1. Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.
What a delight! A charming but thought-provoking book, the story deals with the harsh reality of real life in a very readable and ‘light’ way. The shout on the book says ‘I didn’t want to leave Harold’, and I felt the same. If you liked Mr Rosenblum’s List, you’ll love this. – BG
2. Khalil’s Journey by Ashraf Kagee
Khalil, ‘the Companion’, is given his name by The One Above at his birth in 1903. Despite evidence of this divine interest, Khalil’s eighty-odd years of life remain fairly ordinary – even though many of these years are spent under the far from ordinary conditions of The System in South Africa.
In fact, apart from the high moments – an adolescent trip to India, the fleshly delights on his wedding night, and a memorable evening spent with the Black Pimpernel at an abortive meeting organised by the New Unity Movement – Khalil’s later life is mostly taken up with trying to keep his wife and children happy and fed, first as the owner of a general dealer in Woodstock, Cape Town, and later as a less-than-convinced lackey in a wheeler-dealer consortium selling polonies and saffron.
Nevertheless, just as Khalil’s birth was a matter offering material for considerable discussion for the doekie-wearing aunties of the neighbourhood, at the end of his life Khalil finds there is more than enough to chew over in his life’s journey.
This is a book I picked up out of obligation but am so enjoying. An evocative look into the Muslim community of Cape Town touching Khalil’s life events with a touch of humour at every turn. Its a giggle! Ashraf Kagee is a certainly a worthy winner of the EU award 2012. – BG
3. So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman
When nineteen-year-old local waitress, Wendy White, disappears, the small town of Haeden, New York, is shaken to its core. Nothing like this has ever happened in this rural idyll and the police make little headway with the case, assuming that Wendy most likely ran away. But, six months later, Wendy’s tortured body is found in the nearby woods. And she has only been dead a matter of days…Local reporter, Stacy Flynn, desperate for a big story, knows that Wendy’s case could be her big break. But, with little help from the local police, she’s forced to investigate alone – though no one in the town is willing to talk about it. Told from various perspective’s – Wendy’s, Stacy’s and high school student Alice’s – this compelling tale of murder, revenge and violence builds slowly and eerily to a shocking and unforgettable conclusion.
A cross between Erin Brockovich and a Patty Cornwell thriller. A stimulating, thought-provoking book that is so well-written. Entertainment and food for thought all at once. – ON
4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This is a beautiful book… It seems to be aimed at slightly younger teens, but the story is so relevant that anyone can read it.
It’s also quite an easy read, even though the subject matter can be a bit harrowing at times.
In this story, where the idea of isolation and being an outcast is embodied rather literally in a main character with grotesque facial abnormalities, there’s so much to learn about kindness and how we choose to perceive the world and the people around us.
The interesting thing about this book, is the way it is presented: even though the story is primarily about August Pullman (Auggie), you get to hear each of the main characters’ side of the story. Each part of the book is a new character’s story and the stories all link up to each other and to the main plot.
It is simply written and yet striking. In a way, it made me think of a “lite” version of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (mostly because of the overall feeling, not so much the story itself). But, if you enjoyed books like “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian”, I can definitely recommend this one.
And, as one reviewer stated, when you’ve finished reading this book, “it will make you want to be a kinder human being”. – HV
5. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Would you accept a chance for happiness even if it wasn’t yours to have? This is a story about a lighthouse keeper and his wife, who live on a lonely island with just seagulls, stars and buffeting winds for company. It’s about a tiny baby and a dead man in a boat that drifts ashore one April morning, and the apparently harmless decision made that day. More than anything, it’s a story about right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same.
“Light Between Oceans is the kind of book that can accurately convey the depth, warmth and complexity of parental love, and I marked so many passages for their staggering beauty and weight, the kind of lines that will make for a beautiful speech at a wedding or a 21st. It is the kind of book that captures the feeling of family without sentiment or gauche cliche, and the characters are each so heartwrenching and fallible that I could not take sides, even though I knew I should. Read it: no scrooge can survive this story.” – ZH
6. Railsea by China Mieville
This is an another exciting novel by China Mieville. On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt. The giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death and the other’s glory are extraordinary. But no matter how spectacular it is, travelling the endless rails of the railsea, Sham can’t shake the sense that there is more to life. Even if his philosophy-seeking captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-coloured mole she’s been chasing – ever since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it’s a welcome distraction. But the impossible salvage Sham finds in the derelict leads to considerably more than he’d bargained for. Soon he’s hunted on all sides: by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers. And it might not be just Sham’s life that’s about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea.
7. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
‘It is never what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different – unimagined, unprepared for, unknown…’ What if our 24-hour day grew longer, first in minutes, then in hours, until day becomes night and night becomes day? What effect would this slowing have on the world? On the birds in the sky, the whales in the sea, the astronauts in space, and on an eleven-year-old girl, grappling with emotional changes in her own life..? One morning, Julia and her parents wake up in their suburban home in California to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth is noticeably slowing. The enormity of this is almost beyond comprehension. And yet, even if the world is, in fact, coming to an end, as some assert, day-to-day life must go on. Julia, facing the loneliness and despair of an awkward adolescence, witnesses the impact of this phenomenon on the world, on the community, on her family and on herself.
8. The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
A beautifully crafted novel based on Sophocles’ drama Antigone, the setting a modern-day US army base in Afghanistan and told from a different perspective in each chapter. A Pashtun woman arrives at the base, demanding the body of her brother in order to give him a proper burial. This has a ripple-effect through the base, raising questions about the boundaries between duty and humanity, exposing prejudices (even that of the reader) and challenging the way we perceive our roles in life. -ON
I finished this book, and then I had to go away and think about it carefully. I still am. So many voices, ideas, metatextual references and nuances, all in a relatively slim volume. Enjoy this thoughtful read with a few strong cups of coffee – you’ll understand why when you get to the end. – ZH