Welcome to 2019 in review episode 2! There was no way for me to decide which of these was my favourite, so instead of pitting my favourite books together, here are my favourite books of the year!
Perfume by Patrick Süskind
This book was one that took me a long time to read, but I like to think that I was simply savouring its deliciousness. It was definitely worth it when I finished it, and I gave it 5 stars.
Perfume is a modern classic which was published by the German author Patrick Süskind in 1985. It is set in 18th Century France and follows the story of Grenouille, a man with an amazing sense of smell who feels apart from society. It follows him as he escapes the smells of the city to explore the world of scents, which eventually leads him to becoming a rather horrific murder in the name of creating the ‘ultimate perfume’.
Grenouille is undeniably a disgusting and twisted character, who is completely unaware of the fact, which is at once interesting and even more horrifying. The story is told from his perspective: he is the protagonist, and so you feel compelled to sympathise with him, understand him, even as you are revolted and reviled by what he is doing. It is, at times, rather uncomfortable to read, but every second is worth it and Süskind has managed to give us a beautifully crafter insight into the mind of the unashamedly depraved (with a side of beautiful description and information about perfume making).
The Royal Tutor by Higasa Aki
On a more light-hearted note, say hello to my new favourite manga series! I swithered between picking this one or Black Butler, as I gave both 4 stars (highly unusual for a manga), I read more of this series (the first 3 volumes) so I ended up picking this one.
The Royal Tutor is a manga series by the Japanese artist and illustrator Higasa Akai, the first volume of which was originally published in 2014. The story is set in a fictional country, most likely inspired by a 17th/18th Century Austria-esque country, and follows the genius Heine Wittgenstein, who is enlisted by the King to teach the four princes.
The characters were the stars of this story: each of the four princes has a distinct and vibrant personality, and Heine himself is full of fire, defying his tiny size to prove an unstoppable force. Beyond this, both the complexity and richness of family and teacher-student relationships are thoughtfully explored. The story is light-hearted and funny, and the art is adorable, but Akai also addresses many issues faced by young people, and how the right teacher can change a child’s life, adding a level of depth that makes this my favourite manga series to date.
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
This is a book that people seem to either love or hate, and I am definitely one of the former. I started reading it at work, almost cried, bought it during my lunch break and finished it the same day. Any book which manages to drive me to tears at work is definitely worthy of 5 stars.
The Sun and Her Flower is a book of verse by Canadian writer and artist Rupi Kaur and was published in 2017. Kaur is the daughter of immigrant parents, and in this book she discusses what that means, the lessons she has learnt from her mother, and the lessons she had to learn for herself. The book is not a collection of poems, nor is it a continuous narrative told in verse, but something in between. A collection of poems, many of which alone would have little impact, but when as part of a collective form a bigger picture like strokes of paint in a painting.
Whilst the poems about self-love, finding oneself, and sexual harassment were interesting and contributed wonderfully to the overall impression of the book, it was the poems about the narrator’s relationship with her mother that almost made me cry, perhaps because I saw some of my own relationship with my mother reflected in that. This is the type of book that you will want to call your mum after reading and thank her for everything she has done for you (unless she hasn’t, in which case I am sorry, please call someone who has). You can read my full review for this book here.
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
This play was one I hd ot red for my English Lit. class and has become my favourite play of all time (it shares the position with Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing). Obviously, I gave it 5 stars.
The play was written by American playwright Tennessee Williams in 1947, and in contrast to much of post-war American plays, exposes many of the domestic issues in the US as it takes us on a journey through the dramatic life of Blanche. The story starts with Blanche moving to live with her sister, Stella, and her sister’s husband, Stanley, in New Orleans. Blanche is very out of pace in her new environment and slowly, the truth of why she has come to the city is exposed. Nothing is as it seems about Blanche, and Stanley hates her. But Stanley is no hero either.
There are no good characters. There are no completely evil characters, but no good characters either. Perhaps that is what I loved most about this book. I expect to sympathise with Blanche, especially after some the things she has experienced (no spoilers here!), but I just can’t. And I don’t mind: I love the story even more for it, which is unusual for me. I think it’s because Williams makes me care about the characters and what happens to them without making me feel sympathy for them. I don’t know how he accomplishes it, but this play truly is a masterpiece of plot and writing, too.
After Dark by Haruki Murakami
This was my first proper introduction to both Haruki Murakami and Japanese literature and I have never looked back. I had read a single Murakami short-story prior to this (Birthday Girl), but this was where my newfound love for Japanese literature, and specifically Murakami, began.
After Dark is a novel written by contemporary Japanese author Haruki Murakami and was originally published in 2004. It is one of his less famous ones, but I loved it. It follows two sisters in the middle of the night: Eri, who is sleeping herself into oblivion, and Mari who starts out in a cafe and finds herself wrapped up in the lives of people very different to herself, from jazz trombonists with important life lessons to bestow, to Chinese prostitutes who need her help.
This book has combines the magical realism and contemporary of Murakami’s writing. Eri’s story with a magical mystique that is both sinister and wonderful, whilst the stark and sometimes brutal realism of Mari’s chapters jolts the reader back to reality. This contrast works particularly well in allowing Murakami to explore a variety of huge questions about life, but also reflects the clear differences between glamourous model Eri and book-reading, cigarette-smoking Mari. The writing style feels as if we are behind the camera filming a TV show, focus shifted by the lens of the camera, taken where the director pleases, and this only adds to the sense that we are observing real people. Quiet, listening, watching, as they go about their lives: it’s the best kind of people watching.
And that’s all I have for today!! Don’t forget to talk to me in the comments, I would love to know what you thought of these books!
- Have you read any of these books? Did you like them as much as I did?
- What were your favourite books of 2019?
Please recommend your favourite books of the year, or leave a link to your own post below and I’ll be sure to check them out!!