A great range of work by Finnish photographer Ville Varumo
via Lost at E Minor
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of A Yellow Sun
An excellent novel. Adichie is considered one of the brightest young writers around and on the basis of this it is easy to see why. First and foremost Adichie is an excellent storyteller. This, her second novel, tells the story of a small group of characters, Nigerian and one Brit, before, during and after Nigeria’s Biafra War. It is always gripping, at times harrowing, and often suspenseful. But on top of that she writes beautifully, juggling narratives, and giving a real feel of Nigeria from its music to its food. I look forward to reading her first novel and the recent selection of short stories. Very highly recommended.
David Eagleman – Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
One of those rare books that I read twice in a short space of time. Eagleman is an American neuro-scientist who imagines 40 scenarios from the afterlife. Each “story” is short – 2 or 3 pages (the whole book is only just over 100 pages). For example in one afterlife you relive your whole life but with all the events of one type grouped together so that you spend six days clipping your toenails, fifteen months looking for lost items etc. In another you remain in limbo until your name is mentioned no more on earth so that those who have become famous or infamous can never leave, but you leave just as those you hold most dear enter the afterlife. The stories are full of humour, intelligence, imagination, and sadness. It is not a book to be read in one go – a couple of stories at a time give another food for thought for a while. It may be slim but it is also essential.
Howard Jacobson – The Act of Love
Jacobson is one of the UK’s most highly regarded writers. A few years ago I tried the acclaimed “The Mighty Walzer” but couldn’t get into it. The Act of Love has been even more highly acclaimed and so I gave it a go. Unfortunately, the result was the same. Everything about the book annoyed me. I found the characters unbelievable, the prose irritating, the story dull. After 120 pages I did something I don’t do very often with books: I gave up.
Giles Milton – Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 – The Destruction of Islam’s City of Tolerance
Another book that disappointed. I had read and enjoyed a couple of Milton’s other books: White Gold and Nathaniel’s Nutmeg. He is a writer who has a way ofwriting about historical events, not widely known, and pulling you in like a great novel. I knew nothing about Smyrna but the story seemed fascinating. For some reason Milton’s narrative didn’t grab me this time. The book felt overlong yet at the same time somewhat restrictive.
Hugh Williams – Fifty Things You Need to Know About British History
My knowledge of my own country’s history is pretty poor, something I need to address. This is an excellent introduction. Williams picks 50 key events, breaking them up into 5 categories: Roots, Fight, Fight and Fight Again, Pursuit of Liberty, Home and Abroad (exploration), and All Change (culture). Each is well written with the minimum of detail but enough to give an understanding. Williams even finds space to set the context for some of the events, and uses side boxes from time to time to provide more information. History buffs would probably dismiss it as a dumbing down on history but for me it is a perfect appetiser.
Mohammed Hanif – A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Hanif’s highly rated A Case of Exploding Mangoes is a humourous novel set around the assassination of the Pakistani President, General Zia. At first the novel is confusing, switching between a number of different characters view points. After about 80 pages you wonder where it is going as Hanif seems to have too many balls in the air. But gradually he pulls it together with great skill. Because he crams so much into such a short book some of the key characters are not developed very well and are difficult to care for. Overall though it is a good, but not great, novel.
Jim Kazanjian builds digital images by combining and manipulating other images.