Long time, no read!
Hello darlings! I’m so sorry for my absence on here lately – I decided to take a break from writing/creating during my final exams, and then Lewis and I had some family obligations just days after I was finished, hence the silence. However, I am so happy to be back and to be talking to you about the wonderful books I read this month! As I’m sure most of you can guess, I was really looking forward to reading books of my own choice when my university year was over, and so far the ones I have picked did not disappoint.
The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
My Edition: Vintage, 2010
Oh. My. Goodness. It has been a good minute since I’ve let myself dive into a good crime fiction novel, and Nesbø was a natural choice. At the recommendation of Crime by the Book, I picked up this twisted and gruesome novel about Harry Hole – a damaged investigator who takes on a case that involves a psychotic serial killer. Suddenly, Hole and his team find out that there is connection between a recently missing mother and the disappearances of multiple women, all with their possessions showing up on display on snowmen.
One of my favourite aspects of the novel is that there is no one story line that matters more than the others in The Snowman. As the fifth instalment in a very popular series, we, the readers, get insight into Harry Hole’s life outside of his career – although he has a hard time separating the two, thus causing altercation between him and who he calls “the love if his life”. Regardless of the fact that this is my first foray into Nesbø’s novels, I was provided with enough information throughout the first part of the novel that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything (although I do intend to pick up the rest of the books in order).
The plot of the crime itself was ever-changing and turned in ways I would have never expected. There were multiple times in the story line when Hole and his team were convinced they had finally found the snowman, and were on their way to capture him. However, we would quickly realise that they were mistaken after all, and essentially had to re-think the narrative of their investigation.
For me, the constant turn in plot lines and intriguing ways in which the investigation was kept “new” and unknown was perfect. It held my attention and allowed me to get to know Hole on a personal level – even while keeping the reader at an arms distance (just as Harry Hole does with his loved ones).
Nesbø is undoubtedly one of the kings of the nordic noir genre, and his intelligent writing allows for an immensely engaging story. This novel is weird, creepy, and shocking, as Nesbø intertwines multiple narratives and plot lines, as well as creating shock around every corner. You could say I liked it.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
My Edition: Penguin, 2006
Extremely Loud is one of those books that hit me like a brick wall. Although I had been recommended this book and, even warned, about its impact, I don’t believe I could have ever really prepared for this kind of heartbreak.
Oskar, our protagonist, see’s the world through his eyes – the eyes of a naturalist, vegan, explorer, reader – you name it. After his father dies in the 9/11 attacks, he finds a key that, he believes, holds a secret that his father has left behind. Taking it upon himself to find the locks hat fits this mystery key, Foer writes a story about loss, grief, and the effects of tragedy on a young heart and mind.
One of the things that really stuck out to me about this book was the POV. In the past, I have found it very difficult for authors to portray a young protagonist without being overly annoying or, frankly, just bland. Foer, however, has constructed Oskar to be an actual human, with thoughts, feelings, intelligence, and courage – albeit in a nine-year-olds body. Oskar incapsulates the complexity of being a young kid while dealing with loss, and the added emotional turmoil that happens when you point to yourself as the cause of tragedy.
A vital element of the plot in Extremely Loud is Oskar’s relationships with both his family and the people he talks to during his investigation. Being that Oskar is so young, he is widely accepted by the adults that he confronts – being invited into their homes, offered food, and even – although most controversially – becoming their soundboard. Many of the characters talking Oskar through his curiosities end up confiding in him about extremely personal aspects of their life, such as marriage, grief, and neurosis. I read this as a somewhat troubling occurrence, as it seemed as though Oskar’s youth had already been shaken, and was now being taken from under him by all of these problems that he would barely understand. That being said, it does speak to the vulnerability of adults around children, and how as we get older, we become so much more tainted and suspicious of the ones we have grown up with.
If you can’t already tell, I loved this book. As I recently started a new Goodreads account, I easily put this on my “favourites” list, as it is complex, thought provoking, and one of the most realistic portrayals of human fragility I have read in a very, very long time.
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf
My Edition: Knopf, 2015
I decided to switch things up this month and pick up a little bit of non-fiction by Andrea Wolf. The Invention of Nature is a biographical account of Alexander von Humboldt’s life and his integral contribution to science and horticulture.
Because of all the detail – and fear of inaccuracy – I won’t say too much about the happenings with the book. What I can tell you, however, is that Humboldt’s influence on science and some of the greatest scientists/naturalists known today – for example, Darwin and Thoreau – is extreme and completely fascinating.
I’ll admit, I was completely intimidated picking up this book after I saw it on Instagram. I do not have a scientific or mathematic brain, and assumed that all the jargon associated with both sectors would go right over my head. Luckily, I was wrong.
This was my first book written by Andrea Wolf and I have to say that the way she writes makes everything so accessible. For someone like me – no talent whatsoever in either or any of the fields mentioned – I found that I could easily follow along with what was being said and the various discoveries being made.
In the face of a book that is scientific and over-the-edge with facts, Wulf’s writing was so fluid and well done I felt as though I was reading a bit of fiction.
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
My Edition: Penguin, 2007
I am lucky enough to have a partner that was raised by readers, and thus every time we see them I always come home with a healthy handful of books ad recommendations – like this read, The Testament of Gideon Mack.
I am ashamed to admit that my list of Scottish authors is quite sparse, but when I was handed James Robertson’s story abut a minister meeting the devil, “intrigued” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.
Gideon Mack was raised in an extremely religious household full of secrets he doesn’t find out until the latter part of his own life. Following in the steps of his father, he becomes a minister regardless of the fact that he isn’t certain that God exists. In a near-death experience, he finds himself at the mercy of the devil – only he isn’t anything like the way the Bible had said he would be.
It was the religious aspects of the novel that caught my eye the most. Having grown up in a religious school system- without being religious myself – I always seem to have an affinity with media that explores both the light, dark, and uncertain sides of religion. Gideon Mack as a character pulled me in as he holds a powerful position in a small and religious community, but cannot confirm to anyone – including himself – that God is good or even exists. He is called names, made fun of, and questioned, yet he never seems to waver from the fact that religion, in and of itself, is more complex that either belief or no belief. Faith, then, has not one boundary, and maybe none at all.
Gideon Mack had a slow stat to it, but about 75-100 pages in it really picks up as he recalls his past relationships and how he deals with love and sexuality now, as a widowed minister. It is this plot line that causes the most turmoil in the plot – that is, until his run-in with the devil.
By far the best part was the dialogue and actions between Gideon and Satan, only forming a very close – some would even say intimate – bond. Satan is a regular man in almost every sense – the way he looks, speaks, acts, etc. – with the exception that he has incredible healing powers (which is an important aspect of the book, but also contains spoilers so I on’t go into that ;P). Gideon is shaken by his experience, but feels that it is necessary everyone knows his experience and goes forth to form their own faith. Certainly, an interesting take on the mind of a minister.
While it didn’t blow me away, The Testament of Gideon Mack was the perfect example of a starting point – for thoughts, questions, and conversations. It makes the reader second guess the stereotypes of religion and the people of power within it, begging the question, what is real?
I almost, very nearly, finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, but due to the fact that I got a new job (yay!), I had to focus my time on training instead of reading. That being said, I am really happy about the books I was able to finish in May and even more joyful that so many of them were absolute gems!
What did you read in May? Did you discover any new favourites?
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