Having just finished Sandra Gulland’s novel Mistress of the Sun (and throughly enjoyed this historical novel of the life of Louise de la Vallière (1644–1710), mistress to Louis XIV, the Sun King of France), I am faced with the reader’s perpetual question: What should I read next? I have a long list and a pile of books to read at home (yes, I may be the only person yet to read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer), but it isn’t that easy. It doesn’t just have to be a good book- it has to be the right good book.
After a quick look at the New Book shelf, here is my short list:
Jeff Talarigo’s second novel, The Ginseng Hunter, is set in China along the border of North Korea. The sequestered life of a Chinese Ginseng Hunter is disrupted when he meets a North Korean prostitute who brings tragedies of her family to life through her stories. The Christian Science Monitor had this to say:
“Jeff Talarigo has a remarkable talent: from some of the most horrific experiences a human being might face, he somehow crafts beautiful, haunting works of fiction. Talarigo [now] offers The Ginseng Hunter, a story of quiet humanity discovered in the midst of overwhelming inhumanity.”
The novel The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan explores the world of a southern India village and specifically the life of Sivakami, a Tamil Brahmin girl. Publishers Weekly says that “Viswanathan is especially adept at unobtrusively explaining foreign customs and world views to Westerners while wholly respecting the power and significance they hold for practitioners”.
Last but not least on my list is Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, The Enchantress of Florence. In the reviews “challenging but worth it” is mentioned as well as page-long sentences. This novel- which some describe as a collection of short stories- sounds like a foggy, gilded dream of a fairy tale.
So- a choice must be made. I am leaning toward The Toss of a Lemon because I like long novels that immerse me in a world very different from my own. If you are tempted- two of these books will be on the New Books shelf on the library’s second floor. One will be going home with me.