We Found a Hat – Jon Klassen

Two turtles come across a large white hat in the desert and in turn try it on. Agreeing that one hat is not enough for two of them, they decide to leave it behind and watch the sunset together.

Drawing on the shifting eyes, deadpan expressions and minimalist style of the earlier books in the ‘hat trilogy’ this three-part tale is the most stirring of all. Highlighting Klassen’s notable and charmingly wicked humour, in a deceptively simple story, We Found a Hat evokes sympathy, hilarity and questions of friendship. It is sure to please both children and adults.

We-Found-a-Hat-by-Jon-Klassen-Book-Review.jpg

 

 

Advertisements

High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

After breaking up with Laura, Rob’s most recent ex, he asks himself the big questions about love and life. He also makes top-five lists about them, from his most memorable split-ups to Dustin Hoffman films and records made by blind musicians. Now, he is free to spend his time reorganising his record collection, arguing with Dick and Barry at the shop and daydreaming about recording artistes who look like Susan Dey. Soon, he reaches his own conclusions about love and marriage and it becomes clear where he’s been going wrong.

High Fidelity is upbeat and observant, it is an account of male self-pity and forgiveness from an instantly recognisable character. It is a charming story about people, full of reflections and brilliant glimpses into the male psyche.

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

It is 1686 and Amsterdam is a prosperous and flourishing port. For eighteen-year-old Petronella Oortman, the city and her new Herengracht house are important pieces of the new life she will have as wife of Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant. Far from the secluded country life of her childhood, the city of narrow houses and elaborate canals is Nella’s new home.

Though her married life does not start off well. She is welcomed only by Marin, Johannes’ ascetic frosty sister, who runs the Brandt household, with the help of their fiesty maid Cornelia and former slave Otto, whose skin was the darkest Nella had ever seen. Nella’s only company in the house is Peebo, her pet parakeet. Whilst the elusive Johannes is absent, she struggles to understand the husband she barely knows.

As Johannes avoids her, life progressively gets stranger, starting with an indulgent wedding gift – a scaled down replica of their own home. The eerie miniature uncovers secrets, puzzles and betrayals, it is the premise for a compelling and climactic story of relationships, fixation and retribution.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

Mariam was just fifteen when she was ousted from all that she knew. Her new life in Kabul with her husband Rasheed was a long way from the kolba and her memories of Nana and Mullah Faizullah. Though, it is this city that she shares with young Laila. Both victims in their own right and born a generation apart, Mariam and Laila are connected by the onslaught of war, loss and chance. The two are valued only for reproduction – in their home as well as in society. Finding solace only in their sisterly connection, the two women form an extraordinary bond that shields them from their victimisation.

Propelled by the tale of two women and two cities. It is a story that does not evade the unbearable realities of war and the complexities of Afghan society. From the Soviet occupation to the unravelling inner conflicts of the Mujahideen and the rise of the Taliban, this energetic narrative depicts Afghanistan’s political history through the gripping domestic worlds of Mariam and Laila. For its unlikely friendship, compelling test of time and unwavering love, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a masterful story.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne

Nine-year-old Bruno returns home one day to find his belongings being packed up, by one of his family servants. Bruno questions his mother, who reveals that the family will be moving from Berlin, as his father has received a promotion. Leaving his three best friends for life, grandparents and five-storey home behind, Bruno’s family move to their new house in Out-with.

When exploring his new forbidding house Bruno spots a tall fence, out of his bedroom window, with barbed wire wrapped around the top, running much further than he could see. As an inquisitive explorer, Bruno is eager to find out more about what is on the other side. Intrigued by the peculiar people behind the fence, who all wear the same striped pyjamas.

His father, a strict military commandant, dismisses Bruno’s questions about the fence and asserts that the fence is Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions, even though he spends a great deal of time with the other soldiers (who are often inside the house) on the other side of the fence. In particular, Bruno has a rooted dislike for one menacing soldier, who names Bruno ‘little man’, and is especially unkind to Pavel, the family’s cook. Much to Bruno’s puzzlement, the soldiers surround his father laughing at his jokes and hanging on to every word he says.

The novel is centred around Bruno’s innocence and naivety. It is only when Bruno comes across Shmuel, The Dot That Became a Speck That Became a Blob That Became a Figure That Became a Boy, sitting cross-legged on the other side of the fence in his striped pyjamas, that he could ultimately spend his afternoons discussing what life was like on the adjoining side of the fence.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas offers a distinctive perspective on Nazi Germany. The horrors of the holocaust are misinterpreted and conveyed through the voice of a sheltered child, who is unwittingly subsumed at the heart of the Nazis’ ultimate solution. It is a short and extraordinary story that brings history to light.

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is absurdly offbeat and unpredictable – in a good way. Between laughs, I spent my time reading the nimble plot of this novel filled with curiosity, attempting to second guess the author. What’s more this book is a bucket list in motion.

‘Well, now you can see how sensible it is not to start your day by guessing what might happen,’ said Allan. ‘After all, how long would I have had to go on guessing before I guessed this?’

Centred on the escapades of the centenarian and nursing home escapee Allan Karlsson, the interspersed chapters of this tale weave between his earlier adventures and current goings-on.  Allan is very much a glass-half-full (of vodka) character, his laissez-faire attitude shapes the nature of the story and it’s light hearted and ironic tone. The free-wheeling narrative illustrates the crossed paths of Allan and many influential historical figures of the 20th century, including: American presidents, Russian tyrants and Chinese leaders. Blissfully blind to all things politics related, Allan haphazardly (and inadvertently) builds and obliterates international relations.

Dotted throughout the narrative are the endearing and quirky individuals that Allan encounters along his way. Notably, the clueless Herbert Einstein and his empty suicidal tendencies characterise the black humour of the novel. Not forgetting the growing group of friends (and an elephant) that Allan amasses by the end of his journey, which by definition is unconventional. This book is a nutty and interesting read. With the concept of ageing at its core, the novel defies social boundaries of age in its topsy-turvy world.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

The Help is an illustrative tale of the racial tensions in Jackson 1962, it illuminates segregation, prejudice and the hurtful truths of the past. Set around the time of the Civil Rights Movement this story ties together historical fact and fiction.

Kathryn Stockett, a white author, bravely took the challenging task of writing and presuming what life would be like as ‘The Help’, raising young white children who would inevitably grow up to discriminate and affiliate with the blinkered opinions of their society. The author draws upon her experiences of growing up in Mississippi to create a revelatory story of injustice, discrimination and relationships.

Each chapter of the story is written from the perspective and narrated in the voice of one of the three main characters. It follows the intertwined lives of these women, two of whom are black maids (Aibileen and Minny), and one a young white lady (Skeeter) who recognises the unjust nature of her society. The main hook in this story highlights the choking fear and tradition that trapped many women in their role as the help.

Though it is important to note that this story not only evokes sympathy but is also riotously funny with doses and doses of humour. Notably, rebel Minny’s ‘terrible awful’ insurance pie. This book is simply a warm and beautiful read. It is a truly vivid account of historical-fiction.