The theme of our Summer Reading Group 2010 was humour in all its many forms: comedy, wit, satire, irony, farce. The interesting thing about humour is that it is very personal, and there were indeed members of the group who found some stories funny that others did not, and vice versa.
“I Do Not Come to You by Chance” by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani was voted the Best Summer Read 2010. This is a first novel by a young Nigerian author, which she sets in the infamous world of e-mail scammers known as the 4-1-9ers. Readers loved the book, with some even finding it laugh-out-loud funny, especially the second part. They warmed to the protagonist Kingsley who, despite his excellent education, finds himself obliged to work for his uncle, aka Cash Daddy, to help support his mother and siblings after his father dies. Readers found the characters that populate this world larger than life, with names such as Protocol Officer, World Bank and Wizard. They appreciated the insights into the people who fall for the scams (e.g. Mr Winterbottom) and they felt the author managed to treat serious issues in a non-moralistic and humorous way.
Most readers enjoyed “We Are All Made of Glue” by Marina Lewycka, though some found it less funny than her first novel about Ukrainian tractors! They liked the eccentric Naomi Shapiro and got a strong sense of smell of the house full of cats that she lives in. They loved the vignettes with the real estate agents, Mark Diabello and Nicky Wolfe; and also those with the “Uselesses”, the nephew and friend of Mr. Ali, a Palestinian handyman, who do some work on Mrs. Shapiro’s house. Readers felt that the author touched on the controversial issue of the creation of the Israeli state in a light way through her use of such an eclectic cast of characters. They also found amusing the glue-related titles to each chapter, which they felt symbolic as a way of bonding them all together.
There were mixed reactions to “The Maid” by Japanese author Yasutaka Tsutsui, with some readers finding the protagonist unengaging and the events depressing, while others found her a believable character and they enjoyed the interaction between the stories and her power to read minds. They found that as she changed employer, each one became more and more despicable until the final episode where readers were left wondering whether humour can be found in the horror!
Nicola has chosen the collection of short stories “The Last Bachelor” by American author Jay McInerney as her Coup de Cœur Summer 2010. The group found some of the stories very funny and liked his style of writing which they described as polished and tight. They enjoyed the descriptions of a certain American lifestyle that is both superficial and sophisticated. Although few of the characters were likeable, readers agreed that they were very engaging. Nicola felt that the collection resembled a comedy of manners, and she loved the author’s use of satire to poke fun at the upper social classes peppering the tales with illicit love affairs and scandals. As one of the characters says, “I think life is best viewed as a linked series of improvisations.”
Nicola’s Summer Reading list 2010
“The Last Bachelor” by Jay McInerney (U.S.)
“We Are All Made of Glue” by Marina Lewycka (Ukraine/U.K.)
“I Do Not Come to You by Chance” by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Nigeria)
“The Maid” by Yasutaka Tsutsui (Japan)
* Best Summer Read
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur