Reading Some Contemporary Fiction

One of the goals on my 30 before 30 list is to read five contemporary fiction novels. A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished the first. It was a hulk of a book, almost 850 pages long. It has taken six whole months to finish this book. It was a satisfying finish though, well worth the time it took to get to it. It also felt good to return it to its owner!  I borrowed it from a coworker who recommended it to me after reading it herself. We both share similar tastes when it comes to reading, so we tend to trade recommendations and lend each other books. It’s a good system we have going. I have already read a few books I wouldn’t have read if it hadn’t been for her recommendations.

TheluminariescoverThis book I speak of is The  Luminaries by Eleanor Catton; winner of the 2013 Man Booker prize. This author is only 30 years old, and the youngest author both short-listed AND winner of the prize. What an achievement while still so young! Funny enough, I was reading around the internet recently and learned that Eleanor Catton was born in the city I have called home for the past five years. Talk about an interesting tidbit of information!

The Luminaries is an interesting story: Walter Moody arrives in Hokitika, New Zealand in 1866 and stumbles upon a secret meeting between 12 men connected in a some ways through recent events around the town: the death of a hermit, a rich prospector’s disappearance, a suicide attempt by a well-known prostitute, and the discovery of a large fortune in the dead hermit’s cabin all on the same night. All of the events and the men are linked, and their goal is to find out how. A tale of intrigue and deception is woven in the months after the four strange events and the men, including Walter Moody, work together to try to put it all together.

The Luminaries is the best book I have read in a very long time. It kept me wanting more and it made me think, trying to fit all the events together. It was very satisfying to get to the end of the book and discover I was on the right track! Ms. Catton’s writing style was excellent as well. The layout of the book was compelling as well, in keeping with the themes of the story. The chapters at the beginning were very long, often more than 40 pages, and as the book progressed the chapters became progressively shorter, being as short as a half-page by then end. It kept reading the book very engaging. I hope in the future to buy it for myself, as it is a book I would like to revisit again in the future.

I’ve been on a bit of a reading kick, and just this past week, I finished my second work of contemporary fiction: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a book published in 2012. A much shorter novel than The Luminaries, I read this one because of another recommendation; one from a fellow blogger this time. It’s a fast-paced novel with an interesting plot, making you want to keep reading it right to the very end.

Clayton Jannon is a designer finding himself unemployed in the midst of a grand recession. He spends months looking for work with no luck, but stumbles on a help-wanted sign in the door of a strange-looking bookstore.24-hour bookstore cover  He gets the job based on his ability to climb a three-story ladder, and becomes an employee of Mr. Penumbra working the night shift. While working for Mr. Penumbra, he fields odd requests from Mr. Penumbra himself, some even more odd clients, and he starts to come across some bizarre secrets. These secrets lead him, his best friend and the girl he is dating, Kat Potente, to a book cult called “The Unbroken Spine” and decoding the “codex vitae” or life book of the found of the cult, after overcoming several obstacles including the cult’s leader, a man who believes computers don’t have a place within it.

Though an interesting book, I did not enjoy it as much as I enjoyed The Luminaries. I enjoyed the story and the general concept of the connections between technology and books and what place they have in society both now and in the future; it had some interesting implications. It was, at the very least, a book that made me think.

I am hoping the next will provoke some more thinking. I can’t believe that I’m almost halfway done with this particular task on my list. Three more contemporary fiction novels to read, with one currently in progress. It has been really nice to start reading again. I went for months without being able to finish a book, and in the past two weeks I have managed to read two. It was like going back to when I was younger. I felt the passion for reading again like I haven’t felt in ages.



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