Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Crazy Rich Asians, And Other Holiday Reads

Don't you love the Hermes-esque design of the hardback?

One of the things I love most about my Kindle is that one can pre-order books.  I can not tell you how excited I was when I woke up yesterday morning and remembered that it was the UK release date for Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, of which an excerpt was published in Vogue US, and on which I am so hooked that the newly arrived box set of Wallander is still languishing unopened next to the DVD player (and there is no genre I am more addicted to than Scandinavian crime.)

The other great thing is that one can get books that haven't yet been released - at least in book format - in the UK.  I read Kirstie Clements' memoirs of her time at Vogue Australia months ago, and gripping they were too - and not just because of the stories of models on drips, but because they're an absolutely riveting account of working within the fashion industry in Australia.

Incidentally, Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger's follow-up to the obvious, was disappointing. So disappointing, I'm not going to bother including an image. The characters are barely even two-dimensional, and I wasn't sufficiently enamoured of any of them to want to keep reading.   But, if you're super bored on a lengthy plane journey, it is more entertaining than staring at the seat in front of you.  Just.

However if you are looking for more ideas for holiday reading, the following newish releases (in no particular order) are, in my opinion, totally worth buying:

Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver - the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin broaches another contentious subject, this time compulsive eating.  But this is not just a novel about obesity and dieting; it is about family, love and forgiveness - drawing heavily on Shriver's relationship with her own brother - and as ever, brilliantly written.  The Observer described Shriver's style perfectly when the reviewer referred to her 'peculiarly uncompromising brand of emotional noir.'

Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld - I think I'd read anything that Sittenfeld has written, having first discovered her via Prep, which was set in an exclusive Massachussets boarding school. Reading it, I almost felt myself returning to being an awkward and unsure teenager  (I am occasionally so relieved that I will never be that young again.)  Then Man of My Dreams, and finally American Wife, a fictionalised account of the life of the former First Lady Laura Bush, which, while full of the seemingly trite minutae of daily existence, I found literally un-put-downable.  Sisterland, while on the surface a novel about the possibilities of psychic power, is far more about the relationship between twin sisters.

The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud - I'm just going to give you the quote from the book which explains the title - seriously, I don't need to do more.  You'll totally know, just from reading this, if the book is for you, or not:  "We're not the madwomen in the attic - they get lots of play, one way or another.  We're the quiet woman at the end of the third-floor hallway, whose trash is always tidy, who smiles brightly in the stairwell with a cheerful greeting, and who, from behind closed doors, never makes a sound.  In our lives of quiet desperation . . . not a soul registers that we are furious."

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn - which I only include in case you've been trapped in a cupboard for the past six months without access to newspapers or magazines and haven't seen any of the many, many reviews.  Fascinating, gripping - the perfect beach read.

I've just realised that everything I've suggested - with the exception of Crazy Rich Asians - is by a female writer.  This is purely coincidence.  I do read male writers too, and just to prove it, I'll be packing Salman Rushdie's Joseph Conrad, which has been sitting next to my bed - in book format - since it came out, along with Jeffrey Eugenides' 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex (The Marriage Plot was my favourite holiday read of last year).  I have to do this, of course, because I've already accidentally read all the books above which I initially earmarked as holiday reads.

(Well, I haven't quite finished Crazy Rich Asians just yet, but I'm returning to it right right now . . . )