Today I would like to tell you about 3 very short books (under 150 pages!) that I have recently read. I’m hoping that this article will be useful to those of you who don’t have much time to read and don’t dare starting a long book. These three books can be read in no time and are pretty good.
Fear And Trembling by Amélie Nothomb
Fear and Trembling is one of my favourite books by Belgian author Amélie Nothomb. It is an autobiographical narrative in which the author recounts her disastrous professional experience as an employee for a big Japanese company. Amélie Nothomb having spent some years in Japan when she was a young child, she is absolutely thrilled when she’s offered a job as an interpreter by the Yumimoto company. Unfortunately, her experience of Japan as a grown-up proves to be miles away from the fond childhood memories she had kept from this country, and Fear And Trembling narrates this big disenchantment. At Yumimoto, Amélie Nothomb fails to understand Japanese rigid codes and hierarchy, and she deeply irritates her superior, Miss Fubuki Mori. Little by little, she is given less and less important tasks to do until she reaches the bottom and ends up doing the most humiliating task you can possibly imagine. Despite its rather dark topic, this book is very entertaining and, for the most part, quite hilarious. It also offers a subtle and interesting point of view on cultural adaptation and how it can be very hard to achieve. Highly recommended if you’re looking for an entertaining quick read!
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
In this very short memoir, Ernest Hemingway narrates memories from his life in Paris in the 1920’s when he was a young and broke writer. At that time, Hemingway was in his twenties, married to Hadley, with whom he had a son, and had just quit his job as a foreign correspondent to devote himself to fiction. A Moveable Feast is an interesting book because it depicts a very picturesque 1920’s Paris but also shows what being a broke artist meant at that time. It is a remarkable representation of a the life of a writer in the 1920’s – a little bit romanticized but mostly realistic. Of course, it is also a very interesting and quite funny peek at the artistic scene of that time. Hemingway personally knew all the major artists who lived in Paris, and this book is packed with all kinds of anecdotes regarding his time with writers such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F.S. Fitzgerald, to name but a few. Some of his anecdotes about Fitzgerald are absolutely hilarious – a trip to Lyon in a car without roof or some very private confessions about virility for instance… I wouldn’t recommend this book as a first Hemingway book to read (especially considering that it was published posthumously), but it is very enjoyable. I urge you to push through the first pages if you find them a bit boring, the rest of the book is great!
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
The Sense of an Ending being the winner of Man Booker Prize 2011, you may expect a masterpiece. I stop you here – this novel is far from being a masterpiece. That being said, it is an interesting and original novel. This novel is narrated by Tony Webster, a retired and divorced man who has had a very quiet life, and mostly comprises of Tony’s thoughts about the meaning of life (no, it is not a very cheerful book). This rush of thoughts and self-examination is sparked when Tony receives a letter from a solicitor to inform him that he was bequathed Adrian Finn’s diary, decades after Adrian committed suicide in his early twenties. Adrian was one of Tony’s best friends in school. And that’s how the novel unfolds. I can’t tell you much more about the plot because it comprises a great twist that makes the strength of the novel. It is a slow-paced and very contemplative novel, and it won’t suit everyone, but I liked how it is narrated. Tony Webster is a complex and unusual narrator, and his honesty doesn’t make him more engaging to the reader, on the contrary. I disliked him and I liked disliking him during my reading. I believe he embodies human beings in their more human and flawed aspects, and that’s one of the tours de force of this novel.
Any short readings to recommend, guys?