Well I must say this trick worked. I have now read four of the five books and so far pretty much enjoyed them. Today I am going to talk about two of them.
The first is the Zadie Smith book The Embassy of Cambodia. It is almost as short (69 pages) as a short story however it just doesn't fit that mould at all.
The Embassy of Cambodia is a short book of the haves and the have nots of English society. Fatou is a domestic servant for the Derawel family in the town of Willesden.
Fatou sneaks out of the house everyday to go to the local swimming pool using the guest passes she finds in a drawer at the family's house. She walks past the Embassy of Cambodia in this residential neighbourhood and often wonders what goes on behind the tall walls. Often she knows there is a badminton game happening, other times she can only wonder.
Her main experience with life at this point in her life is the walk, the people she meets, the neighbourhood between the home she lives and works in and the swimming pool several blocks away.
The little book is about her simple, limited life and the futility of not being one of the wealthier people. She is an integral part of the Derawel's family but you wouldn't know it to speak to them. She is truly under appreciated.
I truly felt for this girl and wanted much for her. By the ending which comes quite quickly she may be moving in an entirely different direction. I didn't believe this was a strong story, I think it would have been better to have been turned into a proper novel because the character of Fatou had more dimensions to her than were fleshed out.
I would have liked to have known more of her past and of course her future. Seems it was just starting to take off when the ending came but I would still recommend reading this if you want something short and sweet to take up some time.
Except from The Embassy of Cambodia:
"When the Embassy of Cambodia first appeared in our midst, a few years ago, some of us said, "Well if we were poets perhaps we could have written some sort of an ode about this surprising appearance of the embassy.' (For embassies are usually to be found in the centre of the city. This was the first one we had seen in the suburbs.) But we are not really a poetic people. We are from Willesden. Our minds tend towards the prosaic. I doubt there is a man or woman among us, for example who - upon passing the Embassy of Cambodia for the first time- did not immediately think: 'genocide".
The next book that I really enjoyed was the Quantum of Tweed by Conn Iggulden. I really dislike the cover of this book and I don't feel it does the story any good at all.
It absolutely worked for me with a distinctive beginning, an interesting middle and an end that worked very well.
Albert Rossi is a tailor of a men's shop that has become quite boring to run. He is driving in the city one day when he accidentally hits a man in the street who runs out in front of him. As he gets out of his car and checks him someone comes up from behind and puts a gun to him. It turns out the man he hit was the target of a hired assassin and Albert in killing him with his car did the man a favour. The hired assassin tells him to get in his car and take off. However Albert is so nervous he doesn't back up the car to leave but instead hits the accelerator, hitting the second man and what he thinks, killing him. His mobile phone flies out of his hand. Albert jumps back out of the car, grabs the phone and his number plate to the car that has fallen off and takes off.
Later the mobile phone rings, Albert answers it and is told where to pick up "the rest of his money" now the targeted man has died.
Albert decides to take up the role as he finds the excitement rather hard to ignore and when a call comes through telling him where the money has been left he picks it up.
He has a real experience when he not only succeeds at this job but then takes another one. Will he take another job as he finds out he is really quite good at this? Will the policeman who spies him and has a " feeling" about him thwart his plans? This was a really quick read, I enjoyed it quite a bit and couldn't but help laughing at the predicament he gets himself in. This is a great little self contained book in such a short style and it just seems to work. At least I thought so. I enjoyed both of these books and am now looking forward to reading something with a bit more substance.
I have not yet read the fifth book yet and don't know if I will. I think four out of five is a good number and now I'd like to get stuck into some of my own books on the shelves so I can move them on. I really do have far too many books but I love going into the front bedroom and gazing at the shelves and seeing them all there, mainly unread and knowing the adventures that are waiting there.
In the past two weeks I have experienced being a hired assassin, a domestic servant in England, locked up in a Thai prison and a woman who has lost her finances due her husband's unemployment with a rich friend coming to visit.
I think after all of that I need a good sit down and a cup of tea. I wonder what experiences will come up in the next books I climb into.
What do you do when you get into a reading slump??
Excerpt from Quantum of Tweed:
This is the description just after he has hit the first man.
"In the stunned moment that followed, Albert swallowed nervously. With trembling hands, he turned off the radio-rather than have a Bonnie Tyler belt her way through a chorus that could only be slightly sinister in the circumstances. The silence was eerie. The sort of silence that is interrupted by a dead man sliding into view can never be the 'nuns in a reading room' kind. "Eerie" is very much it for the slight squeak of a size nine brogue on your windshield. It did not help that Albert recognised the brand of socks as one he had marked down to 40 percent of its full price."