Category Archives: Alice Walker

Novel Insights’ Top 12 Books – 2011

I am savouring my last day off work today and feeling a little bit smug to be sat indoors out of the rain with nothing more taxing to do than mull over my favourite books of the past year. Actually, I say it’s not taxing but I started by trying to pick five books, then changed it to ten, and then bumped it up to twelve – whoops! Well that is one for every month – a perfectly good excuse in my opinion. Here they are:

How To Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran

5 stars 5/5

“…challenges all the stupid things that women are told (and tell themselves) with a big bucketful of humour…” Read full review.

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

5 stars 5/5

“…an important book and one that I think is up there with some of the best dystopian novels.” Read full review.

Never Let Me Go

In Love & Trouble, by Alice Walker

5 stars 5/5

“…each time I picked up Alice Walker’s collection of short stories, I felt as if time was suspended and I was transported completely to heat of the Southern America… The richness and vitality of Walker’s writing makes this book an utter pleasure to read.” Read full review.

Through the Wall, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

5 stars 5/5

“The stories sound barmy, and there is a heavy dose of the surreal, but at their heart Petrushevskaya’s tales  are real human experiences of grief, love and loss.” Read full review.

Through the Wall, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Purls of Wisdom, by Jenny Lord

5 stars 5/5

“…a book that I know I will refer to time and time again. I love the informal writing style because it feels just as if a friend is teaching you…” (AKA the book to blame for my knitting obsession in 2011!) Read full review.

Purls of Wisdom: The Book of Knitting

Mr Chartwell, by Rebecca Hunt

4.5 stars4.5/5

“I struggle to think of many other books that convey what is a very serious message with so much originality and seemingly so effortlessly.” Read full review.

Mary Anne, by Daphne du Maurier

4.5 stars4.5/5

“…a book, packed with with witty lines, and a richly described period setting which creates the backdrop for the story of a fascinating protagonist based on du Maurier’s own great-great-grandmother.” Read full review.

The Mermaids Singing, by Val McDermid

4.5 stars4.5/5

“I think that I might have found a new favourite crime writer to add to my list!” Read full review.

The Mermaids Singing

A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis

4 stars4/5

“Of course, this is a sad book to read, but also so beautifully and eloquently written… In an odd way, I believe that this little book could be comforting at a time of loss, if only because of how openly the author shares his experience.” Read full review.

Fateless, by Imre Kertész

4 stars4/5

“… a novel that will stay with me, because it is unique in the way that it addresses the experience of concentration camps. The writing is deceptively simple, and peppered with imaginative ideas…” Read full review.

Fateless, by Imre Kertesz

Journey by Moonlight, by Antal Szerb

4 stars4/5

“…has the qualities that I associate with a real classic… A rich and many-layered story.” Read full review.

Before I go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson

4.5 stars4.5/5

“…smartly plotted, written compellingly and the premise is well-executed.” Read full review.

Before I go to Sleep

A retrospective look at Novel Insights tells me that in 2011 I read a total of 43 books which is a whole 30% lower than last year’s count of 62. I don’t get too hung up about the number of books that I read because I don’t like to over-organise or analyse the things I do for pleasure and for this reason I don’t really make reading resolutions.

That said, I do think that my reading and blogging can be seen as a bit of a barometer of how I’m feeling. While sometimes I read less because I’ve been occupied with nice, fun stuff (including quite a lot of knitting this year!) I have felt quite busy over the past few months and it is one of my resolutions to find a better balance between work and my leisure time.

Well that’s my little bit of naval-gazing over and done with! How was your 2011? Do you have any reading resolutions? What books really stood out for you this year?

In Love and Trouble, by Alice Walker

5 stars

5/5

I have loved reading this book. In the last few weeks it’s felt as if I haven’t been able to stop, but each time I picked Alice Walker’s collection of short stories, I felt as if time was suspended and I was transported completely to heat of the Southern America.

The Women's Press Ltd, 1984 edition (first published 1973), 144 pages - personal library

Alice Walker, in In Love and Trouble tells us stories of black women living in the rural American South. They are a mix of the strange, the devastatingly sad and totally delightful. They are brief, yet deep. In just a few lines, Walker drops you into someone’s life and you feel as if you had been a fly on the wall all along.

Flipping back through the pages, I would find it difficult to pick a favourite story, but to give you a feel for them I will highlight a handful.

Her Sweet Jerome is the story of a woman who falls in love with a studious school teacher. Handsome and ten years younger than her, she desires him so much that she won’t rest until “I were Mr and Mrs Jerome Franklin Washington the Third, and that’s the truth!”. But after she gets her wish, she becomes suspicious of his behaviour. Though she supports him financially and lavishes him with beautiful things, the relationship is troubled. She lacks his “eddicashion” and is conscious of the fact and that she is older. He has no respect for her, beating her black and blue whenever she opens her mouth. She believes that he is cheating on her in some way and in desperation, rifles through his clothes and belongings until dramatically she discovers that what he is being distracted by is to her even more devastating than she could have guessed.

In The Child who Favoured Daughter, an angry father sits on his watch awaiting the return of his teenage daughter. Memories from the past, of a white man damaging his dearest sister whose face, his daughter resembles haunt him. Discovering love letters from his daughter to her love – a “white devil” – a dark and destructive jealous fury wells up within him and he viciously takes his anger out on the girl that he loves.

To Hell With Dying is the final story in the collection and describes the love of a little girl for family friend, Mr Sweet. A troubled man, but kind and charming Mr Sweet plays with the children and plays them songs, sometimes happy and sometimes melancholy on his steel guitar. A drunk and a diabetic Mr Sweet’s ailing health leave him laid out and the children are called to bring him back from the dead numerous times with tickles and kisses. Later, the little girl who narrates the story has grown up and left for university but drops everything to run back home to Mr Sweet one last time.

Walker manages to paint heavy and conflicted human emotions with a light brush. She roots the reader firmly in the sense of time and place, demonstrating a turning point where young people are struggling against prejudice and also the deep seated anger of a previous generation scarred by racism. I consumed each of these unique stories slowly, and as a collection they left me feeling totally satisfied. The richness and vitality of Walker’s writing makes this book an utter pleasure to read.