Last week was the second week of the OWLs readathon and the half-way point of the challenge has now been reached. I did not quite read all the books I was aiming to have read by this point but I am still very pleased with all those I did, especially since I was away for three days with very little reading time. I am now five books in and, last week, I read a book about a murderer, a book about an Evil Queen, and a book about a former spy. Each were very different, but on the whole I would say I enjoyed each one.
For reference, the way I rate is as follows:
1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
This book involved the mixing of perfumes and creating new scents in a manner similar to alchemy. As such, it fulfilled the Potions OWL which involved reading a book about or with alchemy in its pages.
Perfume is a peculiar book – I had never encountered a book which revolved around the sense of smell before. It is written in a manner which reminded me of Victor Hugo (something which could also be attributed to the setting in France) and follows the life of a man with no scent who has the most powerful sense of smell in the world. This gift gives him the ability to create the most amazing of perfumes and, in the quest to create the greatest of scents, drives him to learn how to take the scent from bodies.
I found this book very difficult to get into; I struggled to continue reading once I started and I didn’t have the urge to pick up the book again once I had stopped. It’s one of the few books I got close to DNFing. And then I hit about 50 pages in. Reading the rest of the book in nearly one sitting, I found myself been completely drawn in. While slow to start, it gradually got more and more intense and the main character gets dragged more and more into the grips of his obsession with scent. It was possible to see the author’s exploration of the relationship between obsession and desire and, merged with author’s take on scent and its influencing powers, made it quite a book to read. Unfortunately, the last few pages were similar to the start. If you do read this book, I don’t think reading it in multiple sitting works as you lose the sense of addiction that comes off the pages. It’s short enough to be read in one sitting, if you’re able to get past the first few pages and get into the writing style.
The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Perfume-Patrick-Süskind/9780141041155/?a_aid=rosienreads
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
In order to complete the Divination OWL, I had to read a book which features a prophecy. This was one such book.
It is no secret that I enjoy a retelling, especially if that retelling has a twist to it. This book takes the Evil Queen from Snow White and places her in a fantasy world with heavy East Asian influences, then proceeds to tell the tale of her journey to power through her perspective. From her lowly origins, it follows Xifeng as her aunt Guma repeatedly tells of her destiny through the cards, of a future where she is Empress, and as she sets out to make that destiny her own.
Everything about the book worked for me. The world was richly developed and it was brilliant to see a well-loved fairy-tale told with another culture’s influences – it really highlights how books set in parts of the world that aren’t the US or Europe are under-represented in the mainstream market. Xifeng was an excellent lead and it made a great change from my usual reading to get to follow the path of the villain and experience the dilemmas she experienced regarding which path to take. I do feel like Wei’s part was a little understated given the role the prophecy said he would play (although this may be explored more in the next book) and the writing could have been a little stronger in places. That being said, however, I flew through this book and am very much looking forwarded to seeing how the rest of the Snow White fairy tale gets incorporated into this world.
The Pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carré (narrated by John Le Carré)
This audiobook fulfilled the challenge for the Muggle Studies OWL – read a muggle non-fiction book. As far as I know, John Le Carré is a muggle and this is his autobiography.
If there was ever a book I was not expecting to enjoy it’s this one. I got this book as part of an Audible deal when all the TV adaptions of the author’s books were appearing, but I never got into the shows. As a result, it took a long time before I decided to pick up this book. I sincerely regret not listening to this book earlier. The Pigeon Tunnel is an autobiography, told through a series of episodic stories from John Le Carré’s life.
One of the reasons why I found myself enjoying this book so much is that, while the books discusses Le Carré’s life in politics, in the secret service and throughout the cold war, it is easily accessible to anyone and very difficult to turn away from – there were always more stories to hear. A large part of this could be attributed to Le Carré’s narration – his voice was clear and personable, not to mention that the fact he’s narrating his own stories meant that there was a certain emphasis and depth to the narration which could not have been achieved with another narrator. I found myself constantly thinking about this book and the life Le Carré led, as well as found myself learning things which I had no idea had occurred. While I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it so much if I read it in print rather than listened to the audiobook, I would still highly recommend it to anyone vaguely interested in the various number of topics covered in this book.
The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Pigeon-Tunnel/9780241976890/?a_aid=rosienreads