Another month, another book roundup!
With things really opening up, this past month I was finally able to more things outside of the house. I had dinner, coffees and drinks with friends I hadn’t seen in months. I could go out shopping for a nice pair of jeans (something I was desperately in need of (and I dislike buying jeans online), or really just go window shopping, an activity I find quite relaxing. At the same time, work was really busy. May came and went insanely quickly for me, and when I looked at my Goodreads account I was once again surprised with how much I was still able to read.
Or perhaps not. I mean isn’t reading a way of escapism? At least, for me, it is indeed! So here’s my bookish roundup of the month.
Normal People, by Sally Rooney
If you go to my previous monthly bookish roundup, you’ll see that the first book I read in April was also by Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends. I really liked her book, and Normal People did not disappoint. And again, I was disliking the main characters. Getting frustrated with the things they said or did not say, the things they did or did not do. This time, we speak about two people, who grew up in the same small town, get intimately involved, are in and out of this strange relationship, both having a great impact on each other lives, without realising how much they indeed love each other. I like the rawness of it. How many times does this happen in real life… I kept imagining myself being in a similar situation not saying the right things, or always saying the wrong things. I’m sure if someone read the story I was living they would be as frustrated as I was while reading this book. The ending though… well you must read it!
I now need to watch the series – but again, the book is highly recommend by me.
Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t know if she would ever find out where it was or become part of it.
She believes Marianne lacks ‘warmth’, by which she means the ability to beg for love from people who hate her.Sally Rooney, Normal People
The Secret Story, by Donna Tartt
This book did something to me. For days and days, I couldn’t stop thinking about this book, the plot and its characters. If you don’t know yet, this book is considered a bible in the Dark Academia lifestyle (to be quite honest, a lifestyle I do fit into). And I understand why. People out there passionate about ancient cultures, rituals and dead languages will almost desperate desire to be one of the characters of this book. The story is told by the most boring person ever. Honestly, he may be one of the reasons why I’m not giving five stars to the book. He basically becomes part of this group of students taught by an eccentric Greek professor at a University in New England, even though he comes from a completely different background – he is poor and the other five are wealthy youngsters who live off their family funds. He lies to be a part of it. And ends up adopting the same lifestyle – and again this is why I also had to give 4 stars to the book. It glamourises drinking, drug consumption, sleepless nights of insomnia, and even murder and suicide. And yet, I was so intrigued about these characters he described. At the end of the day, they are so entitled, they feel they can get away with simply anything.
But the way Donna Tartt describes these personas, the university, the landscapes of New England…despite all of this, it makes you desire to be one of them. And I could relate to so much of the book, that I even feel a bit ashamed of saying so. I guess it brought up the darkest side of my own personality.
It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves?
But how,” said Charles, who was close to tears, “how can you possibly justify cold-blooded murder?’ Henry lit a cigarette. “I prefer to think of it,” he had said, “as redistribution of matter.
“We think we have many desires, but in fact we have only one. What is it?” “To live,” said Camilla. “To live forever,”Donna Tartt, The Secret History
A Trança de Inês, by Rosa Lobato de Faria (unsure if there is an English version of the book. Translated from the Portuguese it goes “The Braid of Inês”
In Portuguese History, we have a Shakespearean real episode. D. Pedro, to be king, fell hopelessly in love with Inês de Castro, lady-in-waiting to his wife. D. Constança. Despite being married (of course) he would have romantic encounters with Inês. After the death of his wife, Constança, Pedro lived with Inês as a married couple. This angered King D. Afonso IV and it was considered a huge offence to the court. They had three children, but the disapproval of the court kept growing more and more intense, to the point the King ordered the murder of Inês de Castro. D. Pedro was deranged by pain, and it seems this made him a bit mad. In such a way, that when he was made King, he ordered the murderers to be assassinated by having their hearts ripped out of their bodies, made Inês, now dead, Queen of Portugal, and got her body moved from the city of Coimbra to the city of Alcobaça where they rest both in peace, in tow magnificent stoned tombs you can still visit today.
I had to give you this long explanation because Rosa Lobato de Faria does something amazing with this story. She recreates it in three different eras – she tells the story of the past, the story of Pedro and Inês in the present, and another one in a farther future where society is divided by the Y and Xs – Ys are considered unfit and so given the lowest rank of society, being sterilised and Xs are allowed and even obliged to find a partner to have children with. This a future that focuses on reducing the human population to safeguard the planet. In all of these three eras, Pedro and Inês meet, fall in love, are antagonised, Inês ends up dead (murdered) and Pedro goes mad.
It’s a fantastic book. I just wished there was more to the characters (hence my 4 stars). Inês is simply the beautiful girl in all three scenarios, and Pedro is always the hopeless romantic who doesn’t even think about his wife and children just to be with Inês. From my perspective, this just makes the characters look a bit shallow.
But I really liked the idea of this dystopian world. I think that for itself would be material for a second book!
This is how you lose the time war, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
I had such high expectations for this book… but…I didn’t get it? Honestly, the writing is simply splendid. Beautiful, lyrical. But I really struggled to understand what was actually going on. The plot is basically made out of letters from these agents who are part of different enemy teams, who are seemingly (if I understand correctly) building Time, pretty much responsible for everything that’s happening on Earth throughout the millennia. They aren’t supposed to be in contact, it is strictly forbidden, but somehow, Red and Blue (their names) develop this close relationship, close to love.
I feel there is probably something deep that I missed completely. I have read very good reviews of this book, and that was why I wanted to read it… but really…meh. Or I’m just not the romantic I need to be in order to truly enjoy the book! I think this is one that I will read again in a couple of years… and see if I can understand it better.
Kyoto, by Yasunari Kawabata (I read the Portuguese edition)
Wook.pt, my favourite online bookstore in Portugal, had this amazing sale on Japanese literature. As you may or may not know, I am a big fan of Japanese culture, with Murakami, Ishiguro and Kirino being some of my favourite writers. This sale was the perfect opportunity not only to get to know more of Japanese literature but also to travel to Japan virtually since my carefully planned trip for 2020 had to be cancelled.
What this book did for it – it did take me to Kyoto. Kawabata describes the seasons, the trees, the flowers, the weather in such a damned beautiful way. Almost lyrical. I also loved the description of the industry of kimono and obi making. It’s something that interests me so. But the actual plot was quite poor in my opinion, with the dialogues being even… weird? Again, I’m not sure if this was due to poor translation. Perhaps the Japanese version is a lot better. To me, the plot itself, and the characters involved were quite plain. Nothing really exciting was happening apart from a young woman finding out she has actually a twin sister.
This is all for May, folks!
Let me know if you read any of the above books and any thoughts on it.