(1) Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
Historial Fiction / Literature: "Shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2009, this title presents an epic crossing generations, cultures and continents."
One of my best friends' read this on her recent gap year and had almost as much to say about this book as she did about her travels! Burnt Shadows is an intricately woven novel that spans countries and decades, taking in some key world disasters along the way and weaving this with the characters and their personal journeys through great loss and love.
The story meanders through Japan circa the Nagasaki bomb, to India and Pakistan following the war and the British departure, and comes almost full circle to near modernday in New York after 9/11. This obvious political commentary kept me hooked throughout, but the prose was beautifully descriptive and you could feel the heat of India simmering from the pages in certain chapters. This is one of those books that I wished I'd read under a palm tree somewhere sunny - a perfect holiday read. [4/5]
(2) Negotiating With The Dead by Margaret Atwood
Non-Fiction / Essays / Lectures: "What is the role of the writer? Looking back on her own childhood and writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors which writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain or excuse, their activities, looking at what costumes they have assumed, what roles they have chosen to play."
Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors and I've always admired her intellectual ability to openly and honestly speak her mind on a range of subjects. Negotiating with the Dead is Atwood essentially writing about the skill, pleasure and importance of writing, but it's more of an exploration of other writers and a look into why writers write, rather than a critique of her own work.
Through a series of lectures that have been reconstructed into chapters, Atwood asks many questions such as; What makes someone a writer?, What is the role of the writer?, Should a writer write about current affairs? Do they have a social responsibility to write about what's happening in the world, or just write for the sake of writing and the art of it or should they attempt both? etc, and offers to provide an insight into the possible answers. An intriguing book for anyone interested in the craft and for readers who like to look into things a little further. [4/5]
(3) Shiny Scissors by Lawrence Bell*
Non-Fiction / Memoirs: "Hairdressers are people who know something about everybody...and everything about somebody. Being able to tell a good tale has always been part of a hairdresser’s repertoire, as well as listening to the customers’ stories."
I needed something easy going to read in between some tough and painfully dry academic books this month, and Shiny Scissors filled that criteria in more ways than one. This is Lawrence Bell's memoir of being a hairdresser and a barber, told through some hilarious and interesting stories as he listens to the clients in his chair. Some of the tales are better than others so it's a little hit and miss along the way, but I generally enjoyed his friendly, chatty manner. A light and easy book to read through and one that might make you appreciate your own hairdresser even more. [3/5]