Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question, David Mitchell Black Swan Green , Meera Syall Life isn't all Ha Ha, Hee Hee, and Josph O'Connor Ghost Light were all read his month and a good mixed bag it was . All interesting, mostly character rather than plot driven but all adding to my reading pleasure and interest. Oddly enough, three out of the four were read for book club or reading group, so although not all my personal choice, they were all good reads, although good in this context does have a variety of meanings.
The Finkler Question, reviewed here, and which won last year's Booker Prize, is a wonderfuly readable winner, about Jewishness and its complexity as well as male friendship, love and loss. The quality of Jacobson's writing was what kept my interest, as much as the themes. Jewish humour is evident, reminding me of a novel by Leo Rosten called the Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, which I read several decades ago,, and which was extremely funny. I loved Howard Jacobson's characters, especially Treslove, with his constant questiioning.
David Mitchell's Black Swan Green was entirely different, life in a rural village as seen by adolescent Jason Taylor, a secret poet, an undisclosed stammerer and schoolboy. Jason's life with his increasingly distant to each other parents, and his older sister Julia is beautifully described along with his difficulties of hiding his stammer from his bullying schoolmates and some teachers. Jason's need to be accepted by his peers wars with his desire to be an indiviual, with some amusing results. The 1982 setting , with references to Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands war rang very true, as well as Jason's keenness on computer games. A beautiful read.
Life isn't all Ha Ha, Hee, Hee by Meera Syal is the story of the friendship of three Asian women, Chila, Sunita and Tania, who have all known and looked out for each other since their schooldays. Chila, regarded as slow by most people, is getting married to Deepak, a playboy type. The three women friends lives are presented first, then later the views of their menfolk, Sunita's husband Akach, Tania's English husband Martin and Deepak. Although the story is written with a light touch, the themes it covers are serious enough: marriage, work for women, especially those in the Asian community, relationships within the family between parent and child, education for women, and the possibility of change and what that may bring.
Joseph O'Connor's Ghost Light is beautifully and almost poetically written. The story of Molly Allgood, brought up in the tenements of Dublin, recalling her memories and life as an actress while living in bleak post -war London. Molly's life included John Synge as her lover, as well as two marriages, divorce, widowhood. Her life as a down and out actress in London is bleakly drawn, while her memories of her affair with Synge are warm, tender and delicate. Although I found this a little slow to start, the sheer quality of the writing soon drew me along, and I began to care deeply for Molly and the trials of her and her lover's life.