3-Star Books I Kept Because of a Specific Feature

A few years ago, I decided against keeping on my shelves all of the books that I read. First, I gave away almost all of the books that I read when I was a child and a teenager. I only kept the ones that I assumed I would still enjoy if I ever read them again as an adult. Then I decided to only keep the books that I enjoyed or loved, that is to say the ones that I rated with either four or five stars, plus some special three-star reads.

You may be wondering what makes a three-star book special. It has to fall within at least one of a couple of categories: having been almost a 4-star read, which was the case of Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors and The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis; being part of a collection, such as the Penguin English Library, or of a book series which I enjoy in general; or featuring a specific element that stood out to me because of how well it was crafted. I also used to keep 3-star books by authors whose work I overall cherish, but I only do so now when they fit into one of the previous categories.

The eight books below stood out from other 3-star reads because they feature a character that I loved, an interesting structure, an intriguing narrator, a tangible array of feelings or one strand of many that I highly enjoyed. Continue reading

Writing the Seasons with Books: Autumn

This year, instead of recommending books that some people may deem appropriate to read during a specific season, I’m writing the four seasons with books. I take a look at my shelves and select books with titles beginning with the letters of the name of the season that is just starting. And the time has come to welcome autumn! Temperatures have started to slowly drop. The leaves of the trees are getting ready to fall.

 

Autumn by Ali Smith

This was the first book that I read by Ali Smith. It’s not easy to describe what Autumn is about, as it mixes a couple of elements. Not only does it compile recollections about how 101-year-old Daniel Gluck, who lives in a care home, influenced Elisabeth Demand’s life, it also alludes to a variety of current events. Brexit, the plight of refugees and various economic issues connect this novel to the time of its writing.

 

Uma Casa na Escuridão by José Luís Peixoto

The Portuguese author José Luís Peixoto penned a hugely implausible story that doesn’t aim to be anything else. The plot of this novel, which hasn’t been translated into English yet as far as I know, is merely used as a way to convey feelings – love, jealousy, fear, suffering and solitude. Although I struggled to finish it, I truly cared for the characters and enjoyed the poetic prose. Continue reading

‘Uma Casa na Escuridão’ by José Luís Peixoto

My rating: 3 stars

I have a complicated reading relationship with the Portuguese author José Luís Peixoto. I loved the first book I read by him – Livro – and mildly enjoyed the second one – Cemitério de Pianos (The Piano Cemetery in the English translation). And what about Uma Casa na Escuridão? This is one of the most absurd books I’ve ever read. The story being told isn’t plausible and doesn’t aim to be. The plot is a tool to express feelings: love, jealousy, fear, suffering and solitude. Being this a strange and complicated book, I struggled to finish it. Nevertheless, it had an impact on me.

The story is narrated in the first person by a nameless writer. He lives with his mother, who is quite debilitated, in a house full of cats. During a sleepless night, he imagines a woman who inspires him to write a book. She becomes so real that he falls in love with her. The more he writes about her and his feelings the more he loves her. He even feels jealousy when his editor, who is imprisoned, reads the first pages of the book he is working on.

When the editor dies in prison and the narrator goes to the funeral, accompanied with a childhood friend named as ‘príncipe de calicatri’, he sees on one of the many gravestones the picture of a woman who looks exactly the same as the one he has imagined, what deeply unsettles him. The story starts getting darker and stranger. Disturbing events take place, and various forms of love develop into pain. Continue reading