The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
This was May’s book for my book club’s last pairing of the year. Although I have known about this book for some I probably would never have read it if not for book club. The basic premise is that Gregor Samsa is changed into a giant beetle-like insect overnight and becomes a source of shame for his family.
This is a very short book and thus a quick read – I read it in one sitting. I liked it for the most part and it did generate lots of discussion in my book group. Some of the ideas we discussed were: is this a literal or figurative metamorphosis; the metamorphosis of Gregor’s sister and parents by the end of the book; if this could be equated to someone having a mental illness, for example, depression, or a physical illness; and was Kafka saying that this bug has more humanity that his family. As you can see there are many ways in which to interpret this story.
Despite the depth of this story, I did find it humorous in some spots. Perhaps because of the absurdity of the situation. All in all, I was happy that I finally got around to reading it. I guess that is the beauty of book clubs. They take us out of our comfort zones.
Celine by Peter Heller
I started it before I went to Booktopia a few weeks ago but didn’t get very far in the story before hearing the author speak that weekend. And after hearing the story of how it all came to be, I was even more enthralled. The story is about a private detective who, working with her husband Peter, tracks down missing persons. It is also about families and the secrets that are kept. What made me that much more interested in the story was that Heller said that the secret to the book is that it is about his mom who died two years ago. She was a PI in real life and was really married to Pete, his step dad and that the family stories in the book are mostly true although embellished a bit.
Apart from Heller’s mastery of words and the way he makes you feel like you are right there in the scenes with his characters, my favorite part of this book was the relationship between Celine and Pete. Every time they interacted in the story (which was a lot) I felt myself smiling. I also love that this was not a typical mystery, it was a perfect combination of human interest, drama, and mystery.
This was the first of Heller’s books that I read but his other two books are now on my TBR very soon pile.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I was at the Northshire Bookstore in Vermont for my Booktopia weekend and the cover of this book caught my eye and it drew me in. Then when I read the synopsis I was sure it was something that I would want to read. I was still deciding what lucky books would get to come home with me so didn’t immediately add it to the pile. However, after a conversation with some of my fellow book lovers who praised Homegoing into my pile it went. The fact that it is written by a black author with black characters was the icing on the top.
This is Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel and I can’t wait to read more from her. Homegoing follows the very different path of two half sisters, Effia and Esi, and their descendants through eight generations and across two continents. From Ghana to America this story traces the history of Africans and African-Americans from slavery to modern times and struggles.
I really liked the format that Gyasi uses. Each chapter focuses on a subsequent generation, alternating between Effia and Esi’s families and focusing on one family member. The chapters are like vignettes that all come together to make the whole novel. Also, her writing and imagery are fantastic and helps to make this very difficult to read subject matter a little more bearable.
I have to be honest and say that reading this made me angry, and not just about the British but about slavery in general. I always forget about the part that my own race played in the slave trade…the trading of black prisons from warring tribes to the British for gold and other things. It also made me aware that there are some gaps in my knowledge of black American history. Will need to remedy that soon.
Hum if You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais
This was another preview e-book from First to Read. The story is set in South Africa during the Soweto uprising in 1976 and after effects going into 1977. This debut novel by Bianca Marais takes a hard look at Apartheid through the eyes of its main characters, Robin, a nine-year-old white girl, and Beauty a grown up black woman who are brought together because of the tragic circumstances they both experience during the uprising.
While taking a look at Apartheid-era South Africa in the late 1970s this book is about so much more. It really is about how we are all just human beings who experience the same things, have the same emotions, and deal with all that life sends us in the same way, no matter our origins.
I laughed, got angry, and cried throughout this book. I don’t want to say too much about this book to spoil anything. But this is a definite must read and I highly recommended it.
Now head on over to see what Francine read in May.