I really hoped to finish my current read today but it wasn’t to be. I can’t believe the low total of books finished this year – I’ll disclose that tomorrow but it’s a bit shocking and I’m going to make more time for reading in 2015. Anyway, here’s one last review of another highlight, and a pic of the lovely new books I’ve been lucky enough to receive for Christmas. I hope you’ve all had a nice read over the Festive Season and are busy making your Best Of lists (again, that will appear tomorrow).
Sathnam Sanghera – “The Boy With The Top Knot”
(26 April 2014 – from Gill, around World Book Night)
My friend Gill passed this to me as it was the book she was giving away for World Book Night. I read a lot of ‘children of immigrants in the UK’ and ‘tales of emigration’ books, so I thought I knew what I was expecting, but this packed quite the emotional punch. Full of substance, feeling and discussing matters that are important to discuss – I’m not going to give the main theme away as I certainly didn’t know what it was before reading the book, but a simple discovery blows the author’s ideas about his family wide apart, and he has to work to draw the edges of his experience back together and make sense of it.
Sathnam decided to write a family memoir once he’d found out the reason for some strange behaviour on his family’s part and a reluctance to face up to things on his own. He’s searingly honest about his own role in the family dynamic and his need to partition his life into a London and a Wolverhampton section, and about his ability to block out truths he doesn’t want to see and avoid his own responsibilities: this book charts his decision and action to take responsibility and face up to things. He’s also honest about general problems in the Sikh communities in the UK and India and among the 2nd generation British citizens of whom he’s a member, and his experience as a journalist allows him to do the necessary research and synthesize it into a coherent whole …
However, he finds that his family history resists fitting into neat categories and realises that it’s easier to find out facts about a golden-tinged celeb than it is about a poor Asian immigrant who is illiterate and has health problems. He ends up including letters he wrote and letters he didn’t send, and verbatim reports of conversations, as well as the history of his family and his own probings of his relationships with his family members. It’s not all misery, though – it’s wry and funny where it needs to be, and full of affection and respect for his family. A good read.
On to Christmas acquisitions! Oh – I did acquire one more book in November – a hardback copy of Francis Brett Young’s “This Little World”, which I have read. I bought it for a Secret Santa giftee, but when it arrived, it had a hole in the SPINE, made when something sharp had spiked through the (thin grey plastic) envelope and torn the book. I couldn’t send that as a present, so I’ve kept it, and got some other books for my Secret Santee. Grrr.
Anyway, here we have my BookCrossing Birmingham collection from the lovely Julia – Bill Bryson’s “Shakespeare”, Seb Hunter’s “Hell Bent for Leather”, the memoirs of a rock fan, Ursula Le Guin’s “Tales from Earthsea” which is short stories, and Dervla Murphy’s “Through Siberia by Accident”. All on my Wish List for years so well chosen, as was James Kelman’s “You Have To Be Careful in the Land of the Free”, from Gill.
My LibraryThing Virago Group secret santa found me two E.H. YOungs I didn’t yet have – “The Curate’s Wife” and “Jenny Wren”, and I can’t wait to read those lovely Greens (I also received a good scattering of dark chocs and a beautiful bookmark from the lovely Laura). And on my trip to the Persephone Shop back in November, I picked up three grey lovelies for myself from friends – so have Dorothy Whipple’s “Greenbanks” and “Because of the Lockwoods” from Ali and Bridget respectively, and Susan Glaspell’s “Brook Evans” from (editing friend) Laura. How lovely these all are and how tempting!
Right, time to go to bed. Watch this space tomorrow for my top ten reads of the year and reading plans for 2015 …