I took three books with to Denmark and read two of them which is quite a good sign – I had enough time to read, which I love, but I was clearly not bored and needing something to do!
The two I read were both great, which is nice because when I was in Morocco I took a book that pissed me off so much that I sulked and ranted to Rasmus for a good fifteen minutes. No one ever likes to be disappointed by a book.
The first I read was “The Bonesetter’s Daughter” by Amy Tan. It’s set between modern-day California and China a few generations ago. It follows the life of Lu-Ling, a Chinese woman born in rural China who eventually moves to California and has a daughter, Ruth. The book is set when Ruth is in her forties and her mother begins to lose her memory. She starts to translate her mother’s life story and discovers a whole life she knew nothing about and explanations for her mother’s behaviour as she grew up.
The story is tragic and terribly sad in parts, the women characters in China suffering such a great deal that you begin to believe in the system of curses and blessings they live under and wonder how they will ever escape. The details describing life in rural China are beautiful so that the whole dusty difficult land comes alive on the page. The relationship between Ruth and her mother is complicated but realistic. And the resolution of the story is satisfying and perhaps even redeeming.
(Tangent: I’ve been reading a lot of daughters books recently. This one, this one, this one and now this one – they’ve all been good, and there’s more I want to read so it must be a good sign to call your book something like this…)
The second book I read I enjoyed even more. Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant is set in the 16th century in a Benedictine convent in Ferrera, Italy. A young novice enters the convent against her will and the calm but fragile peace of the place is threatened. Most of the story centres around another nun, Sister Zuana, who runs the dispensary and feels drawn to this new novice’s journey.
There’s an undertone of suspense throughout the whole book and the relationships between the different nuns are related with realism and sympathy. I really enjoy books that explore how women interact with each other and a book set in a closed convent is by nature unfolding that theme. I also really appreciated how Dunant dealt with the nun’s spirituality and faith – showing the false for what it was while allowing space for true faith and piety without scepticism.