18 August 2011

Home stretch.

Guys, I am about to resurface from A Song of Ice and Fire in less than 100 pages, and though I am going to miss everyone like CRAZY and remain on tenterhooks for the next few years until The Winds of Winter comes out (although then I'll get to read them all over again in preparation! yay!), I will kinda enjoy digging into the other books on my to-read shelf. Because there are 21 right now--on the shelf, in person, not counting the other 150 on my to-read list on Goodreads. BOOKS!!!

I have managed to squeeze in a couple non-Martin reads recently, though, and they both deserve mention. First, Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, a wonderfully written though very, very sad (I refuse to think about the imaginary animals right now, because I will cry again) novel about the lives of three children destined to be used as organ farms and their idyllic but doomed days at a boarding school called Hailsham. The strength of this book was voice, voice, voice: a first-person narrative, elliptical and episodic in the extreme, so good at capturing the way we tell stories, especially of our childhood. I would have read it in one night, but I started it at 10 p.m.

And a book I read as research for Gold Mountain (my romance-in-progress) but recommend to anyone interested in East Asian history or the historical bizarre: God's Chinese Son is a well-written guide to the Taiping Rebellion, a Chinese civil war (wow, it is sad that you have to use an indefinite article for that) that lasted 14 years (1850-1864) and killed a mind-staggering twenty million people. The Taiping were southern Chinese rebels inspired and led by Hong Xiuquan, who failed the Confucian civil service examination several times and then became convinced he was Jesus' younger brother, destined to overthrow the "demon" Qing dynasty. It's an often unbelievable story of culture clash (as when the British, French, and Americans, in turn, send out tentative feelers to these fellow Christians only to realize that 1) the Taipings' beliefs are heterodox in the extreme and 2) they believe Hong is ruler of the world, and hence don't recognize the sovereignty of the foreigners' nations) and madness (towards the end of the war, ensieged in his Heavenly Capital of Nanjing, Hong tells a dumbfounded general complaining of low food supplies that he should have been stockpiling manna for just such an eventuality), solidly written in present tense, an unusual but effective choice for non-fiction.

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