I didn’t think it would be so difficult to select the books for this little book group. Wander into Waterstones, have a browse, like the cover of one, avoiding the stickers on most and generally enjoying the process.
Instead I’ve been scouring my bookshelves for inspiration, looking for something lingering there that has been loved from afar but never picked up and indulged in. I do have a habit of book buying with little to no chance of being able to read it in the near future – usually because there is already a backlog that I’m supposed to be getting through already. But the great thing about shopping for books, as opposed to say jeans, or shoes, is that a book always fits. Like bags, scarves and wallets, books are one of those satisfying purchases that relieves the impulse without dumping a slew of self-loathing on you when you get that top home, and really, if you are honest with yourself, admit that it is just a fraction too tight. I have a bag of clothing that has fallen foul of the fraction too tight discovery.
But I’ve never regretted a book purchase. Ever. Ok maybe once. But that was Pamuk’s My Name Is Red and it just about killed me getting through it. Because just like the Dog’s Trust, I will never put a bad book down, even if it means a soul-destroying plod through one of the most uninspiring, dull novels of our time. Please feel free, publishers, to use that as a back cover quote in your next print run. Why did I keep reading? Because I had to. Because I simply can’t start a book and then not finish it. I know this method is borderline mental, and it gets in the way of the thousands, millions of other books out there that I would enjoy so much more, but it must have been something I said to myself when I was younger and I’ve stuck to it.
Which is why selecting a book for others to read, not just me, has become a little bit scary. I know you won’t always enjoy what I do, you won’t love the same novelists I’ve fallen for, but I still want this book-reading experience to be a positive one for you.
So I’ve done a little cheat. Just a weeny one. I’ve picked an author I’ve read before and LOVED. I’m in pretty good company, because he won the Pulitzer Prize for it. (Although prize winners are not always trustworthy – Pamuk won the Nobel Prize, and we all know what I think about him [if not, see above]).
You see, I have far better taste in books than I do clothes. But that’s not the selection this month, because I’ve already enjoyed it and I want to read along and discover with you too. So here it is, Book 3…(please insert your own audible drumroll here)
This month you can get your teeth into this tasty little morsel of a book. Junot Diaz’s first book Drown is weaved out of several interconnected stories set in the Dominican Republic, New York and New Jersey. It’s been hailed as a “revelation” by the Observer and the New York Times said that it “wrings the heart with finely calibrated restraint.” Ooooh. That sounds good. I love stuff that affects me greatly with a gentle literary touch.
If you’re interested, the book I’ve read and loved is called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – it is sweet, funny and heartbreaking. Full of wit, sharp observation and a wonderful narrative voice that sings with the musicality of Dominican culture. I highly recommend it.
But let’s start at the very beginning as Miss Andrews would lovingly sing.
You’ll notice that this month, little Sophie is paying particular attention to the inside of the book, where the actual words are, which meant pulling open the book and causing the spine to crack. I took this event with calm, good humour, secure in the knowledge that I had already pre-broken the spine, to ensure a good clean line and my own sanity. However, my heart did skip a few beats when I was editing this image and I realised, to my utter horror, just how close my book had come to the delightful dollop of bird poo on the table.
I doubt Drown is something suitable for a 2 year old but what she was reading aloud to Bince (the big yellow plastic duck beside her) sounded a lot like the Gruffalo to me. Phew. So we’re safe. Unless of course, you are Bince and not paying the correct amount of attention to the lovely book that is being read to you. Then you will get shot a look like this.
Naughty Bince. Always distracted. It’s like he can never look you straight in eye. Sign of a guilty conscience if you ask me. (Ahem. Bird poo on the table. Could easily be duck poo.)
So go forth and purchase, borrow or steal (no don’t steal) and let’s see what you all think of it. It’s a thin little volume, so you should all race through it in time for a double whammy next month. It’s my birthday month and I plan to indulge myself.
P.S. If you are looking for the review of Book 2, Emma Donoghue’s Room, you can find it here. I’d love to know what you thought about it. Getting to learn more about what you enjoy (or don’t) will really help me with future book group selections. So don’t be shy.