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“Are you the last person in New York still taking out library books?” Mr. Big asked Carrie in the first Sex and the City film. This is how I feel every time I go to the library and find myself browsing the shelves alone, without anybody else in the room.
It truly seems like there are less and less people going to the library these days, with books available online in audio or e-book format. However, as much as I enjoy listening to audiobooks and reading on the go (with so many books conveniently available in one tiny device), I still prefer turning actual, paper pages of physical books. Also, I can’t really afford to buy EVERY book I like in my favourite bookshop, so library is the way to go.
I think my library membership also makes me a more adventurous reader. I just pick anything that looks interesting with the knowledge that if I don’t like it, I can return the book without feeling guilty for not finishing it. So far though, most of my discoveries have been a pleasant surprise rather than disappointment. These are the library books I’ve borrowed, read and loved recently:
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
In an attempt to expand my vocabulary, I read this book in Russian. This means that I’m probably not quite capable of fully appreciating the beautiful style of writing Murakami’s famous for. But still, I enjoyed reading this novel, getting to know all the characters (my favourite was definitely Midori!) and looking into the life of Japanese students in the late 1960s. As a bildungsroman – a novel that follows the protagonist as he grows from adolescence to adulthood – Norwegian Wood is not just a story about growing up, but also a story of love, loss, friendship, sex, death and mental illness. Haruki Murakami managed to fit all of this in less than 400 pages. In the process of telling his story, he also showed me Japan, a country I definitely want to visit one day. In the meantime, I’m just going to read more of his works…
The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek
Before I saw this one on the “Books in German” shelf, I’d already read Die Liebhaberinnen, so I knew what to expect. I knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy read and I didn’t pick this book to read a beautifully written romance. Jelinek tells it like it is, and her characters aren’t likeable at all. There’s the manipulative, controlling mother who has a complicated relationship with her daughter, the piano teacher Erika. Erika is submissive, obeying her mother’s strict rules but also secretly rebellious with some twisted sexual fantasies. The third major character is Erika’s young student, who relentlessly pursues her. The plot is built around these three characters and their relationships, but Jelinek sometimes returns back into the past, describing events of Erika’s childhood. These helped me to understand why Erika was the way she was and how her relationship with her mother became so toxic.
Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante
This is the only work of Ferrante I’ve read so far, but I already understand why everyone loves her so much. Set in Naples, this short novel explores the relationship between mother (Amelia) and daughter (Delia) in the course of many years. When Amelia is suddenly found dead, having drowned in the sea, Delia returns to her childhood home in Naples to find out more about the mysterious circumstances of her mother’s death. Switching back and forth between the present and the past, Ferrante tells the tale of love, jealousy, abuse and family secrets. This short novel is a very gripping read – it’s mysterious and honest, real and dreamy. Even though I’ve never been in Naples, I could feel the atmosphere of the city through the pages. Troubling Love certainly wasn’t my last read by Ferrante and I’m already looking forward to more!