Literary Challenge #6 A Book You Can Read in a Day

 

Hillingdon Libraries staff sixth literary challenge of 2016 was to read a book that you can complete in a day. Now this may vary depending on your reading speed, time and energy but 10 of us completed this task with (relative) ease and are here to tell you all about our “shorter” stories.

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1. The Anniversary by Veronica Henry

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This is a collection of short stories by contemporary authors to celebrate 10 years of the ‘Quick Read’ publications. Quick Reads are short accessible novels, great for a lunchtime read and a way to get into new authors. There are some heartwarming and poignant stories here, written by popular authors including Jenny Colgan and Andy McNab. Stories from Elvis and Marilyn Impersonators to an old married couple reliving how they met. To top it all there are some recipes from the hairy dieters too! . I loved all the stories, all very different, but with a theme of anniversary to them all. If you’re finding it difficult to tackle a novel or just suffering from reader’s block quick reads are the way to go.

4 out of 5 stars

Marie Louise – Hayes End Library

 

2.Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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This is by far my favourite book! One of the first books I read as a child, I fell in love with the nonsensical world of Wonderland and all its beloved characters. I could read this book all day every day! Lewis Carroll, brilliant mathematician and astounding author. This 192 page full of magic and wonder as you follow Alice through the rabbit hole. I’m just happy that after Alice in Wonderland there’s also Alice’s Adventure through the looking glass and even the original story of Alice’s adventure underground. For anyone wanting to rekindle with their childhood and feel the wonders of Wonderland, this book is a quick fix!

5+ out of 5 stars

Alison – Library Relief

 

3. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

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Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this short novel. I was able to finish it in a couple of hours, the only downside was I didn’t want it to finish. I had never read a novel written in this style before, with no main character, but I found it beautifully written. The story was told as a collective experience of Japanese women who travelled to America in the early 1900’s to marry men they had never met before and start a new, supposedly better, life in the states.

Written in fairly short snappy sentences the author was really effective at telling the differing experiences of these women; their strength and determination. Starting with their boat journey and finishing with world war two. Although there were no detailed descriptions of the characters I felt I learnt a lot through reading this about these women’s lives. It was a part of history I had never been aware of before reading this book and I am now keen to read more about these women. I will definitely be reading Julie Otsuka’s other novel.

5 out of 5 stars

Siobhan – Uxbridge Library

 

4. Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti
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While many fairy tales have been softened over the centuries, Hansel and Gretel’s dark heart remains beating. It is a story of greed, despair and cannibalism. Coupled with the hauntingly dark illustrations of Lorenzo Mattotti, so dark and alien that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish character from background, this story revels in the dark heart of the story.

While Gaiman might be most known for his more fantastical tales, Hansel and Gretel feels remarkably grounded and realistic. The parent’s decision to leave Hansel and Gretel in the woods is made out of hunger and desperation, the old woman in the forest who tricks Hansel and Gretel is not a witch but a very human, very greedy old woman. This is a bleak tale of the desperation of humanity. But it also a story where even the smallest are able to overcome the darkness through wits and courage.

5 out of 5 stars

Mark – Uxbridge Library

 

5. Skellig by David Almond

1341147You’ll generally find this book in the Young Adult section, but like so many great books it’s hard to categorise. 10-year-old Michael is dealing with a lot – a very sick baby sister, distracted parents and a house move. In the garage at the new house, he finds amid the clutter a strange man who calls himself Skellig, who lives on brown ale and Chinese takeaways. Michael and his new friend Mina start to consider than Skellig is not merely a homeless man, and that there might be something magical about him. There’s also something magical about this book, with David Almond not over explaining so that even as the novel wraps up into an emotional, uplifting and satisfying conclusion, you can’t really say what happened and what didn’t, and whether Skellig is an angel, a birdman, a missing link… whatever he is, he’s an irascible and believable character and he does wonderful things. This is a book worth cherishing.

5 out of 5 stars

Darren – Uxbridge Library

 

6. The Double Clue by Agatha Christie

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The Double Clue is a selection of four Agatha Christie stories, featuring Hercule Poirot, but introduced by Sophie Hannah and John Curran. These quick reads are well put together and despite having read the full stories before, I thoroughly enjoyed these shorter versions. In this selection, Hercule Poirot, solves the mystery of a missing banker; travels to Egypt, finds a man shot in a locked room and solves the disappearance of missing rubies and emeralds. The book provides the perfect introduction to Hercule Poirot’s brilliance and skill.

