For someone who has pledged to read a certain number of books already in her possession, I sure spent a lot of time picking out more books at the library this week…
That said, I have made progress on my 15 (or 20 or 10) Books of Summer project as hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books. The idea is to choose X number of books to read between June 3rd and September 3rd and then review those you read. You can find my list here.
Last week I started the project for real by reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. From Goodreads:
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
The first half of the book looks at how they meet and what their lives look like in their country. The second half takes place after they have stepped through the door, what happens as they try and build a new life, the other refugees they meet who have no status in the new countries they inhabit.
I didn’t expect the magical realism part of the novel, which goes to show how much I read about this book ahead of time. Apparently not even the inside cover…Magical realism is rarely my jam but I didn’t mind it in this case. I thought the doors was a clever way to look at immigration and refugees, the reaction of those countries that take in those that flee their homelands and the experiences of those who leave their homes. The story became much more about Saeed and Nadia’s relationship because Hamid has managed to find a way to remove a lot of the process of getting to another country.
And while beautifully written, as a novel Exit West felt like a stretch. Once the aim of leaving their unnamed home has been achieved, the story faltered for me. As a short story I think it could have packed quite the punch but as a “full length” novel (is 231 pages a full length novel?) it seemed to limp through the final third of the book.
But still, I finished it!
Which is more than can be said for my next attempt, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Years ago I read Villa America by Liza Klaussmann which purported to tell the story of Fitzgerald’s friends Sara and Gerald who Tender is the Night is based on. It made me more curious to read this novel and I thought that this project would give me the impetus to finally do that.
However, 73 pages is as far as I made it. In all that time I had no idea what was even happening. I couldn’t keep the characters straight, my mind kept wandering off and I had to keep reminding myself that the story takes place in 1920, not 1934 when it was published.
Like I said, I went to the library this week so there are other books that have been tempting me and I couldn’t see the point in slogging through another book by a Dead White Guy.
But at least Tender is the Night has migrated out of my TBR cabinet.
Are you doing this challenge this summer? How are you doing so far?