These past two months or so (rainy season in Ethiopia), I’ve immersed myself in reading creative nonfiction and a few great novels. Here are a few I recommend:
The Bees by Laline Paull. What a beautiful gift to be able to transform real-life events into an adventurous book filled with carefully chosen and elegant words. Even if you are not interested in bees, those humble, hard-working creatures so crucial for our food production, you will be after this book. The protagonist in Paul’s book is Flora, a bee born into a low kin, her main responsibilities including sanitation work. As the hive is very hierarchical, no bee is allowed to deviate from their tasks. Their one and only purpose is to serve the hive and more importantly the Queen Bee. However, Flora turns out to be quite the wild bee, heading out for foraging trips, running into vicious wasps and spiders and tackling with a poison from the agricultural fields that is killing her sisters. You’ll never look at a beehive the same way again.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. A family was brutally – and apparently with no reason – killed in a small town in Kansas in November 1959. In this book, Truman Capote finds out why. This is the best detective book I’ve ever read and the fact that it is based on a true story makes it even more chilling. Capote is a master in painting profiles and in describing characters. In particular when he starts to unravel the murders by letting the reader know the murderers, the book gets under your skin.I had some nightmares after reading this masterly piece, so powerful is Capote’s storytelling.
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. The book tells a charming story of two brothers who were determined to invent the world’s first flying apparatus, and succeeded in doing so. This book is captivating not so much (at least for me) because of its engineering information, but as a general description of a certain era in the United States and in parts of the world. What was life like without airplanes? What did the Wright brothers experience in early 20th century Paris? First and foremost, however, this is a story about three siblings: not just Orville and Wilbur Wright but also their sister Catherine.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Probably my favourite fiction book of 2015 so far, this one is set in the years leading to the Second World War in Europe. I have to admit that my first thought about this book was: Can anything new be said about this topic anymore? It turns out that indeed a lot can be said, and this book stands out. The story runs between two characters, Marie-Laure with her father in France and Werner, an orphan in a German mining town. I love how Doerr built this book. The chapters are not long, and this has been a wise decision from the author. The tension in the book doesn’t disappear although we all know where the big events are headed. We are, however, curious to learn how Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s fates are intertwined. All the Light We Cannot See is a heartbreaking (quite Hollywoodishly sentimental, though, but I didn’t consider that a bad thing) story about a dark period, and on the other hand a strong statement for peoples’ resistance in almost impossibly evil situations. There is always hope, it is just sometimes by a thick cover of darkness.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan. Fiona Maye is a high court judge specialized in cases in the family division: divorces (usually very ugly ones) and custody wars. She is respected and well-known but her marriage is in a crisis. Amidst her personal struggles comes a tough court case dealing with a young boy suffering from severe leukemia. This boy, Adam, comes from a family of Jehova’s Witnesses and due to religious reasons, blood transfers are not allowed. It is up to Fiona to decide what is the right thing to do. I was positively surprised by this book. It didn’t waste time on useless words or chapters, it was to the point and on a very specific topic. I was fascinated to learn about family law, especially Fiona’s intelligence and her aim to always put the child first in whatever she decided. Moreover, it was refreshing to read about the thoughts of an older woman, a character I haven’t run into in books that often.
Do you have any recommendations that you’d like to share with me? I promise, I write down all of them 🙂