I was in New York quite a few years ago, Mr M was there for work and I played ‘corporate wife’… ie went around museums and walked miles and miles and showed up for business dinners. It was fun. Anyway, I stumbled upon this lovely bookstore, wooden shelves, soft carpet, just the right amount of darkness and light, hush tones and buzz… I can’t remember the name, but I got chatting with the owner, a very dignified old gentleman that probably had read more books in his life that I could ever aspire to and was very gracious with all my questions… we talked books, especially all the New York authors – I was really into Paul Auster at the time, still am, he’s a great writer, and he recommended a few others.

He really impressed on my how important it is to read a local author when travelling, or a novel set in the location at least, in order to get a new perspective, a diverse point of view.

Reading Celestial Bodies was a real eye opener. It made me realised how I only read books from British and American writers with he odd Italian one thrown into the mix, and actually there’s a whole world out there full of amazing novels that are just waiting to be discovered…

Shockingly shortsighted on my part.

This novel follows the life of three sisters in Oman, and touches on their customs and traditions, their marriages and the life of the people around them too. The chapters alternate between their stories and ones narrated in the first person by the husband of one of them, Abdullah, raised by his cruel father’s slave (and lover) after his own mother had died in childbirth. It won the International Booker Prize in 2016 and it was quite a challenging read not only because of the subject matter, but also the way it was structured was different from what I’m used to. Simple things like the richness of the descriptions, the mentions of beliefs and rituals, the history of the country I knew absolutely nothing about, and even the structure of the sentences was different.

Oman is such a mystery to me, and reading this book left me with a keen desire to actually travel properly and see more of this beautiful country. The fact that the food is amazing … does help!

Any foreign books you would recommend?

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