Wow, it’s already April! My birthday month! I didn’t read as much as I wanted to this past month, but a ton of great Netflix shows have been keeping me busy. My March reading round-up is a mixed bag. I read a graphic novel, a novel translated from its original French, a collection of personal stories, and a biography of a woman who survived an animal attack.
The Woman Who Lost Her Face: How Charla Nash Survived the World’s Most Infamous Chimpanzee Attack – Meredith Vieira
I had this on my Kindle and needed something to beef up my reading count, and I read this in one evening. It was a news story on NBC a few years ago, hosted by Meredith Vieira, a famous journalist. The story revolves around Charla Nash, a woman who had her face ripped off by a chimpanzee. I lived down the road from a lady who owned a chimp, and I remember my dad telling me they are dangerous to keep as pets, but I was shocked by this true story. Despite the attack leaving her without hands or a face, she survived and endured dozens of surgeries and a face transplant. This story really exhibits the strength humans have to survive in the face of terrible situations. I wish nothing but the best, most peaceful life for Charla and her daughter.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
This was the first book I read for my personal European books in translation list. This book was written by a French woman, translated into English from French by Alison Anderson. I’m planning on visiting Paris this year with my husband, so I was excited to delve into French literature. I heard a lot of great things about this book and was excited to read it. Honestly, it took me a long time to get through the first half of the book. Not that it wasn’t good – I loved it!
There are two main characters, and the book is told in a sort of diary form through both of them. They live in the same building and are very similar. Actually, I thought they were the same person for a while.
It starts out with Renee (my middle name!!) who is a 40-something widow who works as a concierge in a sort of condo/apartment complex. This was a strange concept to me as an American, but it was easy enough to grasp. To the residents of the building, she maintains a dull façade, blaring monotonous TV in the front room where people pass by. However, she is an intellectual who escapes, when no one is around, to her back room to read literature, poetry, philosophy, and to watch Japanese cinema.
The other main character is Paloma, a middle-school-aged girl from a rich family. She lives in the building with her mother, father, and annoying older sister, Colombe. The reason I thought she was the same as Renee at first was because the book went from Renee talking about her job to a journal entry of a young girl living in the same building. She didn’t say her name for a while, so I assumed it was Renee from the past. It was confusing, and it was a good way through the book until I realized what was going on.
Paloma writes in a journal and says a lot of crazy things, like how her sister is pretentious and how her mom takes a lot of anxiety medication, and how she plans on killing herself. Not because she’s depressed, but because she doesn’t want to live past her “golden age” in a sorts. However, she loves learning and considers her the smartest one in her family. She even talks about learning Japanese in order to read manga (something I can definitely relate to!)
The story picks up halfway through and I read the last portion really quickly. I loved this book so much. It was a great introduction to French literature – a little quirky, fun, and the characters were endearing and lovable. It was also suspenseful and heartbreaking, though, and I wasn’t prepared for the ending. I’m so glad I read this as my French book and I plan on watching the movie adaptation.
Move Abroad in Your 20s: 13 Personal Travel Stories to Inspire You to Travel the World – Jason Berkeley and Laura Gibbs
This was a collection of stories written by people who either studied or worked or traveled abroad in their 20s, and as a 20-something who has done all of those things, I could relate so much to each and every story. Some of the stories were set in Europe, others in Asia, some in North America, but all of them were heartfelt and honest and it was just so cool to read other accounts of people moving abroad and what they went through. Some had amazing, wonderful trips, and others were in nightmarish situations. Some wrote about nostalgia, others excitement and hope. It was a quick read, one that I’d recommend to any soon-to-be graduate or anyone who has lived in a foreign country!
Ghost World – Daniel Clowes
When I visited the States last fall, I was able to visit a local comic book shop near my mom’s house. It was so much fun and I wish we had more small, indie comic book shops in Korea. Although, comic books here are all in Korean, and I’d rather read Marvel in English! Anyway, I bought a few comics and a couple volumes Spiderman/Deadpool and then for Christmas, I asked for a few graphic novels. Then, I was in Seoul visiting What the Book – an English bookstore in Itaewon, and I saw Ghost World. It had been on my wish list for a while, and I didn’t have it, so I bought it.
However, I was very disappointed. In Korea, you can’t open books with a lot of pictures in them because they are often sealed in plastic. I just went off some Amazon reviews and the cover, which is cotton candy pink and blue with two girls on it. It looked retro and cool, kind of like Scott Pilgrim.
I read it recently and hated it. The book has a lot of cussing, which I’m normally fine with, but I was a teenager in the 90s and I didn’t know anyone who talked like these girls. The two main characters, Becky and Enid, go around town making fun of people or things they see on TV and…that’s about it. The ending does TRY to have some substance, but it went by so fast that it wasn’t meaningful or touching. I didn’t care about the characters at all. The illustrator drew the main characters in a mostly flattering light, but everyone else looked extremely cartoonish, creepy, and ugly.
The main plot points include trying to find a guy who came to Enid’s yard sale, prank calling a guy who left a personal ad in the newspaper, and Enid and Becky fighting. It was boring, convoluted, and cringe inducing. I went onto Goodreads after finishing it and saw a lot of 1- and 2-star reviews and wholeheartedly agreed with them. If you like complex stories about friendship, family, and love, don’t read this. Save yourself that time. Trust me.
I’m reading Never Let Me Go for the bookclub I’m leading at a local library, but I haven’t finished it yet, so I can’t count it as a March read. I would have finished it already, but I’m reading it along with everyone else so that we can all be surprised. I saw the movie, but I love the book so much more than the movie already. It’s so much more detailed and fascinating. Look for it in next month’s What I Read!