#bookaday What book do you have that doesn’t belong to you? Monica Ali’s Brick Lane



My Mother used to run a Guest House, and I found Monica Ali’s Brick Lane in amongst the bookshelves in one of the rooms. I still need to return it and explain that the spine was damaged long before I borrowed it (a sign that many readers have enjoyed the story long before you begin). It garnered a lot of attention for its Man Booker shortlisting in 2003 and I liked the clean, simple cover design. Beyond that, I really had no idea what to expect. What drew me in was Ali’s language, her ability to give you a sense of a room or of the emotional state of her characters in barely a few sentences. The opening line is one of my favourite book openings:

“An hour and forty-five minutes before Nazneen’s life began – began as it would proceed for quite some tine, that is to say uncertainly – her mother Rupban felt an iron fist squeeze her belly.”

This is a story of Nazneen; it is a tale of her her journey from a village in Bangladesh to a flat in the East End of London, and of her arranged marriage to a man who initially seems cold, indifferent. She knows no English and has to rely on her husband, spending her days tucked away sewing clothes, until she meets the radical Karim. The story of racial conflict and tension is beautifully portrayed, as is the love affair she eventually has with Karim, and her ultimate choices. It makes you question so many of your own ideas, and is an intimate picture of a life lived in a new culture with all of the conflicting messages and emotions.





#bookaday One With A Blue Cover: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

chesil beach


It is July 1962. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come…

This is really all that’s needed for a book description of this gem of a novella, written by one of my favourite modern writers. It is a sensitively written but devastating portrayal of sexual awkwardness between a newly married couple staying in a pokey hotel in Dorset.

“This is how the entire course of a life can be changed – by doing nothing.”

These haunting words give you an idea of how McEwan plays with your emotions. His descriptions draw you in to the minds of the characters, Florence in particular, and her silence leaves you wanting to change the course of their lives. Her paralysis is partly what makes it work. The ending left me with a deep sadness. I don’t think a book has ever worked on my emotions in quite the same way. A huge feat of narrative genius.



#bookaday Best Book Bargain: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

book thief



I picked up The Book Thief soon after it was published and it was on offer. This is one of those books that draws you in and never quite releases you after you have finished reading. It had a great impact on me at the time, partly because it is a story of loss, but mostly due to the narration and the uncertainty of the fate of the protagonist. It’s a story about books, loss, danger, change, and the healing power of books. I’m sure I will go back and read it again and I’m even more certain that I won’t see the film. The descriptions of the scenes have carved such strong impressions in my mind that I never want them to come undone. I’ll leave you to find out the plot if you haven’t yet read it, and with the incredible fact that it spent over 230 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. Says it all!