Monday, January 5, 2009

Two Great Books

I spent the holidays pushed out of my strict writing schedule (shock!) and managed to finish reading two very excellent books.

The first is by Kate Atkinson, who people know can do no wrong (word-wise) in my love blind eyes, and is her newest, When Will There Be Good News?. As I read it, I couldn’t stop seeing the image of a conductor in front of an orchestra, but in this case instead of the brass or woodwind section, Ms Atkinson has in front of her plot lines. She waves her stick towards one and it comes to the fore for a moment the other sections providing support at the back. Then an expert turn brings the second plot forward. Slowly this light, but expert touch nurtures each line until the grand crescendo where all plots merge into this fantastic conclusion where each stop along the way reveals itself for what it really was. Fantastic. I will say nothing else except that I think Kate Atkinson is one of the best writers alive today. (That line is NOT hyperbole)

The second book I received as a surprise gift from a friend who read in this blog that I wanted a copy of The White Tiger, but the ones here were shockingly expensive. People can be so lovely and generous and the gift warmed my heart. And what a lovely gift it was. One must really give kudos to the Booker Prize Committee for having open minds to what a true literary gift looks like. The White Tiger was a deserving winner.

My favourite parts of books are characters. Since I was a little girl I’ve lived with book characters. They’ve been such great companions and I’m always thankful for authors who add to my entourage. So I must thank Aravind Adiga. Balram Munno Halwai, The White Tiger, is a lovely character, albeit a murderer, but a murderer that one can easily befriend. Adiga lays plain the harsh brutality of poverty and servitude but no preaching is allowed, no pity either. He lets us into Balram’s world through a window of humour, my favourite passage into a life. In a letter to the Premier of China, Balram attempts to show him the true India. Despite all that might be construed as negative, the hopefulness of this novel makes one believe that Adiga is a true patriot. Lovely book.


Anonymous said...

On your recommendation I will read both of these. They do sound excellent!

Lauri said...

Selma you'll love them. The thing I love most about Kate Atkinson is her humour. She has wonderful quirky characters and slicing plots but the humour really does it for me, humour within sadness. I guess a bit like The White Tiger.

Let me know what you think.

Anonymous said...

Never read any book by Kate Atkinson, but I read The White Tiger last year and I was very disappointed. i could not help but feel that in a bid to upturn the serious image of the Booker, the judges made an error in adjudging this book the winner. Unlike you, I came away not caring much about the White Tiger and can say that had he been caught or executed for his murderous act, I wouldn't have given a toss to be honest. Early last year or late 2007, I had read "Q & A" by Vikas Swarup (on which the new film "Slumdog Millionaire" is based) which is also predominantly set in Indian slums and though this book is not particularly a good book and is full of some unbelievable coincidences, I enjoyed it a good deal more than the White Tiger and certainly cared more for that principal character than I did Adiga's own.

groovyoldlady said...

I'll be adding them to my "to read' list. And as soon as I return my overdue library books I'll see if they have one or the other or (oh joy!) both on the shelves there.

Lauri said...

SMC- I tend to lose interest in books that take themselves too seriously. I love excellent writing, I love wit, I hate pretension, and in some cases I find the Booker tends toward books that enjoy the term literary far too much at the expense of readability; not always but sometimes. (Will I ever finish the Famished Road or Midnight's Children in this lifetime? Doubtful, though I have put in an excellent effort on numerous occasions.)

The White Tiger is immune from that.

But, of course, we're all entitled to our own opinions. I'm glad you decided to share yours here.

Groovy- Hope you find the books. Let me know what you think of them.