5

A (British) Book Haul

After spending approximately 10 days in the UK, visiting my uncle and his family in Peterborough and taking a flash trip to Edinburgh, I’m back home in scorching hot Greece. Needless to say that I managed to acquire some books during this trip of mine, which I intend to show you today.

Since my uncle’s house is located rather far away from the city centre, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to browse through Peterborough’s bookshops. I did, however, purchase those three books from lovely Waterstones:

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  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • A Faraway Smell of Lemon by Rachel Joyce

I’ve already read The Vegetarian and We Have Always Lived in the Castle and reviews for those two will be up soon.

Even though I travelled to Edinburgh with very little luggage and promised to myself not to buy more than two books, I left with six new ones in my bag. Oh, well.

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From Blackwell’s I got:

  • The Muse by Jessie Burton
  • The Gifts of Reading by Robert Macfarlane

From Oxfam I got:

  • A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton
  • Negotiating With the Dead by Margaret Atwood
  • The Monsters and the Critics by J.R.R. Tolkien

And last but certainly not least, from Barnardo’s I got:

  • 官僚を国民のために働かせる法 (Kanryou wo Kokumin no Tame ni Hatarakaseru Hou / The Way to Make Bureaucracy Work for the Citizens) by 古賀茂明 (Koga Shigeaki)

I never expected to find a Japanese book in a non-specialized bookshop, so I immediately grabbed it and brought it home with me. It’s a non-fiction book and I have to admit that its subject matter doesn’t particularly interest me, but it will certainly become great practice for my Japanese reading skills.

Upon arriving back home, I found a package waiting for me. It was from Kurodahan Press and it contained those wonderful books sent to me for review:

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  • Blue Bamboo by Dazai Osamu
  • Tokyo Decadence by Ryu Murakami
  • Long Belts and Thin Men by Kojima Nobuo

They are all short story collections and I am more than excited to delve into them as soon as possible.

So, these are all the books I acquired since the beginning of July and they all make me so very happy. Have you read any of these? What books have you acquired so far for this month? 🙂

4

‘The Miniaturist’ by Jessie Burton **

The Miniaturist, which uses the setting of seventeenth century Amsterdam,is Jessie Burton’s debut novel.  It has been dubbed a ‘feminist golden-age fiction’, focusing as it does upon slightly naive eighteen-year-old newlywed, Nella Oortman.

The Miniaturist begins in January 1687, with a funeral for an as yet unknown character.  The opening scene is both intriguing and vivid: ‘The funeral is supposed to be a quiet affair, for the deceased had no friends.  But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot, and the church’s east corner is crowded’.  The narrative then loops back to 1686, beginning beside the ‘sludge-coloured’ Herengracht Canal in the city.

Nella has married the rich ‘power-broker’ Johannes Brandt, a man considerably older than she – when he ‘had asked for her hand, Nella decided to accept.  It would have seemed ungrateful and certainly stupid to say no.  What other option was there but… life as a wife?’ – but when she travels to her new home from the countryside, she finds him absent.  She is greeted by his sister, the neat-as-a-pin and rather formidable Marin.  Her relationship with Johannes does not unfold as she thinks it will, and she is soon disillusioned.

At the start of the novel, the sense of place has been well imagined, but this sadly dissipates somewhat in some of the scenes which follow the prologue.  The dialogue which Burton has crafted between her characters – like them, it can be said – does tend to be a little lacklustre, and it is rather too matter-of-fact to be sustained for the entire length of a novel.  The third person narrative perspective has been used throughout, and this does suit the story for the most part.  There are times in which it does let the storyline and emotions which it should be crammed with down, however.

The funeral in the prologue acts like a hook, drawing the reader in, but the rest of the book does not quite live up to expectations; one could almost say, sadly, that it disappoints.  The Miniaturist is nowhere near as absorbing as well-written as Tracy Chevalier’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring, which shares a similar setting and timeframe, and neither does it live up to the work of Sarah Waters or Donna Tartt, which it has been compared to in its blurb.

Purchase from The Book Depository