February reading

by Sunita

We’re already almost done with March and I realized I forgot to write up my February reading. Oops! It was a good reading month. I read 8 books, which is more than I expected to in 28 days. But travel and alone time and the fact that I barely watch TV made the difference. Also, a bunch of them were short. In chronological order:

Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard. Enard is a fascinating author who speaks multiple languages and writes on the interactions of the Middle East and Europe (or, in outdated terms, the Orient and the Occident). This is a slim novella in which he builds a historical-fiction story out of a trip Michelangelo took to Istanbul, to design a bridge over the Bosphorus. It’s speculative and atmospheric and has a hint of romance in it.

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan. In which I continue my reading of the from Manhattan With Love series. I read and reviewed this here for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge. I really enjoyed it and it’s probably my favorite of this series.

In the Beginning Was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson. This is an old and now quite outdated book in which Stephenson ruminates and rants about DOS, MacOS, and even BeOS. I still enjoyed reading it, and it reminds me of why I like command-line approaches. I don’t miss big clunky computers, but I wouldn’t mind having some things back about WordStar. Yes really.

Westin’s Wyoming by Alice Sharpe. #511 on my Harlequin TBR, from the Intrigue line. A Princess (of a fake country, naturally) shows up at a Wyoming ranch. Not a dude ranch, a real ranch. She has a Big Secret and a fiancé back in the home country. One of the ranch family’s sons is on hand, and he protects her while Intrigue-stuff happens. It was not great. Not enough Wyoming, either.

The Spirit of Science Fiction by Roberto Bolaño. Another trunked novel by the late great Chilean novelist and poet. This is his first novel and was seriously trunked, but it’s better than that. Yes it’s early work with everything that implies, but you can see the bones of his later novels and it is just fun to read. Suffused with the feel of discovering a new and vibrant city as a young person.

The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard. This is a short, angry-satire novella about Nazi Germany in the 1930s, specifically the support of industrialists for Hitler and the acceptance of Nazi Party by European leaders. Through a series of vignettes Vuillard shows how many levels of European society and politics were complicit in Hitler’s rise to power. It has garnered some mixed reviews, but I found it powerful and chilling.

Life in the Court of Matane by Éric Dupont. This is a lovely coming of age novel by a Canadian Quebecois author. His most recently translated book, Songs for the Cold of Heart, was shortlisted for last year’s Giller Prize. It is funny and poignant and utterly charming. The “Court of Matane” is how Dupont describes his family, in which his father is Henry VIII, his mother is Catharine of Aragon, and his stepmother is Anne Boleyn. It works beautifully. I am mostly ignorant of Quebec history of the 1970s and 1980s (except for the separatist politics) but I had no trouble immersing myself in his world.

Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama. I read Yokoyama’s first English-translated novel, Six Four, last year and thought it was very good, so when this was released I immediately picked it up. The title refers to a jumbo jet crash that happened 17 years before the novel opens and focuses on how it is covered by a provincial newspaper. The narrator, Yuuki, is in charge of the coverage and the challenges he faces back then echo issues today. The past timeline alternates with a present story. Once again Yokoyama’s style is discursive and focused on the mundane and quotidian, but I found it engrossing.

Full reviews of all these novels are at my Goodreads account.