Sometimes it’s fun to read outside one’s preferred genre. I enjoy reading all kinds of books: literary fiction, historical fiction, comics, thrillers…although I draw the line at romance. Here are brief reviews of the last three books I’ve read that are not science fiction / fantasy. All worth reading!
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I read Persepolis because it was on my library Book Club reading list. I didn’t go for the Book Club discussion eventually – but I am so glad I got to read this beautiful, funny, sad book. Persepolis, Volume 1, is a graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi, set in Iran of the 1980s, just after the revolution that kicked out the Shah and brought in the fundamentalists to power. Coming from a political, educated family, Marjane struggles with the disappearances of family members, the death of friends from Scud missiles, and her own relationship with God. The drawings are comic-book style, the content is disturbing. A must-read for anyone. Don’t miss the prologue, which gives a very brief historical background to the book.
Aquarium by David Vann
This is, for want of a better phrase, a ‘coming-of-age’ novel about a 12-year old girl who visits the aquarium after school while waiting for her mother to finish her shift and pick her up. While at the aquarium, she meets and befriends a mysterious old man. I’d already guessed at the connection, so it wasn’t much of a mystery. But the book is well-written, as it explores the legacy of abuse and abandonment. The only thing that doesn’t quite ring true is the narrative voice – it sounds older than a 12-year old would, even a sophisticated one. Additionally, I found the behavior of the protagonist’s mother believable only in the context of mental illness. Still, a recommended read.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Written by Emma Donoghue, this 2010 novel was a bestseller and shortlisted for the Booker prize. Not hard to see why. It’s a gripping account of the enslavement (and eventual escape) of a young woman by an abusive kidnapper, told from the point of view of her (‘their’) five-year old son. Definitely tugs the emotional heartstrings! Nor does the book end with their escape. It explores the aftermath of their ordeal, how they both eventually make a life for themselves outside the ‘Room’ in which they were bound. Highly recommended! My only problem was, once again, the narrative voice. It is simply not the voice of a five-year old. It is the author’s voice, passing itself off as a five-year old. It works in some places, and not in others.
Next on my list is Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett, and it’s simply hilarious. Re-reading the Discworld is turning out to be even more fun than I thought it would be. Besides, nothing like a dose of comic fantasy to cheer one up after reading about war, death, abuse and terror. One can only take so much reality.
I really liked Persepolis too. There’s also a movie of Books 1 and 2 that preserves the simplicity of the drawings in the animation.