*121* what I read on holiday

Books, books, let’s talk about books again because it’s been a while and I have lots of them to share with you lovely people. Assuming there’s someone out there..

So, three books in just over two weeks isn’t bad going, but let’s face it, there were two long flights, lots of train journeys and a fiendish jet lag to deal with; all that equal a lot of reading time.

First up, a birthday present from my sister in law, is ‘The Pillow Book’ by Sei Shonagon. It was written by a gentlewoman at the Court of the Japanese Emperoro in around the turn of the last century (966-1017 circa) and it’s like a fascinating ‘diary’ of sort describing life among the nobles: their clothes are described in exquisites details, the poetry they wrote, the music, the day to day minutiae of people who let’s be frank… had not much to do. It offers a candid glimpse of the relationship between men and women, between different ranks and it is sometimes funny, sometimes a little snobby, sometimes very personal…

It’s very different from anything I’d ever read and I had to refer to the copious notes a lot – especially in deciphering all the reference to ‘classic japanese poems and people rank’s orders etc – which did slow down the narrative somewhat, but without doing that most of it would have been slightly incomprehensible. It was a good read to take whilst travelling through the country, that’s for sure.

“Pleasing things: finding a large number of tales that one has not read before. Or acquiring the second volume of a tale whose first volume one has enjoyed. But often it is a disappointment.”

The next book couldn’t be more different. ‘Hiroshima’ by John Hersey. Written the year after the bombing and subsequently updated, it follows four real life people from the fatal morning all the way through the rest of their lives. Hersey is a journalist and his style is unsentimental and factual… but the words speak for themselves. It was terrible events, unimaginable in destruction and pain.

“The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good might result? When will our moralists give us an answer to this question?”

I had terrible jet-lag for the whole of the first week in Japan… I seem to be the only one not being able to sleep past 2 or 3 o’clock each night and because I didn’t want to wake up Mr M by turning the light on I simply grabbed my kindle and read… I have to be honest, I only read my kindle when on holiday… there’s nothing like the actual feel of paper in your hand, but in these situations it’s perfect. I opted for ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller… and you know what? I was a little ‘meh’ about it. I loved ‘Songs of Achilles’, I loved ‘The secret of the girls’… this one left me a little cold. Also, her voice is very samey samey (technical term) and I couldn’t take myself away from her latest book I read and fully immerse myself in this one. Or maybe it was the subject matter I didn’t gel with. I don’t know. I’m glad I read it I suppose, but I don’t feel I can recommend it as strongly as her other books.

… and this is it… what have you read on holiday?

Do you like reading books written by ‘local’ authors if you go abroad? or set in the country/town/place you’re travelling or staying?

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