Literatuurlijst Engels, aanvulling 2018-2019
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Betekenis symbolen: het aantal boekjes (1, 2 of 3) duidt op de moeilijkheidsgraad van de boeken.
1986, 479 pages, Canada
"The red Birthmobile is parked in the driveway. Its back door is open and I clamber in. The carpet on the floor is red, red curtains are drawn over the windows." The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel about life in a controlled state, Gilead, where people wear uniforms and everything is checked and controlled. Women have just one purpose in life, giving birth. The narrative perspective is from one of the handmaids, Offred (Of Fred). Tales of Offred’s life in Gilead alternate with flashbacks of her previous life. This dystopian novel of Margaret Atwood originally written in 1986 has recently become of interest again, owing to political developments in certain countries. It has recently also been made into a television series. A dictatorial, religious state such as Gilead is a fear for everybody, now and in the future.
2018, 213 pages, UK
This is a novel about a complicated love story. It is narrated by Paul, who is looking back at his life. Paul was 19 when he first met Susan, a woman more than twice his age. They met at a tennis club and fell in love. The setting is in the London suburbs in the 1960s. The novel is divided into three parts, written in three different narrative voices: the first, second and third person. With each change, Paul moves on to a new phase in their affair, describing the demands that are placed on him by the lifelong consequences of his first love. Barnes explores - once again - what we forget and remember, the reliability of our memories. ‘The Only Story’ is a beautifully written, deeply moving novel.
2007, 121 pages, UK
The Uncommon Reader is a novella about the reading habits of Queen Elisabeth II of England. While walking her corgis, the Queen visits a travelling library parked in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace. It turns out that the mobile library comes to the courtyard every Wednesday. The librarian introduces the Queen to reading novels and this marks a change in her life. Having never had a ‘normal’ life, she now begins to live in books. Her advisors, however, are not so pleased with her new hobby. The Queen continues to read and to ask questions. She also begins to write, and her insights convey a sense of humour. She then starts discussing novels with other people, with several other books and writers being mentioned in this novella. The Queen becomes so enthusiastic about reading that her work suffers from it. The end of the story is surprising. The prose Bennett writes is light and satiric. This is a proof of the power of books and how reading can change a life. A very charming novella.
2014, 296 pages, UK
In this novel Esther Freud paints a vivid portrait of a coastal village in Suffolk during the First World War, but also of an artist, the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The story, seen through the eyes of young Thomas Maggs, the son of the local tavern keeper, tells us about the unlikely friendship between Thomas and Mackintosh, or Mac, a stranger to the Suffolk region. Just as their friendship begins to blossom, war with Germany is declared. All the summer guests flee the village and are replaced by soldiers on their way to war. As the townspeople increasingly feel the brutality of war, they become more and more suspicious of Mac and his eccentric behaviour. This is a beautiful and touching tale of family and friendship. It is as much about life in a small village during war time, as it is about Mac, who was such a misunderstood genius.
2017, 275 pages, US
Linda, fourteen, lives in a small Minnesotan town with her parents, hippies who stayed behind after their commune fell apart. Called "freak" at school by the other children, she feels an outsider and often wanders around the woods on her own. This changes when Patra and Leo move in across the lake from where Linda lives. Patra’s husband is a scientist and is often away for long periods of time doing research. To help her out, Linda becomes a babysitter to their four-year old son Paul. Paul seems a little different from other children. Without realising it, Linda becomes involved in something that will have a tremendous impact on the rest of her life. Showing everything through Linda’s eyes, Emily Fridlund is able to make the reader understand how difficult it is to decide whether and when to take action in a situation that doesn’t feel right.
2006, 289 pages, UK
Sir Edward Feathers, also called Old Filth (FILTH is an acronym for "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong) finds himself bereft of his beloved Betty in a beautiful house in Dorset at the age of 82. His next door neighbour is a widower as well and a former colleague. There was no love lost between them. But compelled by need they get in touch again and this seems the beginning of an ‘opening of shutters on the past that he (Edward) had kept clamped down.’ He was a Raj orphan brought up by foster parents in Wales. This period in particular left scars on his soul and had a huge impact on the rest of his life. In what way is for the reader to find out. Old Filth is the first of a trilogy and can be read independently. But the following two books might reveal the answers to some unresolved questions.
2017, 240 pages
This is a novel about refugees and migration. The protagonists of the book, Nadia and Saeed, become lovers. They are living in a besieged, unnamed city in the East. The horrors of the civil war are described vividly. As the situation deteriorates and becomes unbearable, they are forced to flee through 'magical doors', which transport individuals from one country to another. First they reach a refugee camp on the island of Mykonos. Then they move to London in an upscale mansion that has been taken over by other refugees. Finally they live in a shanty town in Marin, California. They are migrants among many other migrants, all trying to build a new life in those different places. This is a fascinating book about what's happening in the world right now, with migration, refugee crises and globalisation.
