In 2004 Lee wrote one of the year’s best books, Aloft. If you haven’t read it, try to get a copy, because it’s one of my top ten books of all time. His new book arrived yesterday, The Surrendered. It’s another breathtaking book. The story starts in Korea at the end of the Korean War. Three children have jumped on a train to head south and escape the fighting. Tragedy strikes, and June, the oldest sister, is left to continue her journey alone. She is placed in an orphanage run by American missionaries – she’s a very agressive, angry child but becomes friends with an American ex serviceman who arranges for her to migrate to America. The woman in the middle of this relationship is Sylvie, the beautiful, damaged missionary wife. Then thirty six years on we meet June, who is dying, and who wants to return to confront her past. This is a must read.
I’ve really enjoyed Andrea Levy’s new novel, The Long Song, set in Jamaica in the early 1800s. Kitty is a slave on a sugar plantation, she is rather gently assaulted while she is working by the overseer, and her daughter July is the result. This is really July’s story, from her childhood, her separation from her mother because the plantation owner’s sister thought she would be a cute companion, her time in the big house, the slaves’ revolt and finally the freedom granted begrudgingly by England. Levy makes this whole period come alive – at times I laughed out loud at the tricks July got up to. Andrea will be in Sydney shortly and she’ll be interesting to listen to. This book is loosely based on her family history.
Tim Farnsworth is a very successful corporate lawyer with a high profile New York company. He has a typical teenage daughter and a wife who has survived a bout with cancer. Tim’s problem is that he has been struck twice before with a mystifying illness that makes him leave everything – job, family, corporate life – and walk until his body gives out. Then he sleeps wherever he falls down. He’s been four years free of this until one day Tim rings his wife and says ”It’s back’. The tragic thing is that Tim has no option – he has to obey his body and walk. And this raises the question – how long does his wife have to keep supporting him emotionally, and how long does he have to keep trying to fight this illness. A book that gives you much to think about.