I fell in love with Anne Tyler many years back, when I bought a Romanian translation of Breathing Lessons from a newspaper stand in my home town, for the equivalent of less than one pound. I read it in one sitting one hot, hot afternoon, and liked it so much that I immediately recommended it to my mother, who seldom trusts my reading tastes but will never dare discriminate against a Pulitzer winning novel based on the fact that I happen to like it. So she read it, loved it, passed it on to my sister, and thus it’s become one of the few books all three women in my family happened to enjoy (Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go also comes to mind).
So anyway, having so many fond memories of Anne Tyler’s work, when I came across her name on Guardian’s Top 10 Overlooked Novels list, I couldn’t refrain myself from ordering a used copy of her Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant from Amazon. It turned out to be a used high school library book, but one in very good shape, protected by a transparent plastic cover and which hadn’t been checked out since 2003. I’ve never seen a library book in this country, me being such a big book spender and all, so it’s now the quirkiest, most treasured volume in my collection, and I’ll probably get people to wash their hands six times over before they’re allowed to touch it.
I started reading it yesterday morning, while waiting for half an hour for a delayed train, and discovered a very different style from what I’ve been reading lately, a true story teller’s style in lack of a better description, which I’m finding quite comforting. We’ve got a long bank holiday weekend ahead, and if the weather’s still on the summerish side I don’t think I’ll be doing much reading. But I am planning to finish it before the end of next week, when I’ll have more juicy details about the story, and if all goes well, a new Anne Tyler themed Amazon Wishlist.
Taichi Yamada’s Strangers is definitely among my quickest reads of all times, having taken me less than a two hours in total. I’d chosen the book based on a colleague’s recommendation, and had no idea what it would be about except from it being set in Japan. It being a ghost story certainly came as a surprise, especially since I hardly remember reading any ghost stories ever (there were ghosts in Harry Potter, but come on, no one really paid much attention to them).
So anyway, Strangers tells the story of a recently divorced screenwriter who comes across a young couple resembling his long lost parents. It’s written in a style that leaves a lot to the reader (Yamada was a screenwriter himself before turning to novels), which at times reminded me of Haruki Murakami and Akira Yoshimura (in particular, La Jeune Fille Suppliciée Sur Une Étagère, which apparently wasn’t ever translated into English, or perhaps I’m just a really lousy googler).
I didn’t think the story was too scary (I expect truly terrifying ghost stories would make me wake up screaming for months on end) and halfway through the book I think I pretty much could tell what was coming, but I very much enjoyed the atmosphere, and I guess it was about time I tried some some new Japanese reading, after an endless, somewhat traumatizing 1Q84 experience throughout December of last year.
The colleague who recommended Strangers to me, an all-things-Japan enthusiast by the way, has already prepared me a list of other Japanese novels, so I guess you’ll be seeing a lot more of that around here in the future. Until then though, there’s Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov (also from Guardian’s list of overlooked novels), and I most definitely need to catch up on all the books you lovely people have recommended me, shame on me for being so
In other reading related news, Goodreads says I’m six (!!!) books behind my schedule of 75 books to read this year, which has never, ever happened before, and I’m sure it will end up giving me night terrors before long.
To end on a happy-happy-joy-joy note though, I’m wishing you all a lovely sunny weekend ahead, and I hope you’re reading some truly amazing books these days as well, maybe on a nice beach somewhere!