In contrast to November’s surprising hardback bounty, paperback treats are pretty thin on the ground: just a paltry three, I’m afraid. I’ll start with the one I’ve already reviewed – Helle Helle’s This Should Be Written in the Present Tense which surprised me when it was first published last year with its low-key but strangely gripping style. It’s narrated by Dorte who has moved into a bungalow just outside Copenhagen where she has a place at university. Somehow she never gets around to buying any curtains or attending lectures. Aimless and adrift, she knows what she should be doing but just can’t seem to do it. Nothing much happens but I found it hard to put this novel down. Such a shame about the paperback jacket, though. The hardback edition’s was gorgeous and suited the book beautifully, I thought.
Rather like Dorte, I didn’t get around to reading Han Kang’s The Vegetarian despite the many ecstatic tweets praising it to the skies, some of them from readers whose opinion I respect. Yeong-hye is subject to horrible nightmares which prompt her to become a vegetarian, almost unheard off in strictly conventional South Korea. This small rebellion elicits ‘self-justified acts of sexual sadism’ in her own husband and obsession in her sister’s who makes her the subject of his disturbing artworks. Consumed by her own fantasies, Yeong-hye dreams of escaping her body and becoming a tree. ‘Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern-day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another’ say the publishers – I’m still not entirely convinced.
Not at all sure about this one, either, but Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl has a tempting synopsis. My previous experience with Diamant’s writing left me feeling that it was somewhat overblown but we’ll see. Born in 1900 to immigrant parents, Addie Baum tells her young granddaughter the story of her complicated life set against the backdrop of the First World War. Immigrants’ stories – particularly the second generation – have a perennial appeal for me hence the novel’s attraction.
Sadly that’s it for November paperbacks. If you’d like a more detailed synopsis a click on the first title will take you to my review, the other two lead to Waterstones website. If you’d like to catch up with the much more exciting selection of hardbacks here is part one and here is part two.