Welcome back to the Monthly Reviews series, where I chronologically list last months reads, along with a short reflexion and opinion regarding each book.
Here’s what I read in August:
Mario Vargas Llosa: Death in the Andes (1993)
Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa has written many a brilliant novel, and I am particularly fond of The Green House and Bad Girl.
Death in the Andes is on another level in regards to raw and brutal writing.
The story is mainly about two policemen, Tomás and Lituma, reseraching crimes taking place in the village of Naccos, the rebels and the violent crimes that take place in the Andes, and the brutal ideology both political sides follow. Parallel to the crimes and murders, Tomás is telling Lituma the story of the woman he loves deeply, and how he got to know and obsess over her. Lastly, the mysterious wanderings of the Universe tie the whole story together.
It’s an ambivalent sort of novel, because there is one happy ending, although many characters are introduced and made to seem interesting and sympathetic, just to brutally kill them. A magical realism novel would usually send along some mystical element to get them through the sticky situation they’ve gotten themselves into. But Death in the Andes is more than a representative of magical realism: It shows the ruthless life in rural Peru. Every hue of red is saturated: the brave heart of the young lover, as well as the hot blood of the murdered innocent. That is the style of Llosa, and he executes it well.
This novel is not for the faint-hearted, but I would highly recommend reading Llosa. If you prefer something softer, start with The Bad Girl, but do note that Llosa’s writing always has a raw and violent element to it. In my opinion, this kind of intensity only adds value to the novels.
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich: The Fact of a Body (2017)
The debut novel of Harvard laywer turned writer Lesnevich delves deep into her professional and personal life.
Two narratives intertwine: The main story of a child molester and murderer is one she has encountered on her professional path, since her career is tied to the death sentence.
However, the fact that Lesnevich starts to research child molester Ricky Langley’s sinister and violent past, brings her closer to her own childhood memories, since Lesnevich herself was molested for years.
Both stories are put together somewhat like a typical crime story, but the struggle between a reporting style and a very emotional memoir does not escape from the pages. Some of the time Lesnevich can be pictured standing in a courtroom, presenting all the facts of the matter, and on other pages it’s more like a good friend has finally found the courage to open up about her past trauma.
It’s a highly important topic and a very painful, current subjects and truths to touch upon, all the more is she to be commended on her bravery in sharing such a personal story. But in my opinion, this does not read like a completed novel and would have benefitted from some some further editing in terms of style and composition.
Celeste Ng: Everything I Never Told You (2014)
Another debut novel, Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is literally about the irreversible damage done by creating silence between two close individuals.
Husbands and wives might have a close bond and parents might love their children, but individual and personal emptiness, longing, not indulging in one’s dreams and seeking happiness in altruism towards fulfilling others‘ lives leads to depression, regret and unhappy thoughts.
The story is also about the East and the West coming together, Chinese-American and American students falling in love and overcoming their parents‘ bias towards the race of their chosen person, seemingly filling the self-inflicted rootlessness with one another, but then discovering the large void that still remains.
The lack of communication on a deeper level is what then destroys not themselves, but their own children, who are suffering from a deep depression. Ng shows how parents can ruin their childrens‘ lives in very different ways, by doing alarmingly little on the outside.
Ng’s debut is extremely witty and intensely emotional at the same time. I feel like any reader could enjoy this type of story, since it is not only the anatomy of a multicultural family, but speaks on many current issues like mental health and the new generations necessity still to overcome their parents‘ burdens.
I would highly recommend this one and am looking forward to reading Ng’s second novel.
(Photos from here, here and here)