A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson
Jill by Philip Larkin
It was a strange month of books. The first two were chosen by my book group. A Thousand Splendid Suns I had read before and I was happy to read again. I’d forgotten what a hard story it is to read, how the two main women are given no reprieve. I moved straight onto Tiny Sunbirds which was equally tough. Both of these novels are so good because you get carried along with the characters, the portrayals are intimate and moving. My favourite character in Tiny Sunbirds was Celestine, the second wife of the narrators grandmother, larger than life in every possible way.
So to read Jill by Philip Larkin was to move to a different time and place entirely. A very English novel, beautifully written and full of angst. In Tiny Sunbirds, even the characters on the edges of the story are warm and generous, but in Jill the different personalities are chilling. It was painful to read about John’s attempts to build friendships during his first year at Oxford and his need to build an imaginary character to compensate. Also the ending was so different; evaporating as you turned the page. There was no real sense of how John’s life was going to turn out. The poor young man was just left to recover from a mild bout, according to the college nurse, of bronchial pneumonia.