Elise's favourites ... (or not)

Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

This story tells about Saeed and Nadia, a young couple, taking a chance at fleeing their country, after hearing rumors of black doors appearing where normal doors used to be. Black doors lead you to different places on earth. To reach one, you have to be quick, because when the army hears about them, it could cause you a lot of trouble. Saeed and Nadia manage to reach a door and start their journey. The book tells about the toll the constant fear and distrust has on their relationship and on the community in its entirety.

Exit West is a fascinating book, even though its characters are a bit flat. I would have liked to learn a bit more about Saeed's and Nadia's motives for the choices they make (or do not make). The black doors make this book about refugees a refreshing one, bringing a new perspective on the refugee problem.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer/Annie Barrows

I normally do not trust books with funny names. Usually the books prove to be ridiculous, sometimes even bad. I decided to try this one, because I heard that it consisted solely of letters written by and to the main character of Juliet Ashton, author and journalist. One day about a year after WWII, Juliet receives a letter written by Dawsey Adams, who lives on the island of Guernsey. Dawsey has somehow managed to get hold of one of Juliet's old books written by Charles Lamb containing her address. Being charmed by Lamb’s writing, Dawsey decides to write to Juliet asking for more of his books, since buying them in Guernsey seems impossible.

A lively correspondence leads to Juliet travelling to Guernsey and writing a book about life on the island during the German occupation, which on the one hand gives the reader a very interesting insight into the way of life during the occupation but on the other hand, does not change the fact that the book is and always will be about a romance. Fun to read, but very predictable. The book has been made into a film, which can be seen in Pathé cinemas.


The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

In this beautiful novel Benjamin tells us the story of his family at a time when his father is called away to the city. Benjamin has three older brothers, Ikenna, Boja and Obembe. Left to their own devices the boys decide to go fishing in the forbidden river, calling themselves The Fishermen. It is on one of those days the boys happen upon a local madman. But is he mad, or a prophet? The man predicts that Ikenna will be killed. “Ikenna, you shall die by the hands of a fisherman.” Wondering if this means Ikenna will be killed by one of his own brothers, the bond between the boys breaks. A chain of events follows: tragic, heartbreaking, but also magical and mythical.

This book is set in Nigeria. It is filled with the rich tradition known in this African country. The life and upbringing of the boys is full of magic, folklore and the old religion of the indigenous peoples, mixed with the new Christian religion. A fascinating and compelling story, beautifully written by Chigozie Obioma. (This book is already on our list: E16-08)


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Imagine you are living in Soviet Russia in the 1920s. You are a known poet and you are being sentenced to a lifetime of house arrest in the attic of the Metropol hotel in Moscow. This is how Amor Towles’ book begins. So, what do you think this book is about? That’s right, it is about the life of the poet in question, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov. Small bits about his past, but mostly about his life in the Metropol hotel up until the 50s.

What happens in a hotel over a period of 30 years? Not much. The Count is lucky to be staying in a hotel that includes a hairdresser, two restaurants and a bar. He fills his days in an orderly fashion. Every week is the same. This makes the pace of the story slow, but if you think about quitting: don’t! Please, try to wrestle through the parts of the book that drag on and experience the perfect, unexpected ending. In the last 100 pages your whole view of the Count and his orderly life in the Metropol will change drastically. You will most definitely love it! I’ll guarantee that!


The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

It's winter. In my opinion at least… Christmas trees, candles, festive music everywhere. I associate all of this with love and warmth. And what goes better with that but a book about love? No, not your everyday romance story, I am talking about The Course of Love, written by Alain de Botton, a British philosopher and author. I did not really know what to expect of this book before starting to read it. Would it be a philosophical account of love? Or perhaps a novel? A little bit of both!

This book is about Rabih and Kirsten. They are introduced to us when they first meet and we follow them far into their marriage. We go through good and bad times with them. In between the story, Alain de Botton explains to us the course of love. A realistic view of love and relationships. A view that is nothing like what we see in movies.

A very interesting and from time to time revealing work. The book is easy to read because Rabih and Kirstens story is split into small parts by the philosophical musings of De Botton. This story feels real, sometimes poignant, sometimes heartwarming. A fine piece of work!

Elise Kleuskens,
Department of English Literature