First of all, let's talk about the library. This will be a short but heartfelt ode.
The library is my very favourite public institution. Probably hospitals and schools are more necessary, but the library makes me happiest. Without the library I would be quite poor and my house would have books falling out of the windows and spilling out of the doors. The library gives me free words. I am in love with the library.
This week the library gave me two wonderful books. I think they are wonderful. Books that really take my fancy are often unappreciated by other people. But there are authors out there who are clearly fellow citizens of my secret world. Here are two of them.
A tiny isolated Jewish village in Rumania discovers the terrible truth of Hitler's Jewish purges when a stranger washes up on their riverbank. The villagers take an extraordinary action on hearing this news. They decide to remake the world, their little world, and start again from Day One of Creation.
To me this seems like such an eminently sensible course of action. I frequently want to start the world all over again. So this becomes the story of Creation, a world within the world. It is a novel about the power of story, it is a magical dreamscape of purpose and the possibility of intent.
Inevitably, worlds collide. But story, as the way we make and remake our world, is what gives meaning to the lives of the villagers and gives them strength to carry on.
I was up until midnight finishing this novel. It is often dark and disturbing, but filled with love and light as well. Lyrical, magical, a fable turned into a novel.
I chose it for its irresistible title and the captivating cover. I love the way the words try to hide among the birch trunks..
It is 1799 when Jacob de Zoet arrives in the Japanese port trading city of Dejima. This is a walled city, the only part of Japan open to foreigners, and leased by the Dutch East India Company. Jacob will work here as a clerk and try to make his fortune so that he can go home to Holland and marry his sweetheart. But Fate has other plans for him. He falls in love with a midwife, the only woman in Japan permitted to study with the Dutch doctor in Dejima. Through his encounters with the midwife and his interpreter de Zoet becomes an instrument in an intricate and dark game of Dutch and Japanese politics and religion.
The two things that drew me to this novel was the wonderful, visceral language - it is easy to live in the world of this novel, which is so extraordinarily detailed in its research - and its characters which are very human. I live in a world full of flawed characters, and I want to meet them in novels too, want to see how they tick, what makes them do what they do. People watching is endlessly captivating. Moral ambiguity? It is what we are faced with every day. I want to know how other people meet it and weave their failings into their lives, as well as their successes.
As a bonus, the text is woven through with sentences and images that read like haiku. Love a bit of lyrical in my bed time reading...
What treasures have you found at the library recently?
Tired, but determinedly cheerful mother of four. One grown up son (The Boy), one grown up daughter (The Girl), two girls at home, Rosy (17) and Posy (13). Trying to buy a little less, make a little more, live a little lighter, not mess up the children too much.. and now extra frugal adventures with Partner Paul..