This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two non-fiction, travel inspired books.
The Romance of Elsewhere: Essays by Lynn Freed
To be honest, The Romance of Elsewhere was a bit of a disappointment for me as I thought the essays would be more about travel. Instead, only the title essay and the one tittle “Letter from London” were truly about travel while the other essays looked at a more general restlessness and not any sense of wanderlust. Featuring all previously published essays, the writings seem to be comes someone of rather a privileged background as shown by the mention of servants and an estate and a few of them had a bit of a condescending tone. That being said, it was fascinating to read Freed’s essay about choice and about her life growing up in South Africa during the apartheid-era and of course I appreciated the first essay which talks about travel and wandering the world in a raw and un-romanticized way. All in all, for the most part, I couldn’t really get into most of the essays. Despite that, however, I found that they were for the most part, well written and more often than not provided some thought-provoking and revealing insights about home and wandering.
Around the World in 80 Novels: A global journey inspired by writers from every continent by Henry Russell
I picked up this book when my travel plans changed and it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere this year. If you’ve ever been curious about the real life settings and inspiration for some of the most famous books, Henry Russell’s Around the World in 80 Novels is for you. I liked how there was a good mix of classics and modern literature across various genres. On top of that, there are like tips and suggestions for those who are able to travel to these places. However, even if you aren’t able to physically travel to these countries, I like how this book expands on the idea that you can travel anywhere in the world and through time without leaving the comfort of your usual reading spot. Be ready with a notebook and pen while reading this book as I ended up discovering many titles to add to my TBR including Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (Jamaica and Dominica), Rose Macaulay”s The Towers of Trebizond (Turkey) and Death in Oslo by Anne Holt set in Norway.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.
Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto, Asa Yoneda (Translator), Mai Ohno (Illustrator)
Moshi Moshi was my first Banana Yoshimoto novel, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Similar to several other well-known Japanese writers, there is an element of magical realism to the story. However, in this case, it is extremely subtle and takes the form of a not quite a ghost story since the “ghost” of the protagonist’s recently father haunts the pages of the book and remains a significant “presence” despite not actually being present. Yoshimoto’s writing is incredibly minimalist and cool, yet she manages to provide some fascinating commentary on the traditional gender roles and expectations in Japan today. Furthermore, she does an excellent job of capturing the grief and the process of trying to move on when someone you love dies in a remarkably traumatic manner. In addition, it was refreshing to see an accurate portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship where both are now grown yet neither are completely dependent on the other. But what I loved the most about Moshi Moshi, was the setting of the novel. Set in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa, the book made me want to visit the area and check out the restaurants for myself. The only issue I truly had with Moshi Moshi was the romantic development and conclusion in the book as it was a bit unsettling and awkward. Nevertheless, Moshi Moshi is a soothing read in spite of its weirdness.
Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss by Jann Arden
Jann Arden’s latest book, Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss touches upon a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Having worked with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, I was looking forward to this memoir of caring for elderly parents who have dementia. Told in dated journal entries interspersed with personal photos and recipes, the Canadian singer-songwriter brings readers into the daily realities of her life as a caregiver to a parent who has dementia. At times, the book feels almost too real however that’s the beauty of it. Arden’s candor about what it’s really like for the families of those with dementia makes Feeding My Mother resonates so much more for those whose loved ones also have dementia. The design of the book is also beautiful and soothing, and I loved the gorgeous photos included in the book. I also liked the theme of food in the book, and will definitely be attempting to make some of the recipes in the book like the Four-Cheese Mac. An absolutely heartbreaking yet warm, and comforting read.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.