June Low-Buy Report

Um, hello. I’ve been a bad blogger: neglecting my blog, ignoring comments from lovely people. Work has been intense but that’s no excuse. Besides, I miss blogging.

Good news: I stayed within my budget this month. June was only my second month of noting all my discretionary spending but already I see results. My biggest spending is concentrated on reading materials and beauty products and in June, I only came away two books and one Urban Decay eyeshadow poorer.

Of course, it helps that two lovely friends gifted me two novels each. So in total, I got six new books in the month of June.

Clockwise from top left: Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson, Mariana by Monica Dickens, The Book Collector by Alice Thompson, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Bekisar Merah by Ahmad Tohari, and From the Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra

I studied abroad in London as an undergraduate. That was when I found out about the glorious Persephone Books. I visited their shop and bought Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey for myself and Miss Buncle’s Book as a birthday gift for a flatmate. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is mediocre – the only dud Persephone I’ve read. But Miss Buncle’s Book stuck with me. My flatmate couldn’t stop thanking me and praising the novel to the high heavens. How charming it was! How funny! How adorable! And so I fell into book lust.

This was some years ago. A dear friend asked if she could get some Persephones from London for me, which was already lovely in itself and I didn’t want to burden her so I only asked for Mariana by Monica Dickens. I’ve wanted Mariana ever since I read that Persephone reissued it because they wanted to publish a book similar in feel to Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle.

(I Capture the Castle is wonderful forever. Read it, read it, read it!)

The friend said, ”There’s something else you want from Persephone that you aren’t telling me. Spill!” Some persistent nudging and a recounting of my long lust for Miss Buncle’s Book later, here I am with both novels. Friends who trained to be therapists can be so eerily perceptive.

I had asked for The Book Collector by Alice Thompson for my birthday this year. I was seduced by Salt Publishing’s description of the novel on their website, which reads:

Alice Thompson’s new novel is a Gothic story of book collecting, mutilation and madness. Violet is obsessed with the books of fairy tales her husband acquires, but her growing delusions see her confined in an asylum. As she recovers and is released a terrifying series of events is unleashed.

Gothic fiction might just be my favorite genre and The Book Collector promises to have the uncanny and the locked-up madwoman in spades. I’m also intrigued because the description promises touches of modernism and meta within the Gothic and the horror.

A good friend couldn’t find it online so she got me Kelly Link’s short story collection Magic for Beginners instead. She recently found The Book Collector on Book Depository, however, and pounced. Oh, and she added The Vegetarian by Han Kang on her cart since I’ve been eyeing it too.

(I have such wonderful friends, guys. Slap me if I ever take them for granted).

I’m sure most of you know by now that The Vegetarian won the Man Booker International Prize recently and tells the story of a South Korean woman who renounces meat in a society where vegetarianism is rare. It’s the themes that made me want the novel badly. Gender politics, mental illness, and societal imprisonment are all themes I love and cannot stop reading about.

My pangs of regret on buying Bekisar Merah by Ahmad Tohari waxes and wanes. Ahmad Tohari is the Indonesian author I adore most and I have resolved to reading everything he has written that is currently available. However, purchasing Bekisar Merah could have been delayed. I had several unread Tohari books already and now I feel guilty every time I approach my bookshelves.

Oh well. What’s done is done. And at least Indonesian novels are cheaper than imported ones. I remember little about the synopsis of Bekisar Merah except that it is a historical fiction novel that follows a mixed-race woman throughout her life in Java as she navigates a society that is hostile towards her.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to read more educational material. Maybe political, maybe historical. Usually, I would pick up Time magazine or the Economist when such desires flow but this time I wanted it in book form. I read the blurb of From the Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra in a local bookshop and was immediately fascinated. The Victorian era was a horrible time for Asia – most areas had been colonized and From the Ruins of Empire details the intellectual response of Asia. Some figures want to stick to traditional roots, some become moderates, and others became convinced that a radical ideology was the answer.

I might read From the Ruins of Empire first but I don’t know. My mood changes daily. Anyway, thank you for sticking through this unnecessarily long post. I hope you enjoyed oohing and aahing over my new books with me.

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23 thoughts on “June Low-Buy Report

  1. You sound very fortunate in your friends. We both know that friends who buy books are the best friends to have. And if they buy you Persephone books, well, does life get any better?

    Cheerful Weather for the Wedding was a bit unusual. I felt a bit like I was missing something or like it was half written. I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t at all what I expected.

