Welcome to the next installment in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge! It’s exactly what it sounds like: I’m trying to read 80 books from 80 different countries/cultures around the world, and to add a frugal spin, I’m trying to do it all for under $20.
Here’s my running tally so far:
$0- Library books: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Sierra Leone
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England
$0- Gift: Turkey
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
Grand Total: $0
Today’s book was also a library book, so I’m sitting pretty at $0. And after today’s post I’ll have logged 10 books, meaning I’m 1/8 of the way through my journey.
Today’s book was actually a part of a read-a-long from the challenge organizer, Tanya at Mom’s Small Victories. It’s the first time I participated in one, and I’m really glad I did.
I usually shy away from bestsellers, at least in the fiction genre. Every time I’ve read one it’s been like going to a movie that has a lot of hype around it; it might have been a good movie to go in and see blind, but because of all the expectations, you’re just left with a “meh” feeling by the time you walk out.
That was not the case with this book. I’d classify it as a gothic novel set in post-Civil War Barcelona. Initially from the description I thought it might have similar themes to Fahrenheit 451, but it’s really not that kind of message. While the reader can’t help but take note of Zafon’s love of novels, they serve as a springboard for the plot rather than being the plot itself.
What is it, then? A mystery. A love story (or three.) A coming of age tale. And possibly a political commentary that I don’t fully understand. To be honest, I had never even heard of the Spanish Civil War, which took place in the 1930’s. I had assumed most major European powers took part in WWII, but it turns out Spain stayed officially neutral (as I found out in the Twitter chat where all of us who read caught up with each other.) While the Civil War leaves its marks all over the story line, World War II touches it but once, and in a minor, passing conversation.
While I found quotes that I loved throughout the story, the first half of the book was full of them. There was a lot of introspection on the part of the narrator in the first half, and then, while he remains contemplative, the plot and action picks up heavily in the second half. Honestly, I loved both halves, but some of the people I’ve talked to have preferred one over the other.
While we’re on quotes, here’s some money food-for-thought from the book itself:
“Making money isn’t hard in itself,” he [Moliner] complained. “What’s hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one’s life to.”
Tanya let me in on the fact that there are multiple sequels, so I’ll be coming back for more once this challenge is over, much like Sweden. Maybe I secretly love mystery novels? See, I’m not only learning about the world, I’m learning about myself.
I know what you’re thinking: same country, idiot. But Zafon himself mentions people speaking Basque in Spain, and where there is an independent language, there is an independent culture. So next I’ll be exploring the Basque culture through their legends and folklore. Stay tuned!
Have any recommendations for me? I’m looking for any countries/cultures not already on this queue, or not touched on above in the completed reading tally.
Canada: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat recommeded by Messy Money
Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg recommended by Savvy Working Gal
Nigeria: I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani recommended by Guiltless Reader
Philippines: May Day Eve and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin recommended by Guiltless Reader
Iceland: Scarcity in Excess by Arna Mathiesen & Thomas Forget
Sudan: The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih recommended by Kate Wilson
Kenya: Out of Africa by Karen Blixen recommended by Christine from The Wallet Diet
China: Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang
Japan: Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi recommended by Suburban Finance
Ethiopia: The God Who Begat a Jakal by Nega Mezlekia recommended by Based On a True Story
French Antilles: Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde recommended by Based on A True Story
Suriname: The Free Negress Elisabeth by Cynthia McLeod recommended by Based On A True Story
Costa Rica: The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica
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