‘Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai’

For once, I’m speechless! I have NO clue where to begin about this book, it is powerful, beautiful, tragic, harrowing and an absolutely wonderful read!

What you can’t tell from the visual above is the beautiful foil detailing, which I am told is done using a matte foil to give a more antique-y feel. It is an absolutely beautiful cover, designed by Yeti Lambregts at Headline and I can’t wait to get a hardback copy for my shelves!

I’ve made a semi-radical decision…I’m not going to give ANYTHING away about this book because you simply MUST read this when it is published! You won’t regret it! All I will say is that if you enjoy books like A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Calligrapher’s Daughter…you will relish every page of this book and be touched by the story of its heroine Kozaisho.

The hardback will be published 05.07.12 (ISBN: 9780755389254) and the paperback will follow 17.01.13 (ISBN: 9780755389285) but it is a wonderful book that you must read!

‘The Last Kestrel’

Dear reader…I have committed the ultimate book review blog faux pas…I forgot to review a book that I’d read…and also forgot that I’d read it!

The thing is, I really enjoyed The Last Kestrel by Jill McGivering! It is a brilliant book for fans of A Thousand Splendid Suns and To the end of the land! I feel truly awful for forgetting about it!

Unlike the two books mentioned above, this book shows the conflicts in Afghanistan from two perspectives. The first is the story of Ellen Thomas, an experienced war correspondent, determined to find out who murdered her friend Jalil (a translator) and the second narrative thread belongs to Hasina…a strong-willed Afghan woman who discovers that her only son Aref is part of an underground fighter movement and despite the tragedy and horror around her, is determined to protect him whatever the cost. The two lives interweave “with startling consequences for them both”…

This is a wonderful, although harrowing read and you can tell that McGivering has a lot of experience in journalism and foreign news correspondence, which adds to the quality of the writing style.

‘Burnt Shadows’

After reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and being completely enthralled, I was keen to read something in the same vein…so I chose ‘Burnt Shadows’ by Kamila Shamsie and was not disappointed. Described on the jacket by the Daily Telegraph as ‘A historical novel for our times’ and Emma Thompson as ‘Completely authentic, complex and breath-stopping’; I was really looking forward to reading ‘Burnt Shadows’ and for good reason!

The novel opens with two thoughtful poems, which hint at the story to come. One, by Agha Shahid Ali from A Nostalgist’s Map of America, which invokes a fear of loss and realisation of everything that is lost and the other by Sahir Ludhianvi called Parchaiyann, which notes the fact that ‘in past wars only homes burnt, but this time…don’t be surprised if even shadows ignite.’ Both poems leave you feeling reflective and the words remain in the back of your mind as the novel begins…

Our protagonist in ‘Burnt Shadows’ is Hiroko Tanaka, a young Japanese woman who is on the verge of marrying Konrad Weiss. She is 21 when suddenly a bomb is dropped on Nagasaki and extinguishes everything and everyone she has ever known. All that remains are bird-shaped burns on her back as a permanent reminder of what she has lost.  Hiroko travels to Delhi to find Konrad’s relatives and finds a friend in Konrad’s sister, Elizabeth Burton and finds herself in love again with one of Elizabeth’s employees, Sajjad.

So much happens in ‘Burnt Shadows’ and we follow Hiroko from Nagasaki, to India, to New York and then to Afghanistan after 9/11. But at no point, do we feel lost. In fact, the shadows of history that reverberate throughout the novel, link Hiroko and Elizabeth’s families and it becomes clear that in the face of adversity, you can find love and happiness again, although the burnt shadows will always be there.

This is a fantastic book, which takes you on a fascinating journey through key moments of history, through the eyes of someone who had experienced them first-hand and yet continues to look to the future, for the sake of her family, her friends and her sanity. An amazing selection of characters, an incredible book!

‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’

‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ is the second novel by Khaled Hosseini and I absolutely LOVED it! The novel focuses around the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women from completely different backgrounds who are forced to share the same house with the same cruel man, Rasheed. They endure tragedy, pain and heartbreak in more ways than it is possible to imagine…some moments are difficult to read because it is hard to comprehend that the human body can bear such cruelty. 

Throughout the novel, Mariam and Laila’s lives become further entwined and they find comfort in each others company and strength against their mutual enemy. There are so many facets of human nature explored in this book, Hosseini identifies the underlying issues that plague Afghan households as well as showing the effect of years of war, political conflict and the increasing threat of the Taliban.

‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ is a beautifully tragic novel which undoubtedly shows the triumph of love and heroism in the face of death, destruction and unbearable heartache and it is a must-have for every bookshelf!