Freedom. Jonathan Franzen. Fourth Estate, 2010.
In his first novel since The Corrections – which won the National Book Award in 2001 – Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage via the family of Patty and Walter Berglund.
Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of too much liberty: the thrills of teenage lust; the shaken compromises of middle age; the wages of suburban sprawl; the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of the intensely realised characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.
Room. Emma Donoghue. Picador Fiction, 2010.
Another book by Emma Donoghue, an Irish writer living in Canada, this is a sober, simple but disturbingly and provokingly told story of a small boy who lives with his Ma in the Room, which is just 11 feet by 11 feet large and has a locked door and a skylight. He watches TV and understands that the things he views are not real, and that reality is just the Room and him and Ma. Until one day Ma admits that there is a world outside… Room was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010.
Kim. Rudyard Kipling. Edited and with an introduction by Alan Sandison. Oxford World’s Classics, reissued 2008.
Kim, by Indian-born British author Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), who spent much of his youth in the region he describes here, is the story of Kimball O’Hara, the orphaned son of an Irish soldier who spends his childhood as a vagabond in Lahore, India (now Pakistan). With an old Tibetan lama he travels through India, enthralled by the “roaring whirl” of the landscape and cities of richly coloured bazaars and immense diversity of people. Kipling created a vision of harmony – and of India – that unites the secular and the spiritual, the life of action with that of contemplation.
Perceptions of Kipling’s works, although they enjoyed contemporary acclaim and popularity, have since been influenced by criticism of his political opinions. This book, published long after his death with an expert preface, introduction and explanatory notes, provides an opportunity to reconsider his remarkable lieftime achievements.
The Cobra. Frederick Forsyth. Bantam Press 2010.
Bestselling thriller-writer Frederick Forsyth in this book peels back the reality of the global cocaine business, from jungle airstrips in Brazil to the mangrove swamps of Guinea-Bissau, from the barrios of Bogotá to the boardrooms of Washington. One man, Paul Deveraux, intellectual, dedicated, utterly ruthless and ex-CIA special ops, is given what seems like an impossible task: stop the drug barons, whatever the cost. At his disposal is anything he wants – but he must not cease until his mission is completed.
Up till now, the drug cartels have been accustomed to the forces of global law and order attempting to prevent them plying their trade. And up to now those forces have played by the rules. But that is about to change. The rules no longer apply – and a dirty war is about to get a whole lot dirtier.
This column is a selection by The Slovak Spectator of English-language books recently released in Slovakia; it does not represent an endorsement of any of the books selected. The column is prepared in cooperation with the Oxford Bookshop Bratislava, located at Laurinská 9.
14. Feb 2011 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff