Literatuurlijst Engels, aanvulling 2019-2020
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Betekenis symbolen: het aantal boekjes (1, 2 of 3) duidt op de moeilijkheidsgraad van de boeken.
2017, 298 pages
Yejide and her husband Akin met and fell in love at university. After a few years of marriage, the couple have not yet been able to conceive the child they want so much. Although both of them are opposed to polygamy, Akin feels forced by the absence of a baby to consider another wife. And while Yejide decides to try everything in her power to get pregnant and not to lose her husband, the drastic risks she’s willing to take may prove too high a cost.
This heartbreaking story is Nigerian author Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s debut novel. Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of the 1980s, ‘Stay With Me’ is a story about the desperate measures we sometimes take to save ourselves and our relationships.
2018, 320 pages
Distracted by a fox, two pedestrians collide on Waterloo Bridge. These are the main characters in Forna’s latest novel: Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist specialising in trauma, and Jean, an American wildlife biologist studying the habits of urban foxes.
Attila is in London to deliver a keynote speech and to contact his immigrant niece, who has not called home for a while. Eventually it turns out that Tano, his niece’s young son, is missing. When Attila and Jean meet again by chance, she uses her network of volunteer fox spotters to help with the search. As the quest continues, an unusual friendship between Attila and Jean develops.
This book tells a story of migration, loneliness and connection between people and animals and depicts a wonderful portrait of London and its inhabitants. Forna’s novel is a slow-paced and satisfying novel, full of modern-day issues and observations.
2018, 277 pages
In part one of this debut novel, junior editor Alice has an affair with Ezra Blazer, a famous, much older author. Their romance takes place in New York in the early years of the Iraq War.
Part two abruptly switches setting and moves to the Immigration Office at Heathrow on the last day of 2008. Doctorate student Amar, an Iraqi-American, is detained on his way to see his brother in Kurdistan. He tells about growing up in the US in an immigrant family and wrestles with questions of memory and identity.
The third part of the novel contains the transcript of a short radio interview with Ezra Blazer talking about his musical preferences. Although the three parts seem at first sight to be unconnected, they are tied together in a very subtle way.
‘Asymmetry’ is an ambitious and beautifully written book that can seduce the reader to reflect on themes like race, nationality and power. Highly recommended.
2018, 338 pages
The Mars Room is the strip club where Romy Hall used to work as a lap dancer. She is now in Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California, serving two consecutive life sentences plus six years. Her seven-year-old son Jackson is staying with her mother. The events leading up to her incarceration are described in a series of flashbacks.
Through Romy’s eyes the reader learns about the rules of life inside and gets to know a wide range of characters: Conan, a woman who looks and behaves like a man; Betty LaFrance, who is on death row; Button Sanchez, who gives birth in prison; Doc, a dirty cop, and Gordon Hauser, who is hired to teach the prisoners literature.
The novel gives an interesting insight into the American prison system and although the main character has many shortcomings, the author has succeeded in making her quite appealing nonetheless.
1987, 208 pages
Claudia Hampton, historian and author, lies in a hospital bed, recalling a life full of adventure and relationships, while making a last attempt at writing a world history as seen through her eyes and connected to events that have happened in her life. Focusing especially on the Second World War, when she was stationed in Egypt as a newspaper correspondent, she tells the story of the tragic romance that has influenced her life ever since.
‘Moon Tiger’, a classic haunting story of loss and desire, won the Man Booker Prize in 1987. In 2018, it was decided to mark the prize’s 50th anniversary by awarding the Golden Man Booker Prize. Although ‘The English Patient’ by Michael Ondaatje won this prize, Moon Tiger was chosen by Guardian readers as their all-time favourite winner.
2017, 338 pages
Shaker Heights is a model town with beautiful houses, wide lawns shorn to perfection and inhabited by perfect families. The perfect family featuring the story are the Richardsons, father and mother with successful careers and 4 teenage children getting fantastic grades in High School. Only Izzy, the youngest, is rather out of tune with the rest of the family.
The appearance on this idyllic scene of a shabby looking family means quite a change in the orderly lives of the Richardsons. Mia is an artist/photographer. She has decided it is time for her and her 15-year old daughter Pearl to settle somewhere after their hitherto itinerant lives and hopes to achieve this by renting a cheap “half a house” from Mrs Richardson. Lots of unexpected developments occur. In the end we find the Richardsons on their now not so perfect lawn, watching the fire brigade trying to extinguish the last flames of their burnt down house.
