Book 42: I finished this earlier today and did so with tears in my eyes. None rolled, but they were there. I found it moving, at the end, and also found that it seemed perfectly paced, the last quarter of the book. I felt doom, I felt apprehension and I felt admiration.
It’s a fine novel, fascinating the way the family uses different languages, how linguistics can be connected to culture and custom and even emotions. English used for certain contexts, the local language for others. I remember teaching English to overseas students, here in Melbourne. One Chinese young man said that he and his mother used English to say ‘I love you’. They never used Mandarin. That somehow speaking in English was freer and allowed for emotions in a way that Chinese didn’t. I remember feeling sad about that, that it was somehow a limiting thing, but over the years I’ve realised how fantastically lucky people are who have more than one language in their lives. People can feel differently when they use another language, and can possibly be a different person, or pick and choose and expand. This is something not possible for me with my school-girl French, my almost non-existent Japanese and my best-but-still-shit Turkish.
I recommend this book. I don’t know if it’ll win the Booker but how lovely if it does. It’s a story with a lot of heart in it, beautifully written, and with excitement too. One part, towards the end, I was tense reading it and I haven’t felt that for a long time with a book.
[Books 40 & 41 were Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things and Susan Johnson’s The Landing, both published by my publisher, Allen & Unwin. I’m not going to review them, for obvious reasons, other than to say I really enjoyed both, and the places each took me (and a particular relief after Mr Franzen). I also really loved meeting Susan at her launch earlier this week at Corrie Perkins’s My Bookshop in Toorak, and I’m looking forward to meeting Charlotte at a workshop later in the year, over a weekend.
Susan is a complete babe, and mentioned me in her speech which was entirely gorgeous and embarrassing. What a generous woman. Then, while signing her book for me, insisted I sign mine for her! Went and got a copy off the shelf and put it in front of me. It was her night and there she was, encouraging a new author and a making a fuss of me. Introducing me. Mentioning me by name in her speech. It was unexpected and a little overwhelming and I will never forget the kindness and encouragement.]