2022 hasn’t been as productive as the last year in terms of reading, and that for multiple reasons, which include having to sacrifice my reading time for the sake of writing my dissertation and some personal issues. Regardless, while I haven’t read that many books – which is fine – there have been a couple of memorable ones. More specifically, I picked three books I loved reading and will remember for a long time. These include a debut novel from a Dutch writer, a poetry collection from a Vietnamese American poet and a short story based on various myths.
The Discomfort of Evening – Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
My favourite novel – and book – read this year is Rijneveld’s debut novel, which focuses on the life of a ten-year old girl growing up in a Reformed family on a dairy farm in the Dutch countryside. A novel concerned with instability and mental health, it outshines every novel I’ve read in the past couple of years. If I’m frank, even now, after one week of finishing it, I find it difficult to pen down how I truly feel about it and every feeling it managed to awaken in the heart of the reader. However, unsettling, audacious, grim and visceral would be words suitable for describing it. I’ve even managed to personalize my edition (in Romanian) in Santorini: while reading it on the beach, I spilled my Irish coffee on it, which, as it was hot, melted parts of the dust jacket and stained the pages. Regardless, it only made the book more valuable to me.
Night Sky With Exit Wounds – Ocean Vuong
As I mentioned in another post, one of the resolutions I’ve set for this year is to read more poetry, which eventually led me to discovering Ocean Vuong. Some poems in his collection focus on the Vietnam War and the poet’s life experiences as a refugee while others take the 9/11 attacks, metal health, sex and sexuality, gender and the search for identity as their subject. Regardless of this, all of them grip you from the very start and the use of language, the countless biblical allusions and underlying experiences immerse the reader into every piece of the collection. If anything, there is a particular fragility conveyed through Vuong’s raw honesty that characterizes each poem. I can’t praise this volume enough and I can’t recommend it fully; however, be aware of its contents and the fact that it’s not an easy read.
Galatea – Madeline Miller
Galatea is a story of entrapment, desperation and, ultimately, liberation, which, to a certain degree, outshines the works of most authors I have read. While the retelling is a masterpiece itself, what pushed this book to the top 3 I’ve read in 2022 (so far) is how Miller succeeds at conveying a specific tension I haven’t felt in a long time through her approach to the male desire, womanhood and the challenges women have to face because of the objectification they are subjected to. The writing is quite lyrical, which is always a plus and something I analyse when reading; however, the uniqueness of the short narrative is offered by the manner in which she takes a mythological female character and gives her a voice while disassembling the happy ending the original myth attributes to Galatea.