You might have lots of academic or fiction reading to do for your course but if you’re looking for a list of things to read in your downtime, Student Content Creator Jessica has created this list for you.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
The Vegetarian follows Yeong-hye as she is plagued by violent dreams. Disturbed, she decides to give up eating meat. Her husband and her family are outraged by her decision to go against the social norms, and force her to ‘go back to normal’. A series of coercion, violence, and shunning ensures to convince Yeong-hye to eat meat. Slowly, she begins shedding even more social norms and her ordinary life around her crumbles.
This is a powerful novel about the place of women in society. It opens a new conversation about complacency and submission, whilst condemning the underlying violence of mankind. Interestingly, the novel is written from three different perspectives, leaning on the Roshomon effect, all of which view Yeong-hye’s refusal differently.
Tw: sexual assault
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood follows Toru Watanabe as he deals with grief and loss. Experiencing a string of suicides, the narrative parallels Toru’s current love affair, with Midori, with his younger love affair, Naoko.
The novel casts an interesting reflection on personal love and human intimacy and how these are warped, and distorted, by personal psychological circumstances. Murakami discusses how a person’s ability to love, and their perspective of other people’s love for them, is individually moulded by their life experiences.
Tw: suicide and bereavement
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Pale View of Hills follows Etsuko, a mother grieving the recent suicide of her young daughter.
She recoils into memories of her past, particularly her new friendship with neighbour Sachiko and her strange daughter, Niki, who is prone to disappearing and believes an old woman is visting her each night. With a child serial killer on the loose, strange events begin to unfold and the safety of the adolescent daughter is put at risk.
What is most interesting about this novel is Ishiguro’s power to play with an unreliable narrator. The memories of Etsuko are untrustworthy and we question the existent of real characters. This a mysterious novel that is, at some times, terrifying.
Tw: suicide, loss of a child, child abuse
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived in the Castle follows two sisters, Constance and Merricat, as they are accused of their family’s murder. Utterly shunned by society, the two girls must learn to live on their own at a young age, without the help of society, whilst processing the brutal death of their entire family.
What is most spectacular about this novel is its narration. Young Merricat has an absurd narration, where she talks to plants, animals, and herself. She believes the world is alive around her, with tarmac roads that are going to hurt her, and inanimate household objects are going are looking out for her. The novel explores infantile progression without parental figures, and regresses female characters back into the wild, pre-evolutionary state.
Moth by Melody Razak
Moth is set on the cusp of Partition. Two young daughter, Roop ad Alma, are precocious, fiery and independent. But times are bad for girls in India. The war creates a strong division between Hindu’s and Muslim’s and horrendous acts of violence unfold as India is split in two. One daughter pretends to be a boy, whilst the other daughter goes missing. The family must band together to save the girls.
This novel embarks on the difficult exploration of the transition between childhood and adolescence. It combines post-colonialism with feminism, to explore the role of cultural identity in shaping gendered identity – an overlap that is often neglected.
Tw: sexual assault, violence against girls
Girl by Edna O’Brien
Girl follows the story of Nigeria’s famous abducted schoolgirls. Maryam, a 14-year-old girl, is abducted by a terrorist organisation from school. Forced to bear an unwanted pregnancy, Maryam must raise a girl, whilst barely being a girl herself.
Opening with the powerful line, ‘I was a girl once, but not anymore’, this novel evokes a raw exploration of what it means to be a girl, of how society raises a girl, and what a girl is made of. A dark light is cast over girlhood, exposes the gruesome underbelly of girlhood.
Tw: sexual assault
Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield
Our Wives Under The Sea follows the declining relationship of Miri and Leah. When Leah goes missing at sea, and returns many months later, she is not the same person as she was before. Something ominous has been brought back with her. Strange changes in her appearance and behaviour have Miri wondering who her wife has become. As their relationship declines, so does either of their sense of identity.
This novel follows a thorough exploration of loss and grief through a queer lens. It explores not only physical loss, but psychological loss.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns follows the life of Miriam, a poor child who was illegitimately conceived by a mistress and a rich man.
Following a family tragedy, she is forced into an abusive marriage, where she must live a life of domestic servitude. As she ages, she forms an unlikely friendship with local teenager Laila. The two girls, with a large generational difference, exist on the cusp of the Afghan war. Following the invasion of the Taliban, Miriam and Laila must look to each other to survive.
This bildungsroman novel casts an introspective light on female spaces and female relationships. Hosseini discusses what woman can do to, and for, each other.
Tw: suicide, domestic abuse