The lockdown librarian - part 2
Thought you'd read it all? The Luxembourg Times asked its culture squad to each pick five favourite books. Sarita Rao - who needs no introduction in Luxembourg's expat community - wisely let her family have a say.
A pocketful of stars – Aisha Bushby
This is the 10-year-old’s choice, and it must be good, because I caught her crying and laughing whilst reading it. It’s about a girl Safiya whose mother ends up in a coma, just after they’ve had a fight. Every time she visits her mother in hospital, Safiya enters her mother’s memories. She plays a game of collecting objects, which she hopes will save her mother. The main character is “quite introverted, but she doesn’t judge people. She stays loyal, but she cries a lot and sometimes she doesn’t talk to people when she should,” says my daughter.
It’s a page turner, with each chapter ending on a cliff-hanger, and the character of the mother Aminah, as a child, is feisty and confident. The plot is also fast-moving, jumping between London in the present day and Aminah’s memories of Kuwait.
The Diary of a young girl – Anne Frank
My 12-year-old has been studying the Second World War at school, but says this book, more than the others she has read, is the perfect one for lockdown, because Anne is in isolation, hiding from the Nazis.
She has noticed some surprising similarities: “The way Anne misses her friends and going to school. But then again, she cannot go outside or make a noise when she’s stuck inside.”
My daughter likes it because the book contains Anne’s unfiltered thoughts. It’s both relatable and very sad, but also uplifting.
“You can see how isolation affects people. But the book also reminds my generation to remember the atrocities of the past, and to make sure they don’t happen again,” she says.
Where the crawdads sing – Delia Owens
The language in this novel - my own choice - is reminiscent of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, complete with a courtroom drama. Set in the 1950s and 1960s in North Carolina, the story focuses on Kya, left alone to grow up in the isolated marshland area outside of town, at the age of 6 years. The narrative weaves from 1969 and a police investigation, back to the previous decade, where we witness Kya grow into a woman, surviving and even thriving in her wild marsh home.
The novel ticks all the boxes of a good read, and even incorporates a love story and murder mystery. It’s beautifully written with the language defining the main characters and their social standing at a time when African Americans did not have a vote, and poor white Americans were treated badly by other classes.
It is a story about how a girl survives in almost complete isolation, but loneliness in the end becomes her downfall.
Liberators: South America’s savage wars of freedom – Robert Harvey
My husband’s first choice is the story of the various revolutionaries in Latin America who fought for freedom from the Spanish empire in the 19th century. There’s plenty of in-depth research into the lives and struggles of these heroic men, for the history nerds out there. “But it’s not a dusty old history book,” assures my husband, adding: “It’s a rollicking read and not so far from Europe as you’d imagine.”
The characters include the Scottish Laird, Lord Cochrane, and the Viceroy for Spain, Irishman Ambrosio O’Higgins and his revolutionary son Bernardo. “You won’t want to put it down, and even when you’ve finished, you’ll want to refer back to it. It certainly puts lockdown into perspective.”
The book thief – Markus Zusak
My husband once read this book himself and then more recently to our 12-year-old. “I don’t read a lot of fiction, but this is one of the best pieces I’ve ever read,” he says.
Set in a village near Munich during the Second World War, the story is narrated by Death, who is fixated with a 10-year-old girl, Liesel, and her adoptive family. She’s precociously intelligent and her adoptive father soon realizes her potential. In Nazi Germany most books are burned, so Liesel and her friend, a young boy, take to stealing books. Told by Death, the book gives some chilling insights into the nature of humanity.
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