Recent Reads #11
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
After watching two seasons of the TV series, I decided to give the book a go. The premise is something that I think about from time to time, being a history student. The “what if” questions constantly intrigue me as one little action by someone, big or small, could have altered the course of history dramatically. The setting of WW2 also gripped me in as it’s the period I am most interested in as a historian (lol can I call myself that). But to get back to the book, it imagines a world where the Axis power wins the war instead with the US divided between Germany and Japan. Being a short book, I wish it were a little longer and the author spent more time developing the characters. I didn't really feel any emotional connection to them even though we got a glimpse into how they thought about the world through introspective thoughts.
The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young
If you remember, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer was one of the most life changing books that I had read recently that talked about the meat industry and consequently played a huge role in my decision to cut out meat completely from my diet. The book details anecdotes by the author from growing up and working on Kite’s Nest Farm where animals are given individual names and really cared for and looked after. What surprised me and what made me smile reading this book was how the different personalities of the cows. Young writes about how cows play games with each other and hold grudges when something goes wrong. Yet, ultimately what made me think that this was a pretty average book is how far the anecdotes stretched. While cows communicating about grooming each other seemed plausible and interesting, it seemed like a stretch to say that they were discussing the weather. I still think it’s an interesting book for people to read because the personalities of these animals really shine through and makes us think about the dangers of factory farming.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
I’m very aware of how little classics I have read over the years and hope to read more of them. I thought Catch-22 was great and it has become one of my favourite books of all time. I didn’t expect to like this book so much at first. Even though I am drawn to fiction that is set during or around the time of WW2, I don’t really like reading about the details of the war itself. That makes no sense whatsoever but what I mean to say is, I’m not too interested in the military side of things and I thought this book would solely be about the fighting that happened during the war. I loved the satire and humour of this book the most. It’s funny in the right places without making the whole book a lighthearted comedy. Every word served a purpose in this book and I connected with the huge list of characters. Although non-linear plot lines can drive me away if it tries to be too clever or complicated, I was able to stick with it and even appreciated it.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
This book was recommended to me while I was writing my dissertation (are you sick of hearing about it yet haha) as I was hoping to look at the portrayal of the Japanese American internment in popular culture. The book follows the trial of Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese American, who is accused of killing a fellow fisherman, Carl Heine. It details the trial but also goes back in time quite frequently to give us a glimpse into the lives of each character as well as to the events leading up to Carl Heine’s death. I thought the courtroom drama was not the best but really appreciated the research and the depth of the depiction of the Japanese American lives before, during, and after WW2. It details so many aspects of what Japanese Americans had to endure, including everyday racism, the internment, the military, and more.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I’m so frustrated about this book. I feel like it had a lot of potential to comment on and be an important book about mental illness, counselling, and seeking help but it turned out to be pretty average. It's about a thirty-year-old girl named Eleanor Oliphant, who's had some traumatic experience as a child and as a consequence, is a little bit peculiar and reserved. I just couldn’t connect with the main character at all. The trickiest thing for books like these, to me, is striking the right balance between having a character that's dislikable and irritating while keeping the book itself enjoyable. I was so frustrated with Eleanor Oliphant's unbelievable lack of social cues and that ultimately influenced what I thought of the book as a whole. We find out she doesn't know how to use air quotes or high five properly, has never seen people dance to YMCA (!!), or get pizzas delivered, and the weirdest of all is she's never owned a technological device. She's also never had a manicure or a wax before, which is maybe more understandable than the phone or the laptop thing, but it just seemed like it was an easy bit to add in for a quick laugh...
For the books that I have read more recently, I’ve started to write reviews on Goodreads if you’d like to follow me on there as well. As always, please leave me your book recommendations below to add to my ever growing to read list!