Saturday, 16 January 2016

Reads for 2016

This year I'm keeping it very simple. Over on my PhD blog, Care Leavers in Fiction, I have a tab 'Orphan Lit' where I have begun to review just that. I will begin 2016, by reading books about orphans, foundlings and abandoned children. Starting with:

My January read for #ReadDiverse2016

Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie

I first heard an extract from Butterfly Fish at last year's Finchley Literary Festival. I knew immediately that Irenosen had the gift for storytelling. It's been on my #TBR list since then. The narrative travels back and forth from 21st century London to the 19th century kingdom of Benin with a splash of magical realism. As photographer Joy, now an orphan, tries to make sense of her dead mother's past.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. The title grabbed my attention some time ago, Christmas book tokens meant it crossed off my #TBB list.

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

My Name is Leon, features a child in foster care. Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. This book has had a huge amount of interest and it isn't even due to be published until June! I'm very lucky to have received a copy from Penguin so will get to reading that immediately.

Under the Visible Life by Kim Echlin

Fatherless Katherine carries the stigma of her mixed-race background through an era that is hostile to her and all she represents. It is only through music that she finds the freedom to temporarily escape and dream of a better life for herself. Orphaned Mahsa also grows up in the shadow of loss, sent to relatives in Pakistan after the death of her parents. She finds herself forced into an arranged marriage. For Mahsa, too, music becomes her solace and allows her to escape from her oppressive circumstances.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Orphaned and alone in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

The story of a boy who is chronically, outrageously abused by a series of adults tasked with his care, and his struggles to forget the nightmare of his childhood. I usually steer clear of books about abuse, but as this was shortlisted for the Man Booker, and there has been a lot of discussion about it, I feel I will learn a lot from the writing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The original title in Swedish is Men who hate Women. is a crime novel by the Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) which, when published posthumously in 2005, became a best-seller. As a child, Salander was declared a danger to herself and others by the court at age thirteen, and sent for treatment at the St. Stefan's Psychiatric Clinic for Children. She was eventually allowed out she was sent to various foster homes. Larsson stated that he based the character of Lisbeth Salander on what he imagined Pippi Longstocking might have been like as an adult. I've seen the film and have been wanting to read this for some time.

Borderline's by Peter Hoeg

When I asked Twitter if anyone knew of any fiction with care leavers. Dr Yvon Guest, recommended Borderline's by Peter Hoeg. Yvon said: It was mind blowing. And that it changes one's perception of time.

The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata

Recommended by Murni, one of the Greenacre Writers, when we were discussing orphans in literature. This book is partly autobiographical, and tells the story of a group of ten children, all from impoverished backgrounds who attend a small local school. Corrupt officials want to close the school down, but the children and their dedicated teacher Bu Mas who is just fifteen years old when the novel opens, triumph on. I'm looking forward to reading about Lintang, orphan and maths genius.

The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury

Katharine Norbury was abandoned as a baby in a Liverpool convent. Raised by loving adoptive parents, she grew into a wanderer, drawn by the beauty of the British countryside. Combining travelogue, memoir, nature writing, fragments of poetry and tales from Celtic mythology, The Fish Ladder has a rare emotional resonance. A portrait of motherhood, of a literary marriage and a hymn to the adoptive family.

Happy Reading everyone!!!

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