Mrs Osmond by John Banville - I already mentioned this book before, but here I am finally giving you a proper review. John Banville reimagines what could possibly happen after Henry James's ambiguous ending of his novel The Portrait of a Lady, following Mrs Isabel Osmond to London where she is about to attend her cousin's funeral. Banville fully embraces James's writing style, following his long sentences and pensive passages, in which Mrs Osmond contemplates on her life and the future. I am not saying it is an easy read, and I know that in my case it took me some time to get into the book and to be able to fully follow Banville's use of language (which actually reminded me of reading James's Daisy Miller, my favourite story about a young American in Europe, with a similar writing style, difficult to follow at first). However, once you do get through the couple of first pages, the book will not let you go. Banville beautifully and reliably depicts Isabel's struggle to settle her mind, reflecting her inner battle through her surroundings, for example (such as when she enters a room, feeling like an entrapped bird, I love this part!). Even though it is set back in the end of the 19th century, a lot of Banville's thoughts are easy to apply to our present social situation. I dare to call this novel a modern classic. Although it takes a little bit of time to embrace Banville's uniqueness, it is worth of your time and patience. The result is a perfect read for your autumn evening, melancholic, yet, with a promise of hope (ó la la, getting poetic here!).
What was freedom, she thought, other than the right to exercise one's choices? (Mrs Osmond)
Lincoln in Bardo by George Saunders - The newest winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, George Saunders, proves in his book Lincoln in Bardo that he rightfully deserves this prestigious literary award. A story, following the night when president's Lincoln eleven-year-old son is fatally sick while his powerful parents are throwing a party downstairs, and consequently depicting the aftermath of his death, is nothing you have ever read. Yes, you might have come across books dealing with grief or ghosts talking to each other. But have you ever seen a plot composed from more than one hundred different fragments of narratives, protagonists and real historical accounts, which, when all put together, form a powerful story about how sometimes it is difficult to let go? Saunders uses history books describing the death of Lincoln's son, as well as he creates fictional voices of dead people, entrapped in "bardo", a place which in Tibetan tradition signifies a transition in between the world of living and dead. Because of the multiplicity of voices and the composition of the story, some describe the book as a play. Yet for me, I believe that Saunders has come up with a new literary genre, worth of your attention.
The boundaries of the world seemed vast. (Lincoln in the Bardo)
Where They Lie by Mary O'Donnell - Once again, inserting a compulsory book from my Uni reading list from the Northern Irish literature course. The story about a woman, whose life changes after she receives a phone call from a mysterious man who claims that he knows where the bodies of her loved ones are buried, will probably be one of the two books I will write about in my dissertation. O'Donnell creates a reliable story and characters, fully describing their everyday lives and struggle to face their past, seeping into the present. But do not expect some clichés. Northern Irish literature tends to aim for a naturalistic approach, creating a raw reality. O'Donnell's book is its great example.
How it must feel to live in a state of puzzlement that would follow one to the grave. (Where They Lie)
The Twelve by Stuart Neville - Just as the above reviewed book, The Twelve is also on my official Uni reading list. Yet, I did not expect to enjoy this thriller following a killer in Northern Ireland, who tries to redeem his past by killing those who ordered deaths of twelve people, whose ghosts now haunt him (hope this description makes sense!). Although the plot might sound crazy, Neville manages to hold it together and more importantly, he makes you keep reading as you desperately want to know what happens next. If you are looking for something different to read (and Lincoln in Bardo seems to be slightly too much for now), definitely go for this surprisingly impressive novel.
You can hate someone with all your heart, but it'll never do them a bit of harm. The only person it hurts is you. (The Twelve)
And I read a half of...
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - So many people have talked about this bestseller, that I could not resist any longer and got myself a copy as well. And I officially love it! Harari manages to simplify and yet to depict every important aspect of the history of humankind (from the beginning of the universe to the 21st century), being critical, funny, educative and mainly, easy to read despite its difficult topic. Although I have been only a half way through, I can't wait to finish it and probably reach for his second book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, this time discussing our future.
You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
What you can be looking forward in November Atelier...
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks - So far, I have read two stories from Hanks's collection of short stories, but I do not believe that it is enough to write a review on the whole book. Hence I am afraid you will have to wait till the end of November... (but the bits I have read are brilliant!)
The Christmas Chronicle by Nigel Slater - This book is a collection of winter recipes, short stories and contemplation on the beauty of the upcoming crispy, refreshing time of the year. I read the opening of the book, falling in love with its overall structure and the variety of topics it covers. It will definitely make it to my Christmas list with tips for book presents... And of course, I will give you a full review next month!