Saturday, February 05, 2011

Time to Choose Another Book!

I am honored to have been 'tagged' to choose the shortlist for our next book choice. As a relative newcomer to the process, I thought it would be a good idea for me to go back over some previous posts and see if there were any trends in the suggestions--and there really aren't! Not just the books that actually won out in the voting but all the books put on the virtual table for consideration show what a cheerfully idiosyncratic group this is. So I decided to go with the "books I happen to be quite interested in reading right now" approach and put a cheerfully idiosyncratic list up myself. I just hope there's something on it that looks good to the rest of you! I've put in links to the Book Depository in most cases, but I think they are all pretty generally available.

1. Colm Toibin, Brooklyn. I haven't read any Toibin before, but I've heard many good things, particularly about this novel. From the jacket: "Eilis has come of age in small-town 1950s Ireland in the hard years following the Second World War. When she receives a job offer in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Leaving her family and country behind, Elis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn, and to a crowded boarding house where her landlady's intense scrutiny and the small jealousies of her fellow residents only deepen her isolation. Slowly, however, the pain of parting and a longing for home are buried beneath the rhythms of her new life--until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future."

2. Laurence Cosse, A Novel Bookstore. I read about this one in the Europa Editions catalogue and it sounds fabulous: "Ivan, a one-time world traveler, and Francesca, a ravishing Italian heiress, are the owners of a bookstore that is anything but ordinary. Rebelling against the business of bestsellers and in search of an ideal place where their literary dreams can come true, Ivan and Francesca open a store where the passion for literature is given free rein. Tucked away in a corner of Paris, the store offers its clientele a selection of literary masterpieces chosen by a top-secret committee of likeminded literary connoisseurs. To their amazement, after only a few months, the little dream store proves a success. And that is precisely when their troubles begin. At first, both owners shrug off the anonymous threats that come their way and the venomous comments concerning their store circulating on the Internet, but when three members of the supposedly secret committee are attacked, they decide to call the police. One by one, the pieces of this puzzle fall ominously into place, as it becomes increasingly evident that Ivan and Francesca’s dreams will be answered with pettiness, envy and violence. "

3. Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus. The blurb: "Caroline and Grace Bell, two beautiful orphan sisters eager to begin their lives in a new land, journey to England from Australia. What happens to these young women--seduction and abandonmnet, marriage and widowhood, love and betrayal--becomes as moving and wonderful and yet as predestined as the transits of the planets themselves. . . . a story of place: Sydney, London, New York, Stocklholm; of time: from the fifties to the eighties; and above all, of women and men in their passage through the displacements and absurdities of modern life." I've read two other Hazzard novels and been very impressed with her as a stylist; this one won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

4. Alaa Al Aswany, The Yacoubian Building. From the publisher's website: "All manner of flawed and fragile humanity reside in the Yacoubian Building, a once-elegant temple of Art Deco splendor now slowly decaying in the smog and bustle of downtown Cairo: a fading aristocrat and self-proclaimed "scientist of women"; a sultry, voluptuous siren; a devout young student, feeling the irresistible pull toward fundamentalism; a newspaper editor helplessly in love with a policeman; a corrupt and corpulent politician, twisting the Koran to justify his desires. These disparate lives careen toward an explosive conclusion in Alaa Al Aswany's remarkable international bestseller. Teeming with frank sexuality and heartfelt compassion, this book is an important window on to the experience of loss and love in the Arab world." I have been interested in this for some time; then I happened across the movie adaptation and broke my "no watching before reading" rule--the movie is very good, very intense! So I'm no less interested in reading the original.

5. Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath. This one may not be a great option as it is the first one in a trilogy. If we pick it and love it, of course, we could always read the other two! Anyway, here's the description: "Set in 14th-century Norway, The Wreath begins the life story of Kristin Lavransdatter. Starting with Kristin's childhood and continuing through her romance with Erlend Nikulausson, a dangerously charming and impetuous man, Sigrid Undset re-creates the historical backdrop in vivid detail...Defying her parents and stubbornly pursuing her own happiness, Kristin emerges as a woman who loves with power and passion." The trilogy was first published in 1920-22.

So--vote away! I'll tally up the responses by, say, next Sunday, and we'll aim to have our discussion of whichever one we choose at the end of March.

--Rohan

11 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

Oh, tough choice! I'd happily ready any of them. I think I'll vote for Brooklyn, though. Thanks!

litlove said...

Really tough choice! But I've long been wanting to read Shirley Hazzard, so I'll vote for her.

SFP said...

Another vote for The Transit of Venus, although you now have me curious about A Novel Bookstore.

Danielle said...

Difficult choice--I wouldn't mind reading any of them, but I think I'll vote for The Yacoubian Building.

Stefanie said...

Oh what a great list! I read and loved Toibin's The Master last year but I haven't read Hazzard and have been meaning to so my vote goes to Transit of Venus.

Sarah said...

I'm a great fan of Hazzard so my vote goes for The Transit of Venus. Happy to read any of them though!

Iliana said...

Thank you for putting our list together. Lots of good choices. I'll go with A Novel Bookstore followed by Brooklyn.

Can't wait!

Vasilly said...

I'm voting for A Novel Bookstore.

Ele Munjeli said...

I'd like The Yacoubian Building- I want to know more about life in Cairo at this point, even a fictional Cairo.

liliannattel said...

I'll vote for the Yacoubian Building. It's especially timely now with world attention on Cairo.

Mike B. said...

I hope to join you again (after quite awhile) and if it's worth anything, I'd go with A Novel Bookstore.