So, I started my #52librarybooks reading challenge on 11 April 2016 by borrowing Chattering: Stories by Louise Stern. This is a touching yet somewhat unsettling collection of short stories revolving around the themes of communication, dislocation and isolation. Most of the main characters are young women looking to broaden their horizons and let their hair down. They’re also deaf. Beautifully written: graceful and fluid, these stories don’t spoon-feed the reader – some don’t have a sense of denouement, but that suits the characters and situations about which these stories were written. I think I found this collection unsettling because it reminded me of my own travels as a young women, half a lifetime ago, and of just how vulnerable I often felt living and working among people whose language and culture I didn’t understand.
Book 2 was Closure Limited and Other Zombie Tales by Max Brooks. This choice was inspired by my latest obsession: The Walking Dead. (So far, I’ve watched Seasons 1 – 4 on Amazon Prime.) As with all good zombie stories this isn’t about zombies; it’s about surviving an apocalypse whilst retaining some shred of your humanity – unless you’re a vampire and then it really is just about surviving. I enjoyed all four stories, but my favourite was ‘The Extinction Parade’ – of course vampires would be worried about losing their food source to the zombie hordes! ‘Great Wall’ was a heartbreaker, and ‘Closure, Limited’ offered an intriguing scenario. I found ‘Steve and Fred’ engaging, but I can’t help wondering if the zombies outside Fred’s toilet cubicle were all in his imagination.
I took out Book 3 – Pictures or It Didn’t Happen by Sophie Hannah – because I wanted a ‘quick read’ and I’ve enjoyed Sophie Hannah’s poetry in the past. The book was certainly quick to read as it only took me about an hour to finish, but it felt a little … unsubstantial. I read a lot of short stories, so I know you don’t have to compromise character to achieve a low word count, but that’s what I feel happened here. I felt I was skimming along the surface of everyone’s lives. On the flip side, there was plenty of suspense which was what kept me reading to the end. I guess it was just not my cup of tea.
And finally for this update: Book 4 – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Oh my goodness, what can I say about this other than I loved it?! I loved the writing, and I loved the story. Both have a fairy tale quality to them, but neither are for kids – to be fair, most fairy tales aren’t for kids are they? There’s a lot of mythology and a lot of allegory and a lot of wisdom – this book is Neil Gaiman’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I could write for ages about all the things I loved about this book, but I won’t, instead I’ll leave you with my favourite quote: “I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
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