Reading Wrap Up | April 2017

Max Frisch – Sketchbooks 1966-1971 // I bought this book back in school because one of his novels was presented in German class and I got into his novels after that. His sketches are a combination of ideas for his novels or even whole short stories, diary entries and questionnaires. The latter were thought provoking and made me actually stop and think about the answers I would give. His diary entries on the other hand gave an interesting look into the time of the Cold War and how this influenced the arts. Frisch as a Swiss had a neutral position and visited countries from both sides quite regularly but was often met with suspicion from the socialists.

Julian Fellows – Belgravia // Julian Fellows is the creative mind behind Downton Abbey and his new novel seemed like the something to fix the gap the series final left (Although I’m still stuck somewhere in season 4). Unfortunately, Belgravia couldn’t fullfill my expectations. We follow a merchant family that manages to secure some really good projects and friends after the Napoleonic war and rises on the social ladder. But their past catches up with them and the intricacies of social norm and the arrogance of old aristocratic families threatens to destroy their lives.  It’s similar enough to Downton Abbey but the story is too dramatic, especially in the end.

Madeleine Roux – Asylum // Asylum has been on my Amazon Wishlist for years and years and when I found it in my local library I had to take it out. It was promised as an even darker pendant to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as it also has a creepy storyline and realistic photographs in the book. Dan Crawford is spending his summer at the New Hampshire College Prep Program which is housed in a former asylum. But the past won’t stay quiet any longer and soon people start to get hurt. I guess that the story can be quite scary for younger audiences and it was a quick read but the characters were rather flat and the actions and dialogues seemed forced. I’m glad I can take it of my wishlist now and I will not be continuing with the series.

Betty Smith – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn // A book from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge list. We follow Francie who is growing up in 1930’s New York as a second-generation Irish immigrant. Her life is marked by the poverty of her parents, the prejudice of society and her own wish to learn and get something more from life. It reminded me a lot of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitain series of which I have only read the first book so far but I enjoyed both novels a lot.

Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven // After a pandemic hit the world about 20 years ago, society finally seems to rebuild itself. Kirsten is part of a theatre group that is moving from settlement to settlement with Shakespeare’s plays to entertain people. The story jumps back and forth between different characters and shows how their pasts and presents intertwine. The novel is not as action packed as other post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories but uses similar topics and tropes. It was good but not standing out enough to recommend it between all other novels from the genre I’ve read so far.

Georges Perec – A Void // Probably one of the most unusual books I have ever read. A group of people is brought together by fate and tries to unravel the mysteries behind the disappearance of a mutual friend. The book is written entirely without the letter „e“ which makes the choice of words artistic but also peculiar and hard to read. Nothing I would read again but certainly one of a kind.

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