love and cling to is transitory.

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