A gripping story about identity, attempts at being a good parent, surrogate motherhood and adoption
2018, 304 pages
In 1945, fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister Rachel are unexpectedly abandoned by their parents, who are moving from London to Singapore for a year. Nathaniel and Rachel are left in the care of two strangers, an enigmatic figure called the Moth, and Pimlico Darter, a former boxer and dog-racing fixer. Shortly after their parents leave, the children find out that their mother has left her trunk of clothes in the basement. So something mysterious must have happened.
The novel, set in post-Second World War London, is Nathaniel’s reconstruction of what happened in the past and also a quest to find his parents. It contains a number of layers, including Nathaniel’s coming of age and the work of the secret services after the end of the war.
Michael Ondaatje is a Canadian writer, well known for his novel ‘The English Patient’. The same subtle, dream-like style of writing is also found in ‘Warlight’. It is great literature and a beautifully written spy thriller.
2018, 416 pages
A historical crime novel set in 19th-century Victorian Edinburgh. The protagonist, Will Raven, is a medical student and an apprentice to the brilliant and renowned gynaecologist Dr Simpson. After several young women are found dead in the Old Town, all having suffered gruesome deaths, Will and Sara, a clever young housemaid he meets in Dr Simpson’s house, try to solve the murders.
The story also focuses on medical history and evolution in this pre-caesarean period, especially the newly discovered science of anaesthetics.
‘The Way of All Flesh’ is an interesting novel of historical fiction and both entertains and informs. The writing is very readable, and you will find yourself being drawn into the story on the first few pages.
2018, 266 pages
This novel follows the lives of Marianne and Connell, who grow up in a small town in Ireland. Marianne lives with her mother and brother in a large mansion, where Connell’s single mother works as a cleaner. Marianne is a social outcast, while Connell is popular at school. They begin a secret relationship that stops during their final year at high school when Connell treats her badly.
A year later, they are both studying at Trinity College in Dublin and now it is the other way around: Marianne feels comfortable at university, and Connell doesn’t seem to fit in. Over the following years, they repeatedly find themselves drawn to each other, on and off.
This is a book about a fragile love affair, written in a witty and warm way. It is one of those rare books you can’t put down because the characters are so endearing.
2007, 161 pages
This novella tells the story of two sisters, Anthea and Imogen, living in Inverness. Anthea dislikes her job at a local PR firm. Imogen (‘Midge’) is pursuing her ambitions at the same firm, which is trying to market bottled water. The story kicks off when a protester, known by the alias ‘Iphis07’, vandalises the firm’s property. Anthea falls in love with the boyish girl Robin (the protester) and has to figure out what she wants from life. Imogen, on the other hand, learns about the dark side of global business. In this way, both sisters have to cope with big changes in their lives.
‘Girl Meets Boy’ is a retelling of Ovid's story of Iphis and Ianthe, which deals with the idea of gender fluidity. Ali Smith manages to weave the ancient myth through with modern Scottish stories and current political issues. Her writing is gentle, poetic and humorous. A very special read!
2018, 304 pages
Horace Hopper has lived and worked on a ranch in Nevada since he was a teenager. His parents don’t care about him. Mr Reese, the ranch owner, wants Horace to take over the ranch as he and his wife are childless and Horace is good with horses and cattle. Although they love Horace as if he were their own child, Horace dreams of a career as a boxer. His ambition is to become world champion to impress his parents. He therefore leaves the Reese family and meets a coach who trains him and organizes boxing matches. But then slowly but surely it becomes clear that Horace’s dream is a delusion.
Mr and Mrs Reese worry about him and try to keep in touch with him. Finally Mr Reese finds him and takes him home. But things are not what they seem. The novel is about the loneliness of Horace and how he comes back to Mr and Mrs Reese.
Willy Vlautin is an American writer, who started out playing the guitar and writing songs and who founded the band Richmond Fontane. He writes beautiful American English prose.
2016, 279 pages
The story begins with the birth of Jane Chisolm in rural Mississippi in 1915. It is immediately clear that she has a rare genital deformity that will have an enormous impact on her entire life as it is doubtful whether she will ever be able to become a proper wife and mother. There is very little love left between her harsh mother, who is still grieving for the death of her favourite son, and her father, who drowns his sorrows in his home-brewed whiskey. Nevertheless, Jane is happy roaming the woods and the fields surrounding their farm. Fortunately she has a true friend and confidante in Dr Thompson who takes a personal and professional interest in her and admires her for the way she handles whatever life throws at her.
What is admirable about ‘Miss Jane’ is that the author, who based his main character on his great aunt, has managed to describe a life full of challenges without becoming overly sentimental.