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Two Asian Authors

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Booking Through Thursday asks:

Quick–what are you reading right now? (Other than this question on this website, of course.) Would you recommend it? What’s it about?

I’m actually between books. I finished The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, which tells the story of a housekeeper and her son, and how they are drawn into the world of a brilliant professor of mathematics with severe memory impairment. Before she takes the job, the professor has rid of 9 housekeepers. Every morning the housekeeper, who narrates the story, has to introduce herself and her son to the professor all over again. He, in turn, as he does whenever he is stuck or flustered or has extended his 80-minute window, is likely to ask her shoe size or her telephone number. He always has something amazing to say about whatever number comes up. This book is very unique and original, and it reminds me of math classes in secondary school.

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng is shortlisted for Booker Prize this year. Set during the Japanese occupation, the second novel of the Malaysian writer follows young law graduate, Yun Ling Teoh, as she seeks solace among the plantations of the Cameron Highlands. Here she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the secretive Aritomo. Not only I am intrigued by the story and its historical backdrop, I’m very much taken up with Cameron Highlands, which I visited in winter 2007 on a two-week trip to Malaysia. High above the fog line, Cameron Highlands is a vast area of rolling green hills, tea plantations and forests stretching along the road through small towns.

7 Responses

  1. I’m currently reading the book Journey by G.A. Agambila…. Agambila is a Ghanaian writer. I will hesitate to recommend this book to another reader. It is not working well for me and even though I’m half-way past the middle, with less than 100 pages to go, I still don’t get the gist, or perhaps I’ll if I allow myself to think deep about it.

    Actually what is not working is the narrative style used by the author. He used the first person tone and wrote it in the present tense… and for a non-short story, for a novel, you really have to be very book to handle such a combination.

  2. A Chinese author who I love is Lisa See (“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” was my favorite of hers) and I have read many of her books!

  3. I’m collecting the Garden of Mists tomorrow from the library. I have read the first one. Subtle and even toned, meanings are sussed out from what is unspoken. I haven’t been to Cameron Highlands for 30 years. When I go home, I’ll make a trip up there again.

  4. Your review inspired me to reread favorite parts of The Housekeeper and the Professor. Such a touching, lovely book. Thank you for leading me back to it.

  5. I just finished “Please Look After Mom” by Shin, Kyung-Sook. This is her first novel that has been translated into English. In paperback, published by Vintage Contemporaries (Random House)–same publisher of Lisa See and Julie Otsuka; this novel was a finalist for the Man Asian Literary Prize. It is about deep family connections that are at the core of Korean culture and how they are affected by the modern world. This is my favorite book of 2012 so far. It is written in the second person, with each character narrating their own point of view of the events taking place in this family. I highly recommend this novel. Now, I want all her novels translated into English.

  6. Evidently, my paperback copy of “Please Look After Mom” was published before the announcement of the winner for the Man Asian Literary Prize–the decal on the book just noted “finalist”. After going online, I have discovered that Shin, Kyung-Sook was the 2011 winner–announced in March 2012. Hopefully, this win will encourage Random House to have her newest novel translated soon.

  7. I just bought Evening Mists and will get to it soon. Yours is not the first strong review I’ve heard / read of The Housekeeper and the Professor, so I’ll add it to my list. I’m reading Barry Unsworth’s The Quality of Mercy and liking it very much.

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