The Book Group came to call last week and I'm quite glad I hadn't broken a leg to read On Beauty by Zadie Smith because this intelligent, discerning and lively crowd gave it a very average 5/10 and very little enthusiasm for a book that they all agreed read like a soap.
Unusually for our books it generated little or no discussion and when I pointed out the supposed similarities to Howard's End or the homage to Forster that Zadie Smith had declared there were looks of complete bemusement. Most had read Howard's End no one could make any connections.Teenage dialogue got a favourable mention but not much else stood out.
Dare I say, Emperor's new clothes was whispered. We are a long way from the literary hype down here so they all tend to read without any pre-conceived ideas and I try to.
Ho hum, strike us down.
My turn to choose the next read and I must have changed my mind a million times, you only get this chance once every 6 months or so. Possibles ranged from Murukami to Nothomb and all else inbetween and beyond.Eventually I settled on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Purple Hibiscus for those who haven't read it and Half of a Yellow Sun for those that have.We have a good arrangement with the library and can borrow the books for 8 weeks.
Purple Hibiscus was one of my 5* reads of last year and here's my Amazon review (in the days when I did such things) to prove it
"I picked this book up intending to read a few pages in just to see what
I thought and actually hardly put it down again until I had finished it.
It is a meaningful insight into life in Nigeria in unsettled political times with the overarching conflict of the Catholic religion versus indigenous faiths almost subsuming everything else.
Kambili and Jaja's father is a prosperous and generous Catholic businessman respected and revered in the wider community for his support of charities yet behind closed doors he is a despotic, controlling and ultimately extremely violent man.
Helpless and seemingly powerless, the family can do nothing but tolerate Papa's violence which despite it's brutality still does nothing to affect their love for him until finally and very unexpectedly the power does shift.Adichie creates the family who have everything yet have nothing and then contrasts them powerfully with another branch of the family who seemingly have nothing yet have it all and it works.
She delineates fear superbly;the reader really feels and lives what this family are going through.There is a wonderful intermingling of local dialect within the narrative that grounds this book very firmly in Nigeria and much of the beauty and hardship of the country is clearly described in a flowing and atmospheric style.
Despite the stomach-churning physical abuse that almost moves you to tears for many reasons,I found this an ultimately very satisfying read."
I usually avoid books on child abuse, I have to write reports about the real thing too often to want to read about if for pleasure, but this book was a real exception. Let's hope the book group see it that way too.