This One Sky Day

I am not sure how to describe This One Sky Day by Leone Ross except to say that it is magical in every sense.

Set on an island (possibly in the Caribbean) populated with characters that each have a magical characteristic or ability, This One Sky Day is based on the events of a single day with the hero preparing a wedding feast for the president’s daughter while trying to find the spirit of his dead wife and connect with his one true love, meanwhile strange things happen to the women of the island and revolution is brewing.

Confused? Well don’t be, just sit back and marvel at the story telling, the magic, the beautiful characters and wonder how it will turn out. If you crossed the magical realism of Marquez or Allende with a touch of Shakespeare you might get to This One Sky Day.

Brilliant! 5/5

A Burning

A Burning by Megha Majumdar is a powerful novel set in Calcutta tracking the interweaved stories of 3 characters – Jivan, Lovely and PT Sir

Jivan is a young muslim woman who is wrongly accused of aiding terrorists in firebombing a train when she was only carrying a parcel of old school books for Lovely. Lovely is a Hijra who is set on pursuing her career as an actress who is being taught English by Jivan. PT Sir is a PT teacher who used to teach Jivan and is now intent soon becoming politician in the opposition party.

Some ill advised social media activity puts Jivan in the frame for the firebombing when the police cannot trace the perpetrators. Someone has to be responsible and it looks as if it will be Jivan, both Lovely and PT Sir are witnesses for the defence. As the narrative evolves you wonder whether either will stand up for Jivan, leading to a good twist at the end.

Burning is a compelling read which brings an insight into the under class in Calcutta and the corruption of local politics. Read it!

4/5

Fragile Monsters

Fragile Monsters by Catherine Menon is an impressive debut. This multi-generational family drama is set in Malaysia between WW2 and the present day.

Durga returns to Malaysia from Canada to restart her life as an academic. While visiting her grouchy grandmother a series of events trigger the unwinding of the mystery surrounding Durga’s mother, the war years and family secrets. The plot switches between pre-war Malaya under British rule and the war years, the post-war reconstruction and modern day denial.

I enjoyed Fragile Monsters, I knew nothing about the process of Malaya becoming Malaysia so I can’t vouch for it’s historical accuracy. The intergenerational interplay between Durga and her grandmother is handled very well and there s a compelling pace to the novel that builds to an effective ending.

Well worth a read

4/5

Red Pill

Choosing Red Pill by Hari Kunzru was a big mistake on part. The reviews for his previous novel were outstanding, how could I not like it?

‘Exquisitely attuned’ 
‘Electrifying, subversive and wildly original’ 
‘A book that everyone should be reading right now’ 
 ‘Haunting, doom-drenched, genuinely and viscerally disturbing…’ 

The only one of those quotes that applies to Red Pill is “doom-drenched”

Red Pill is about an academic writer who has lost his motivation to write while experiencing an existential crisis. He is awarded a grant to spend 3 months residency at a cultural foundation in Wannsee near Berlin where things go from bad to worse. I don’t know where the story might have gone as I gave up after dragging myself through about a quarter of the book.

Maybe I missed out, but I found Red Pill to be a slow paced, overly wordy, self indulgent dirge. This is literary fiction at its absolute worst.

1/5

The Liar’s Dictionary

The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams is very very wordy. If you love words you may well love this novel about the creation of a dictionary, I didn’t, I gave up before the 3rd chapter.

For me, this was too wordy, too self indulgent and trying too hard to be clever. That said lot’s of critics have been very impressed and it will probably turn out to be a cult novel which will mean that I have to pick it up and give it a second try!

Girl Woman Other

Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo was the joint winner of the Booker prize in 2019. I thought I ought to read it even though it didn’t appear to be my kind of book.

Half way through the first chapter I knew I’d made a mistake. The first character introduced is a black lesbian feminist theatre director (reorder those however you wish), I didn’t think I was going to get to the end of this novel, Booker or not. But I did and I’m glad that I did.

Girl Woman Other is a series of sketches of women who are all interconnected. It gradually unfolds in a narrative which comes full circle at the end. It’s elegant and held my interest but overall it’s not very rewarding and I can’t see why it won the Booker.

3.5/5