A Trip Around The World Through Books
As the long and dark winter is upon us, it seems appropriate to make a list of good books to read on those cold evenings. This list will take you around the world, the books in it being set in different countries all over this globe. From India to Canada and from Lithuania to Botswana, these books are also set in various different times in history, are of a variety of genres, and range from heavy to light. So there’s something for everyone! Grab your hot cocoa, blanket and candles and have a read!
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
This novel is set in the 20th and 21st century Kabul, Afghanistan and is centered on lives of the main characters Mariam and Laila, two women of two generations, who are brought together by a chance of fate when they are married to the same man. The novel is divided into four parts, each focusing on either Mariam, Laila, or them both. The story is a heartbreaking foray into the lives of the less fortunate women in Afghanistan. It also gives an interesting depiction of both the recent history of the country and the status of women in the Afghan society through the decades of its depiction. If you feel like reading a story that makes you reflect and gives you a better understanding of the workings of the world, this one is for you. Prepare for a book you’re not able to let go of your hands until it’s read!
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
No, this is not an installment in the 50 Shades of Gray series, it just had the misfortune to be published around the same time, and hence, the title might be misleading. Between Shades of Gray tells the story of the Lithuanian Vilkas family – focusing on the 16-year-old daughter, Lina – and their imprisonment and deportation to Siberia during the Second World War. It is a harrowing, yet hopeful tale of the lives of innocent people forced to live in inhumane conditions in the Soviet working camps during Stalinist repressions. The prose in the novel flows on smoothly and the reader is in constant hope of finding a better turn of events in the next page. Us Finns all know a lot about what happened in our country during WWII, but this novel will illuminate the conditions of the Baltic nations, so near us, yet so far away when it comes to general knowledge.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith
Instead of being a single novel, this is actually a book series that follows the life of Mma Precious Ramotswe in modern day Botswana. Mma Ramotswe is a middle-aged woman who runs her own detective agency in the city of Gaborone. This series, instead of focusing on gory murders, is centered on mysteries of the less psychologically unsettling kind – the perfect detective stories for extra sensitive people like myself. The books are written in a delightfully simple, yet insightful style, and the prose manages to hit universal truths regarding the humankind more than once. The character of the country of Botswana is also brought forth in an interesting way, drawing the reader to the rhythm of the local life. The novels are not very long or heavy – they’re the perfect light read for the dark and depressing winter evenings.
The Story Girl by L. M. Montgomery
This novel is set around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in the small agrarian province of Prince Edward Island, Canada. It tells the story of two brothers who travel to their ancestral home to spend the summer with their cousins, and the various adventures and misadventures they have – not forgetting the glorious stories told by one of the cousins, the title character of the book. The novel is written in an episodic style, owing to the stories and anecdotes sprinkled all over it, yet the prose flows on effortlessly and magically. Even though the main characters are pre-teens to teens, this is not a children’s book, but is instead very rewarding for adult readers too, granting many humorous moments and insights that younger readers may not pick up. If you feel like reading something idyllic, entertaining and cozy, this is your pick!
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
A book of narrative non-fiction, this one tells the tale of various residents of a slum, Annawadi, settled in the shadow of luxury hotels and the Mumbai airport in India. As India prospers, the people of Annawadi raise their heads up in hope of a better future, grasping at every opportunity to better their lot in life. The book focuses not only on interpersonal conflict created by the conditions, but also the realities of poverty, hunger, violence, disease, corruption. The author lived in and observed the place and its residents for three years in order to tell this story. It is a story that wakes and shakes the reader up, forcing them to realize what the reality of life is like for many people on this planet. Many heartbreaks later, the book leaves the reader feeling powerless, yet more aware.
Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
Set in early 19th century London, this novel is a story of a secret that unravels behind the doors of the city’s wealthiest area. The Trenchards are a family who has made their fortune in trade, while the Brockenhursts are an old, aristocratic one. These two families of different classes come together through a secret that even the reader doesn’t know – and won’t guess – in the beginning. As the secret starts to make itself known to the reader, it is fascinating to follow along the story to see how it unravels in front of the characters. This novel might not be an undying work of art, but it is as entertaining as it comes, and one you cannot leave until it’s finished. The pomp, the gossip, the passion, the historical detail, the clashes of early Victorian classes – Belgravia has it all.