I have had a slow start this year when it comes to reading. Then again this only applies to books. Since January I have subscribed to the New York Times and the Time Magazine, and reading those takes up quite a bit of my time. This morning for instance I took the Saturday issue of the New York Times, bought a coffee at Starbucks, and sat in the sun at Harvard Square (only wearing a T-shirt!) while reading the whole newspaper. Even if I only scan some articles and usually omit the sports section, I spend several hours a week reading the Times. In the meantime I still managed to read at least six other books during these last two months:
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Paulo Coelho: “The Spy” – This novel is about famous spy Mata Hari. It consists of letters she wrote to her lawyer while being in prison. She tells of her unhappy marriage and her flight to Paris where she becomes a famous dancer. She has several rich and important lovers, but becomes entangled in their politics. While I find the person Mata Hari fascinating and I like the idea of fictionalizing biographies, I think that the novel itself is too shallow. It sticks too much to known facts than to develop a round character.
Therese Bohman: “The Other Woman” – The first-person narrator without a name is a student in the Swedish town of Norrköping. While she has many dreams of writing books and moving away, she mostly spends her time working in the hospital’s cafeteria. There she meets Carl Malmberg, an older doctor and the only man she finds intriguing. They start having an affair, but she struggles between loving him and finding his requests strange. At the same time she meets a fascinating girl, Alex. This novel is a psychological drama with several unexpected twists. I found it enthralling till the end.
Carol Snow: “Been there, done that” – This is a great chicklit novel. Journalist Kathy struggles with her boring job, her ex-boyfriend, and also with the fact that she looks way younger than she is. Suddenly said ex turns up and proposes a common journalistic project: Kathy moves into the dorm of a college nearby where students are said to be involved in a secret prostitution ring. She pretends to be a freshman and has to deal with insecure 18-year-olds, parties, alcohol, and of course with her own insecurities and her actual job. I liked the novel because Kathy is a sympathetic protagonist and the plot was not predictable.
Ece Temelkuran: “Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy” – Temelkuran is another Turkish journalist who lost her job thanks to the present AKP government (like Dündar). In her book she explains all the contrasts and contradictions today’s Turkey is made off. History-wise she goes back to the founding of the republic, mentioning even the Armenian genocide which Turks are usually mute about. She gives much information and explains the links between e.g. the military coup in the 1980s and today’s power of the AKP. Also she talks about the Gezi Park Protests in 2013 [which I participated in, here] and what effect they had on society. I got to know much I hadn’t heard of before. The only thing I found difficult while reading is that Temelkuran tends to slip into a fictional style of writing from time to time, although she sticks only to facts. I had therefore wished for an absolutely factual style, but that is my personal preference.
Elif Shafak: “The Bastard of Istanbul” – The novel starts with a wonderful description of Istanbul on a rainy day in the 1980s when Zehila is on the way to an abortion clinic. Only that she eventually has her child. Almost twenty years later her daughter Asya lives together with her mother, three aunts, her grandmother and greatgrandmother, when a girl from America wants to visit them. Armanoush has an Armenian father, an American mother, and her stepdad is Zeliha’s brother. While Armanoush’s Armenian family only rails against Turkey, she wants to explore Istanbul and her own identity. Because of her visit, secrets become uncovered, like how the two families are connected – going back to the 1915 Armenian genocide. I loved how Shafak describes Istanbul and its mix of different cultures, religions, believes. Here women are in the foreground, and they all have another story to tell. The book is multilayered and the biggest secret is only revealed at the very end.