The good thing about travelling a lot is you have lots of hours sitting on planes, trains, buses to catch up on all those books you have been wanting to read for aaaaages. Here is what I have consumed in the last few weeks…

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kinsolver is one that I think Joanna first recommended and then I found it in that booksale where I purchased an amazing seven books for seven euros. Sad to say it has sat on my shelf ever since, but I finally got around to reading it and really loved it.

Not a light read, it is the story of a fundemental Baptist missionary and his family of wife and four daughters, who move to the back of beyond in the Congo, just when the independence movement is kicking off. The story is told occasinally by the mother from the future and mostly by the daughters at the time, and is a fascinating portrayal of belief,  whether that is religious, political, cultural, ideological, stereotypical…

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I picked this one up in the airport on the way to Bangladesh because I had seen the film ads and usually try to read the book first. Well if the film is as good as the book then it will be woth paying the cinema ticket for. I really enjoyed this. The basic plot is a white girl runs away from her unloving father, springs her black nanny out of jail and they end up in the house of three black sisters who live in a pink house and make honey.

The story is a lot about identity and history but not in a way that is too heavy to enjoy. And it’s kinda also about learning how to live, through all the crap life might throw at you, figuring out what is important and keeping hold of that above all.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar was actually the first of the four I read. I had bought it a while ago and then when I was packing for Bangladesh I thought, hmm, a book about South Asian culture? Very appropriate. It’s the story of two women, one middle class lady and her poor house keeper, and the relationship between them, sometimes maternal, sometimes confidantes, sometimes competing, sometimes conflicting.

I really enjoyed it. It didn’t make any easy stereotypical assumptions about the two women but kept all the cultural complexity in there, so that you could easily sympathise with both, judge both, which made it an interesting read.

The Kinsella Sisters by Kate Thompson was the book I picked up in the Tesco in Cashel for some very light holiday reading. It was based in Ireland, and the helpful pie chart on the back cover (!) told me it was 20% love, 40% friendship, about two sisters very very different who are brought back together by a death and a mysterious discovery.

Well the myserious discovery takes up about four pages of the book near the start before they both start to just get over it and move on, and the rest of the book is more concerned with their own love lives, and those of their children/friends/neighbours. It felt like there were about six good stories just aching to be released and explored in depth (not least the allusion to married life with a mother-in-law with dementia in the picture) but in the end it’s just an uncomplicated and only a little unsatisfying holiday read.

Next on my pile of “to-read” books (possibly this weekend on my trip to Milan!!) are: The Outcast by Sadie Jones, Desert Flower by Wais Dirie, The Devil that Danced on the Water by Aminatta Forna, The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller (started once in S.Africa but never finished) and William Wilberforce by William Hague.

Recommendations welcome… :)

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