I finally finished a book this week. Actually, two! These were both books I had started a little while ago. Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World was about to expire and disappear from my e-reader after some 21 days of dipping into this fishy (sorry couldn’t help it) read. It was a little too detailed a read, a lot about fishing and of how cod affected world history (power to the fish!), but had some great moments and fascinating old recipes for cod.
Then with the baby up for a 6am feed, I managed to finish Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
I really have to admire what Flynn did with this story. It’s disturbing, thrilling and engrossing. Not so much because of where the story is going (you can kind of see that coming after a while), but because of the constant question in my head: What will Amy (and Nick) do next? I’m curious to see what Flynn’s previous books are like. Have you read them before? What did you think?
I realise also that counting book pages is not for me. I’ve got several books going at the same time as I always do, and can never really keep track of the number of pages I’ve read.
Ok so today’s discussion topic:
Share a quote from your current read or tell us about a book that really pulled on your heart strings. What was it about that book/quote that made you cry?
I had planned to post this review next week but I reckon it fits today’s topic best.
“We’re all in the end-of-our-life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”
Will Schwalbe’s mother is dying. Pancreatic cancer. And as they wait together for her chemotherapy, for her doctor’s appointments, they talk about the books that they’ve read, eventually reading a wide array of books over the two years. They discuss books such as The Uncommon Reader, Suite Francaise, On Chesil Beach, Big Machine, Crossing to Safety… etc. (A full list of books discussed can be found here)
“As long as she could read books in one sitting, the end wasn’t quite in sight.”
The books are a way of bonding between mother and son, but also for a kind of return to regular life for Mary Anne, who has led such an accomplished life, having been an advocate for women, children and adolescents affected by war and persecution, working as an electoral observer in the Balkans, and was even shot at in Afghanistan (the Guardian obituary is here). She even worked to fund a library in Afghanistan while she was sick.
Well I was prepared to shed tears (it is called The End of Your Life book club after all), I wasn’t prepared for the torrent.
I cried for my grandfather, who died of cancer when I was in university. I remembered his last days in hospital, more or less unconscious, surrounded by family, that immense sadness, the knowing, the waiting. Although it’s been more than ten years, I miss him.
I cried for my mum who flew back to Singapore a couple of weekends ago, after spending nearly three months with us to help out with the baby. I know that I’m lucky to have both my parents alive and well, but it’s hard when they live on the other side of the world.
But back to the book, which was full of bookish gems.
“Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence. Sure, sometimes they’ll elude you by hiding in improbable places: in a box full of old picture frames, say, or in the laundry basket, wrapped in a sweatshirt. But at other times they’ll confront you, and you’ll literally stumble over some tomes you hadn’t thought about in weeks or years. I often seek electronic books, but they never come after me. They may make me feel, but I can’t feel them. They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight. They can get in your head but can’t whack you upside it.”
“She never wavered in her conviction that books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books, in whatever format you choose—electronic (even though that wasn’t for her) or printed, or audio—is the grandest entertainment, and also is how you take part in the human conversation. Mom taught me that you can make a difference in the world and that books really do matter: they’re how we know what we need to do in life, and how we tell others. Mom also showed me, over the course of two years and dozens of books and hundreds of hours in hospitals, that books can be how we get closer to each other, and stay close, even in the case of a mother and son who were very close to each other to begin with, and even after one of them has died.”