Detours and Diversions Part 1

Well the year’s end is looming and I’m a little less progressed in this project than anticipated.

Less progressed?! Who am I kidding? I didn’t really start, did I?

Well not on that list, no. I think I read 18 pages of book number 100. There’s no pile of books in the corner, smugly stacked as a shrine to my accomplishment. There are no insightful blog posts mapping the journey from 100 to 1.

But I did read. I am reading.

Right now it is The Emperor’s Children by the American author Claire Messud. It was written in 2006 and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Before heading to NY last month I put the call out for recommendations for holiday reading. I have some specific criteria around holiday books. I don’t want to think too much – I need to be able to read it for hours on end (hello flight from Sydney to NY) without my brain hurting from trying to keep up. But it does need to have some level of complexity and a well crafted engaging story. And quality characters – preferably with at least one I really like. It must  be well written – no clumsy turns of phrase or mixed metaphors please. All this can be a big call.

My sister-in-law came to the party and pulled The Emperor’s Children off her shelf. She gets bonus points here as I do love to read a book set in the place I’m going (or just been). I started the book on a train to Boston, and was passing through Stockbridge just as one of the key characters hid away in that very town. Spooky.

I’m a little over half way through the book (hey NY doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading!) and it really does tick all my boxes for holiday book picks. It’s set in Manhattan in the late 90s / early noughties and up past September 11. (I’m still pre-9/11). There are lots of reasons I like it. It’s beautifully written. Its satire and social commentary are well crafted and on the money. There are aspects (some not so flattering) of the characters I see in myself and in others around me. The social commentary is transferable enough to be meaningful (And amusing. And uncomfortable) to me, who grew up on the other side of the world, but perhaps in circumstances not miles away from some of the characters.

So where I’m up to, the landscape is shifting. We’re hurtling towards 9/11. And I’m keen to see how this plays out in the characters’ worlds.

So I did do more than twiddle my thumbs and set unattainable goals this year, and maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about my other reading detour and where it took me.


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