What I’ve been reading

Well, theories of memory, mostly, along with narrative inquiry mixed with a dash of ethnographic self reflexive research. This ‘essential’ reading has been for the essay I’m writing as part of my PhD. When I look at the piles of books on the floor of my study, I realise I’ve also been reading other ‘essential’ books – books that keep me sane, although my husband may have another point of view – it’s all about the definition of sanity, apparently. I read Kunal Basu’s 2007 book Racists, a chilling story about a pair of scientists who decide on the ultimate experiment – to raise a pair of children, one black, one white, on an uninhabited island off the coast of Africa. Set in 1855, it raises disturbing questions on the assumptions of racial superiority and left me with a sense of unease and anger. Just after this I picked up Hari Kunzru’s debut novel, The Impressionist, a hefty 500 page door stopper. This is also about race, set in British India. The main character is an Anglo Indian child dashing through imperial India, England and Africa, alternately searching for and escaping from his true identity. Overly long, with dense descriptions I flicked through, this is still funny and tragic and atmospheric, a book that requires some persistence. I also read the fabulous Joan London’s luminous book, The Good Parents. It taps into every parent’s insecurity over their children while meditating on the nature of choices and relationships that bind and separate. The book follows young Maya from country WA to Melbourne where she inexplicably disappears. Her parents look for her and struggle with their own past among Buddhist nuns, enigmatic Chinese girls and East European gangland bosses. This is a beautiful book, full of loss and poetry. Another book about parents and the choices, often disastrous, they make about their children, is M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. Set on a remote island off the coast of WA, a young lighthouse keeper and his wife decide to keep something that is not theirs. What follows is a beautifully crafted story about the consequences of that act. Local writer Yvette Walker’s book, Letters To The End Of Love left me wandering around lost for a few days, so powerful were the worlds she creates and so beautiful the writing that it spoke directly to me. Three couples in three places in three different times, write letters to each other. The Perth letters are like the city itself, sharp and clear and resonant with foreboding. The Cork letters also reflect the landscape, soft and grey and reflective. The Bournemouth letters are energetic despite the background of war and the difficulties of love. I loved this book. And finally, Annabel Smith’s latest book, The Ark. It is unlike any book I’ve read before and I couldn’t put it down. I read it in two days. I didn’t do anything else, I might add. I tried to feel guilty about the neglected essay I’m supposed to be writing. Then I persuaded myself research is reading, surely. The Ark is set in a dystopian future where a group of people responsible for 5 billion plant seeds bunker down in the facility known as The Ark, while Chaos rules the rapidly diminishing world outside. It’s a clever, funny and disturbingly prophetic sounding book and I will need to go back and read it again, along with the app that invites me to tour the bunker. And now, I really need to go back to the decolonised, subcontinental, post- structuralist methodology I was working on. I’m already traumatised. Feel free to send me some book recommendations.


20 responses to “What I’ve been reading

  1. Hi Radisha – these sound like lovely recommendations, am always looking for new ones. Someone else recommended The LIght Between Oceans, andd am keen to try Letters to the End of Love. I still remember your beautiful prose from Barbara’s workshop, so poetic. Have you done any thing with the work you did there? I still have all mine in a file and must get it out sometime. Thanks for puttiing up the recommendations.


  2. Wow – I envy all that reading… Your mini reviews of each book entice me. I have told myself not to buy any more books at the moment because I haven’t read the huge pile I have but I will remember your recommendations and come back to them. An excellent blog posting… thanks Rashida.


  3. Yes, I loved The Ark and The Light Between Oceans. I have Letters to the End of Love on my bedside table, next in line. And The Good Parents after that—so many books, so little time. I’m reading Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North right now and absolutely loving it—reading it through my fingers in parts as it’s so cruel, but it’s sooo good. Nice to hear what you’ve been up to!


  4. Book recommendations; hmm, in all shyness, I can only hope you could read one of mine. 🙂


  5. Reblogged this on Perth Words… exploring possibilities. and commented:
    Wonderful suggestions for my Wish List…


  6. Your PhD sounds absolutely fascinating! Theories of memory, how wonderful.


  7. So much great stuff you’ve been reading. Theories of memory sounds really interesting – having said that I know even interesting reading can feel like a burden when tied to outcomes like an exegesis.

    I was on a debate team with Kunal Basu at last year’s Perth Writing Festival. he is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met in my life – and very charming too. His book sounds fascinating.

    And I never tire of hearing other people rhapsodise about Yvette’s beautiful book. Thanks for the shout-out for The Ark – I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  8. Hi Annabel, yes, The Ark was fabulous 🙂 Looking forward to your first book now. I appear to be reading your books in reverse, which seems an entirely logical thing for me to do! Oh, debating with Kunal Basu would have been great. Thanks.


  9. I’m so happy you are indulging in your bliss Rashida. Roll on the summer holidays when I shall definitely take up some of your recommendations – and enjoy the time to keep up with you on your journey in this lovely re-connection. much love to you Rashida.


    • Hi Wendy 🙂 How lovely to hear from you. Yes, I’m a smidgeon away from submitting my thesis, well, actually about 3 months, but never let details get in the way, hey? Lots of love to you back.


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