8 books so far in September, which is basically what I read in August, so I’m optimistic I can match my Sept 2016 number of 13 books. Of note so far this month:
S.K. Ali Saints and Misfits, a YA novel set in America with a hijabi Muslim protagonist. I was really looking forward to this because it got a lot of buzz on Twitter. It was fun and interesting and wasn’t afraid to make the heroine very very flawed, and the Muslim community very very flawed – the hijabi heroine, Janna, has a crush on an unsuitable white boy, and is being harassed by a hafidz in the Muslim community; she has a complex relationship with her hijab, she is passive when she should speak up, she harbours a lot of anger due to her parents’ divorce.
I enjoyed Saints and Misfits, and thought it was important, but it didn’t blow my mind. It was very American-Muslim + culture clash + diaspora and I find lately, that maybe I’m a bit saturated as a reader on American/culture clash/disapora stuff.
Arundhati Roy The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, of course, the much-acclaimed second novel from this critical darling, and our feminist book club read for August. It was – long? Very very long. The prose was sharp and shrewd and blackly humorous – the characters fully drawn, the events – individual and collective – tragic. But I couldn’t feel for any of them, not after the first 100 pages. I grew desensitized to the suffering – partly in response to the prose, I think, which treated the suffering with bullet-train speed, flippant and relentless. Partially – there was so much of it. We discussed this in book club – how the outsider’s horror of poverty and suffering in India is exacerbated by a horror of how commonplace and normalized it is, how residents who see it everyday simply cease to see it. A defense mechanism, a coping inevitability. As a reader, it was actually shocking how quickly I stopped feeling.
Sophie Hannah Closed Casket. The second Poirot offering from Hannah – I remember exactly 0 from her first attempt, The Monogram Murders, but for some reason decided that I would give this another go. I also remember almost 0 of this novel a mere 16 days after reading it. So – I would remind myself to categorize this as Poirot fanfiction, don’t pick up another one, move on.
Angela Carter The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. An oldie but a goodie, a perfect accompaniment to last month’s Deerskin. Sensuous, gothic prose, full-blown and heady, gorgeously reimagined fairytales. The Bloody Chamber, the Erl-King, the two Beauty and the Beast re-tellings – gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. And the Puss in Boots retelling was just a completely out-of-place bit of humour that was not unwelcome.
Sherry Thomas A Conspiracy in Belgravia. The second in the Lady Sherlock series – the conspiracy itself felt a little fluffy at first, but everything tied together at the end into a nice level of malicious sinister villainy. I love all the characters – the good-hearted and worried Watson, the fiercely pained Livia with her writing, the delicious, loyal Lord Ingram – Charlotte Holmes is a delight and her love of pastries may eventually become a character crutch, but for now ONWARD TO BOOK THREE PLEASE SHERRY THOMAS.
And finally, finally finally,
Aisha Malik Jewel: An attempt at a halal romance. A Bruneian romance novel! Set in Malaysia, feat. Malaysians instead of Bruneians, but of course, I am always giddy when a Bruneian writer puts something out. It’s cheesy, clearly derivative of Twilight, which the author biography specifically references, and a little cringey in spots – MILD SPOILER: see end of post. (Sorry, I don’t know how to do spoiler tags!) But as my friends say, it’s a DEFINITE conversation starter, it moves along at a clippy narrative pace, and I think teenage girls would definitely enjoy! (Perhaps for problematic reasons, but everything is problematic in some way, shape or form. As I reminded myself this week in class – there is no innocent text, there is no innocent reader.)
I’ve got another Bruneian novel on tap at the moment – Aammton Alias’ The Last Bastion of Ingei. Like The Ministry, it is very long. I’m also reading Susan Carland’s so far very excellent Fighting Hislam, and giving Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians another crack.
Onwards through September!!! 3/4 of the way through the year, I’m at 116 books. 46 more to match last year’s amount!
(Scroll very quickly past below for Mild Spoiler).
MILD SPOILER: the valorization of whiteness, the extra-ness of the heroine’s eventual religiosity.