    Miss Buncle’s Book is absolutely charming. You know there are sequels, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so very fortunate in my friends. Life doesn’t get any better than this and indeed, 2016 has been a great year in my life. It’s shocking, really — If I scroll down my blog, I’ll find the post bemoaning how awful 2015 was. I’ve had so many pleasures large and small, and my friends are a significant reason why pleasures have been large.

      Perhaps I was a bit harsh in my judgment of Cheerful Weather, but it was truly the only Persephone I didn’t care for. Like you, I constantly felt I was missing something. Worse, I also couldn’t care less. The two brothers who argued over socks were the only part of Cheerful Weather that amused me.

      I knew there’s a sequel, but I didn’t know there were sequel’S’ — I’ll have to go look them up. Thanks for alerting me to their presence!

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  2. Lovely haul! 🙂 You have some wonderful friends!! The Book Collector sounds fantastic, I must add this to my to-read pile! And I’ve been seeing The Vegetarian everywhere, and it sounds really fascinating – I look forward to seeing what you think of this one. I’m definitely contemplating giving it a go!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha I know this problem well! And it’s a problem I keep adding to! I worked out the other day that I have about 50 unread books on my shelf… I really need to ban myself from bookshops for a while! I’m excited to see what you think of both of these books, as both look fantastic 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve wanted to read some of Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy novels for children and young adults for a loooong time but after watching Disney’s The Black Cauldron, that want has sharpened into high-level desire. I have mixed feelings about the film — I feel like the story execution wasn’t pushed far enough, but the novels promise to be richer and more complex. And after wanting to read Alexander’s works for almost ten years, I think it’s time to pull the trigger.

        Have you read any Lloyd Alexander?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ooh that sounds really interesting! I’d not actually heard of Lloyd Alexander before, and I don’t know whether I’ve ever watched The Black Cauldron – what’s the story about? Hope the books live up to your expectations 🙂

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      4. The story is basically a young boy’s adventure quest. The movie itself is rich in fantasy and Welsh mythos but I feel like the storytelling wasn’t pushed far enough — and that’s where the books come in because Disney’s supervisors and animators were disappointed that they couldn’t translate Alexander’s rich, complex text into the film. Now I’m curious about the source material.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Ooh that definitely sounds intriguing! Look forward to seeing your review if you post one! I haven’t read many books in this genre, but I really want to read more. I’ll have to check out the movie too 🙂

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  3. I am so curious about Ahmad Tohari. As far as I can remember, I have not read anything by an Indonesian writer before (I am Malaysian, I *think* I will be able to read Bahasa Indonesia). Anyways, I hope you’ll be give Mishra a go, I read him several years ago and it was one of those, eye-opening, “Maaaannn…..!!!!” moments. I’m thinking of giving him another re-read since I practically forget the essences of his writing. Also, in my opinion, Mishra is a brilliant writer so that in itself was a good reading experience for me.

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    1. Oh, do try and read Ahmad Tohari! He’s brilliant — both vivid and accessible. His magnum opus is the trilogy Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (translated into The Dancer in English)

      I have never heard of Mishra until I saw From the Ruins of Empire at the bookstore. I feel better about my impulse buy now that I have your vote of confidence. Right now, I’m torn between reading From the Ruins of Empire and The Vegetarian from June’s stash.

      You’ve never read anything by an Indonesian writer and I’ve never read anything by a Malaysian author. Is there anything you can recommend me? 🙂

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      1. I’ve also read The Vegetarian actually, and I would say, read it first! You’ll find there’s more to the no-meat eating thing, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But I spent days thinking about femininity, control over my own identity and body and really, everything after reading it. It truly deserve all the praises and the Prize, absolutely!

        My favourite Malaysian writer thus far is Faisal Tehrani. He’s pretty modern-ish, and by modern I mean he was prominent in late 90s, early 2000 maybe? There’s a lot more new-age authors, we recently have more small independent publishers in the scene so that is an area I am curious about myself and I really want to start exploring 🙂

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      2. Yessss, “femininity” along with “control over [your] own identity and body” were the themes I was hoping The Vegetarian would explore after reading some reviews. You’ve made me even more excited to read it.

        That’s great. I actually love contemporary authors, so your recommendation of Tehrani really helps. Thanks a lot and I’m off to research Malay lit!

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      1. Nope, not yet. But I’ve read reviews on The Vegetarian and they all seem so sparkling with praises. It even won the Man Booker Prize. Honestly, however, after reading the synopsis of the book, I don’t think I am as curious and excited about it as people are. Forgive my taste 😉

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