Best Summer Reads 2008

Members of the Summer Reading Group really enjoyed the selection of books this year, pointing out the exceptional quality of the writing styles and also noting the common themes of war/dictatorship and the immigrants’ life in each one.

When time came to voting for the Best Summer Read 2008, an unusual event occurred: 3 of the books tied for first place, confirming the overall high quality of this year’s selection!

Readers found the slow, enchanting pace of “Mister Pip” by Lloyd Jones (New Zealand) to be very effective in its portrayal of a small island village coping with the effects of war on its daily existence. The sudden violence that ensues is even more shocking as it is described in the same low-key way. They liked the main protagonists, Matilda and Mr Watts, and enjoyed the parallel story of Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’. They strongly felt the power a book can have on people.

Everybody enjoyed “Children of the Revolution” by Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia). They found the book beautifully written allowing the reader to get into the mind of the main protagonist. The descriptions of the setting gave the book a real sense of place. The relationships between the different characters were both touching and complex. They felt that it was a story about belonging (to a community, to a country) and how people try to fit in.

Readers thought that “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz (Dominican Republic) was a wonderful and highly original book. They described it as being colourful, vibrant and picaresque. They liked the historical footnotes and the character descriptions. The numerous references to comics and other books (eg. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’) caused them some difficulty, as did the extensive use of Spanish. Overall, they found it a very ambitious novel.

Nicola has chosen “De Niro’s Game” by Rawi Hage (Lebanon) as her Coup de Cœur Summer 2008. Most of the group found it a very difficult read, because of its graphic violence. However, they felt it gave another slant on civilians’ daily lives and choices in war zones. Nicola enjoyed the easy language and descriptive style of writing, and she enjoyed the parallel world the main protagonist creates in his mind to escape from his real life situations.

Nicola’s Summer Reading list 2008

“Mister Pip” by Lloyd Jones (New Zealand) * – DRAW!
“Children of the Revolution” by Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia/US) *
“De Niro’s Game” by Rawi Hage (Lebanon)
“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Díaz (US/Dominican Republic)” *

* Best Summer Reads
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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