This week I was lucky enough to attend readings by the authors of the Orange Prize for Fiction, 2011. A full house (though the male gender was rather unrepresented! I suspect this was largely due to the statistical occurrence that women read more fiction than men, rather than what I hope isn't the case: that fiction written by women has less of an appeal across the genders). All six authors tackled some pretty harrowing subjects in their novels; Emma Donoghue's The Room was undoubtedly inspired by the disturbing Fritzl case, & Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love weaves between love & war, underpinned surely by the shocking happenstance of her father's death through political & then literal execution.
I was most excited to see & hear Nicole Krauss, her reputation preceding her as a great storyteller & a master crafter of words. I rather humbly confess to having never read one of her novels - yet. Reading about her before attending the evening, I was interested to learn of her academic background, & particularly in Great House, an interest in material cultures & the tales they inspire. (Postgrad studies in social anthropology, my own education continues to influence an occasional indulgent dip into works of this nature.) Great House is pencilled in: reading wish list, position: number one. (Also noted: Krauss looked very cool, all skinny black jeans & aquamarine heels..)
Winner of the night however, was Tea Obrecht, for her first novel The Tiger's Wife. Only 25, Tea began her formative years in Belgrade, Cyprus, & Egypt, migrating to the US when she reached 12. Her somewhat nomadic experience expresses itself through the myth, magic & alternately horror amid war, themes that her novel gravitates toward. I look forward to reading it.
I was born into a family of voracious readers, (my mum is a librarian) & my not-too-small bedroom is pleasingly crowded with both books & clothes (2 bookshelves, 3 wardrobe rails to date). This coming July I have an exam final to sit, & then I look forward to properly appreciating summer.. friends weddings, a long weekend in Berlin, tickets to see Jude Law at The Donmar.. & of course, the simple freedom of reclining in the grass & the sunshine, with a pile of books...
Here are my top 3 reads of recent years:
~ The Tin Drum, by Gunther Grass (You'll read this & realise that it couldn't not have been awarded a Nobel Prize for literature)
~ Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (Epic, sweeping, touching, original, nostalgic, magical)
~ Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes (an imagining of Arthur Conan Doyle's friendship with George, a man of traditionally lower means but as much class as the best of them)