 

5 out of 5 stars

Franka – Hayes End Library

 

7. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

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I’m not sure if I’ve violated the terms and conditions by not reading this in a day. However, it certainly could be, and it’s the perfect length for essentially the depiction of one crucial turning point in two lives. Flashbacks fill in the respective back-stories of the two virgins whose sexual ignorance and failures of communication lead to a disastrous wedding night. It is, surely deliberately, set in 1962, the last period in the UK when this situation would be at all likely. To discuss further would give too much away, but the author’s customary stylistic distancing here ensures the thought-provoking theme is handled with memorable restraint and authority.

4 out of 5 stars

Mike – Eastcote Library

 

8. Venus in Furs by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch

cvr9781476705576_9781476705576_hrAt 150 pages only, this work from 1870 is a novella, & easily readable in a day; or even a ‘sitting’ of your choice of duration! The author, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, unconsciously gave his name to later C19 psychologists to label the phenomenon of ‘masochism’; & this idea perhaps needs little elaboration by me here in the light of its early C21 vogueishness in this hedonistic paradise of ours!?!

The tale itself is a classic of framed narrative, romantic obsessiveness, which is by turns poignant, absurdly funny, lurid, yet always desperately true to a type of male, heterosexual libido. It is also a quite meta-literary text, in that it accesses quotations & concepts from multiple historical perspectives.In addition, however, there is a grounding of common sense wisdom which cuts through pretension, & which ironises any implicit seriousness which may be developing regarding ‘masochism’ as a viable way of life & interpersonal, amorous relationship. I will say no more, & leave you to discover the joys of this playful & unusual story. The author found out the hard way, i.e. by experience; the gentle reader can indulge vicariousness, perhaps!

5 out of 5 stars

Len – Harefield Library

 

9. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

51Be-zEhd7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Creepy. Twisty-turny. Ghosts. Weird kids. Unreliable, possibly insane narrator. Henry James, even in novella form you are a genius.

On the surface, this story is perfect to curl up by the fire with on a cold winter’s night. Which is exactly how the book is framed, as a story told in front of a fireside on a cold evening. It’s short, it reads quickly, and is open to pretty much whatever you want to make of it. James lets you decide what’s truth and what’s imaginary, what’s good and what’s evil. His governess main character doesn’t know herself, and we read first person from her mind. It’s a fascinating way to make the whole story about the way it is told, and illustrate the flaws of it at the same time (the first person narrative, that is) to put it in first person and make her crazy, which seems likely to me, but you make your own judgments about that. Very enjoyable read and perfect for an evening of creepy reading.

4 out of 5 stars

Lara – Virtual Library Assistant

 

10. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

wm_rc_wm_34782b9caf3342b7996058ae7128f83f93ff0942_1369082555Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is only 100 pages long but is one of those books that stays with you years after you have read it. I first came across the story in Francis Ford Coppola’s famous film adaptation, Apocalypse Now (1979), which follows a US army officer down the Mekong River in Vietnam in a bid to find and bring back the rogue American, Kurtz who has set up camp somewhere vaguely upstream. The film is a sort of dream journey in which the horrors and atrocities of the Vietnam War fade in and out of the landscape like phantoms.

The original book, published in 1902, tells the same story – only the infamous Kurtz is an ivory trader who has set up a mini empire in the depths of the Congo river. Marlowe is the man sent to retrieve him, and his voyage through the heartland of Africa brings him face to face with the effects of Belgian colonialism and the darkest recesses of the human psyche. Like the film, the whole novel is a surreal journey – from the opening pages on the River Thames at night, through the shadowy corridors of officialdom in Europe, to the various encounters Marlow makes on his long boat trip through the jungle. Heart of Darkness is not a novel with a beginning, middle and end. It is an exploration of a great river, moving at the river’s leisurely pace, but filled with a sense of impending threat that will keep you gripped to the end.

4 out of 5 stars

Paul – Uxbridge Library

 

Try any of these short stories today from a Hillingdon Library near you!

Thanks for reading.

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