2017, 327 pages, UK-Scotland
Eleanor Oliphant’s life is built around routine and she does not live up to social expectations. She works as a finance clerk and keeps mostly to herself. When she coincidentally gets involved with Raymond, an IT guy at the office, she gradually discovers friendship and compassion. The book is divided into three parts: Good Days, Bad Days and Better Days. The first part depicts Eleanor’s weekly routine, providing an overview of who she is. Later on, it is revealed how things from the past have shaped her. Honeyman was discovered through a writing competition. Her debut novel is a very intriguing and heart-warming read. Although the book is at times hilarious, there is a darker undertone that makes the character of Eleanor feel very real.
2006, 276 pages, UK
Never Let Me Go is the story of Kathy and Tommy and Ruth, and of the love-triangle they begin at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School. Ruth is the controlling one, Tommy is the one who used to find it hard to keep his temper, and Kathy is a carer by nature as well as profession. They have heard that love - or art, or both - will get you a deferral. Kathy, now 31, is the narrator of the story, in which she tries to come to terms with her childhood, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends. A story of love, friendship and memory,’Never Let Me Go’ is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life. Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel prize in literature 2017, was praised by the Swedish Academy for novels which were driven by ‘great emotional force’.
Lindsey Lee Johnson
2017, 268 pages, US
In The Most Dangerous Place on Earth we get to know a group of high school students in Mill Valley, California. Their rich parents are so wrapped up in their own lives that they haven’t got a clue what their children are up to. Abigail has an affair with one of her teachers. Dave knows his parents want him to go to Berkeley, but also realises he won’t be able to achieve the necessary SAT score on his own. Nick is good at making money, whether he is selling lunches, papers on the internet or pills. Although everyone admires the beautiful Elisabeth, she doesn’t have any real friends. And then there’s Molly Nicoll, who recently graduated and has become their new English teacher, and really wants to connect with her students. This novel makes gripping reading and shows us the enormous influence that social media have on the lives of adolescents.
2017, 243 pages, Northern Ireland
Gerry and Stella, a retired Irish couple in their late sixties, set out for a holiday weekend in Amsterdam. They have an adult son living in Canada and one grandchild. The Troubles in Ireland were the reason they moved to Glasgow. Gerry used to be an architect and Stella was a school teacher. Initially we meet a couple whose relationship seems safe, easy and familiar. Soon though the reader learns about their secret thoughts and behaviour; about their traumatic experience of a bomb attack in Belfast and the impact it has had on their lives up to the present day. Gerry makes fun of her being a devout catholic. Stella knows that he drinks too much whisky. The couple are experts in avoiding talking about subjects that really bother them until it is bound to explode. MacLaverty describes the lives of ordinary people and succeeds in captivating the reader’s interest.
2016, 418 pages, UK
Against the background of an ever growing interest in scientific approach to discoveries, which lead people to gradually understand what happened to the planet during all the eras preceding ours, 19th century England still harbours rural communities in which superstitious beliefs in ghosts, ogres and monsters remain close to the surface. This is the world in which newly widowed Cora Seagrave and devout reverend William Ransome find themselves to be contestants about the persistent tale of a monster lurking in the Blackwater estuary of Essex. She wants to find the truth. He wants to protect his parishioners from pagan rites. Perry weaves a delightful hint of the "Gothic" through this tale of a Victorian but undaunted lady, who appears to have a soft spot for the village rector.
2017, 260 pages, British Pakistani
The story is told by the five main characters, all of whom are from a British-Pakistani Muslim background. Isma who, after the death of their mother, took care of her younger twin siblings and is now finally able to pursue an academic career in Massachusetts; Aneeka, the beautiful younger sister, who stays behind in London; Parvaiz, Aneeka’s twin brother, whose decision to follow in the footsteps of a father he has never known and join the Caliphate turns all their lives upside down; Eamonn, the son of the Home Secretary, who becomes involved with Aneeka, and Karamat Lone, Eamonn’s father, who has a point to prove. What makes ‘Home Fire’ particularly interesting is the way these five points of view provide the reader with a good insight into the different kinds of loyalty that play such an important part in the story, including being loyal to yourself, your family and your background.
2016, 256 pages, UK
This book tells the story of Gustav and Anton. Gustav grows up in the small village of Matzlingen in Switzerland during the Second World War. Gustav’s father died while his son was still very young. Anton meanwhile is from a wealthy Jewish family. Gustav and Anton become friends at kindergarten. Gustav protects Anton and is invited by the family to join them on trips. The boys differ in many ways. Although Anton is pushed by his mother to play the piano and his mother expects him to become a soloist, he will not be able to make a career as a pianist. Gustav grows up with his mother, who has to work hard for a living. He has questions about the death of his father, and about things that happened to his mother. For some time, Anton and Gustav lose sight of each other, but the loose ends ultimately come together. A beautiful novel written in clear and simple language reminiscent of the work of John Boyne.
2016, 306 pages, US
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, where life for the slaves is very hard. When Caesar, a new arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to try and escape. The Underground Railroad is a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems all right. Behind the city's quiet appearance however, a villainous plan is in place for its black inhabitants. Moreover, the relentless slave catcher Ridgeway, is on their track. As a result, Caesar and Cora are forced to flee again. Cora travels to North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana and the North, seeking true freedom in an odyssey through time and space. Whitehead re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era and which are still partly present today.