It's strange - you read nothing worth talking about and sharing for weeks, and then two books come along at once that make you rush out to tell the world. I have had such an experience, and so I am here to tell you about two books that are highly original, and might make you see life from a slightly different perspective.
Firstly there is 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini who also wrote 'The Kite Runner'. This is isn't something I would've picked up, were it not my April bookclub choice. I've seen 'The Kite Runner' and was in no way inspired to read the book, and when his second novel came along, I wasn't rushing to the bookstore. I'm ever so glad whoever voted for it, as it's totally beautiful.
The book spans the decades between the sixties and 2003 and traces the many shifts in politics and life in Kabul through the eyes of two very different women, Mariam and Laila, who are connected at first only through the fact that they are married to the same man.
It's a powerful story, beautifully and simply told. Life is not dressed up to resemble anything fine or wonderful - people make mistakes, die before their time, wallow in grief and end up in abusive relationships. It was so interesting to read a novel on that side of the fence, especially through the eyes of women. It's a magical book, and it led me on to the second bus (book).
This was 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' by Mohsin Hamid. It's written in the style of the dialogues philosophers of old once wrote to express their religious beliefs. One voice, telling a story and commenting on the unseen listener's reactions. A man, Pakistani by birth and upbringing, has come to America to go to Princeton. He tells the story of how he rises in the ranks of American society, but once the September 11th attacks happen he begins to become disollusioned with his adopted country. There is a poetic sense to the way he tells his tale, and there is a distinctive flavour to his words. Normally when I read, I only ever hear my voice telling the story, even if there are different dialects, like in 'Wuthering Heights'. This time, there was a definite lilt to the words, and it was almost as if I were sitting in the Lahore cafe with the man, being told the story myself.
Both books are intensely interesting and offer views on subjects that are constantly before our eyes nowadays, but which we have ceased to truly look at because of the constant stream of information. I want to read more, so I might move on to 'The Kite Runner'!
In other news, as you know I have a penchant for marking the anniversary of births and deaths of my favourite authors, and today is one such moment -- twenty years ago Daphne du Maurier, author of some of my favourite novels, died at the age of 82.