Easter break book reads…
1. The Painted Veil (W. Somerset Maugham): Younger me would not have sympathised with frivolous, head-in-the-clouds, love-craving Kitty but there was something about the journey she goes through—the search for her identity, for repentance, for her soul—the acts of charity she takes—and the revelations she reaches—that offered me a window of empathy for the protagonist. Maugham delves deep into humanity’s flaws (and strengths?), unraveling the complicated desires, workings and rationalisations of the human heart and mind. It’s a good, dramatic read though sometimes the colonial perspective didn’t gel with me all that well.
2. Galapagos (Kurt Vonnegut): I have not read a Vonnegut novel for some time and I forgot how his dark, sardonic humour amused me so! A bunch of people end up stranded on the fictional island called Santa Rosalia, after being on the ill-fated ‘Nature Cruise of the Century’, only for horrible things to happen—such as the apocalypse of the entire world except for those stranded on Santa Rosalia. It appears that everything has fallen due to the intricate and overly-knowledgeable human brain, which after the apocalypse, is no longer a problem. In the fictional future of Galapagos, humans are like…furry seals with rudimentary fingers called nubbins. It’s no Slaughterhouse Five but if you’re keen on reading Vonnegut, I’d say give it a go.
3. Go Tell It on the Mountain (James Baldwin): My first Baldwin read and intentionally also his first novel written: the prose is lyrically direct, sharp and brutal, if I may add, like the lashings delivered during the slave trade of America’s recent past. The book chronicles a young boy’s discovery of his spiritual identity as a stepson of a minister but also spirals through his stepfather, his step-aunt and his mother’s own pasts, ridden with human trespasses, sin and the idea of redemption through lineage. It’s an immensely powerful, unrelenting read—like being dragged through hellfire and back—but not without a sense of calm, peace and retribution to ease one’s return to the present world. Can’t wait to read more of his work.
4. The Prague Cemetery (Umberto Eco): Everyone knows that Umberto Eco is one of my favourite contemporary authors though I have been just as disappointed as I have been a fan of his work. It’s taken me over a year to give this one a go. It’s 19th century political intrigue, unabashed underground (overground?) conspiracy schemes, cult-zaniness of Freemasons and the Illuminati (plus more), murder and the blatant scapegoating of Jews which serves as the fodder to Hitler’s Anti-Semitic movement. …European history, right? It’s like a Dan Brown high-brow study in literature, plus bizarre snobby fanaticism of food. I like food and I like my spy stories but I’m not sure if I enjoyed this one.