What We’re Reading: Sved, Lobel
Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films and TV shows we’re watching, and the music we’re listening to.
Chris Gordon is reading A Universe of Sufficient Size by Miriam Sved
The Hungarian people have had their hearts ripped out of their country for years, but yet they have retained a wonderful pride in their heritage. I’m married to a second generation Hungarian and this is what I’ve learnt about Hungarians; that innate mentioned pride, those very rich cakes, their mean game of chess and their ability to do difficult mathematical equations. I’m English and we too, as a community, understand pride and the importance of food (big English brekkie anyone?). A Universe of Sufficient Size by Miriam Sved is both a marvellous celebration of the Hungarian people, an acknowledgment of their terrible history and a discourse of how three generations are bound to one another through their past and their passions.
Set both in Budapest before the Second World War and Sydney 2017, Sved has managed to create bridges across continents, time and wonderful mathematical discoveries. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot but do read this novel if you enjoy reading complex family dramas with a distinct sense of place. Sved has based this story, in some part, from her own family and I appreciate her ability to make a personal story universal. I’ve not finished reading this evocative book yet, but have to speed it up because my partner is keen as paprika to get his hands on this novel.
Chris Somerville is reading Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection by Arnold Lobel
Recently my partner and I had our first child, and while I’m tired all the time and have the concentration of an ant, it’s still nice to read aloud to them, even if they barely have any idea of what’s going on. Frog and Toad, the two semi-hapless protagonists of Arnold Lobel’s series of picture books skirt the beautiful line between a simple child-like understanding of the world and the existential angst that plagues you into adulthood, whether they are about how to stop eating too many cookies or wearing an embarrassing swimsuit. A lot of the stories don’t have an entirely clear message, and are more about moments that Lobel lets play out. They wait for mail that never arrives. They watch their belongings fly off in the wind. And while Frog is the more optimistic one compared to the cynical Toad, there isn’t a typical ‘odd couple’ dynamic where one is always right and the other is wrong. Rather, these are two characters who love one another and the books – if read one after the other in this compendium – are a subtle exploration of this, which is all you could really ask for in a picture book.
Ellen Cregan is listening to The Guardian Books podcast
I’ve been catching up on one of my favourite podcasts, The Guardian Books podcast. This podcast is produced by the UK arm of The Guardian, but focuses on a range of books from all around the world. It’s mostly in-depth interviews with authors, but also often features discussions between the hosts about prizes, book news and other literary goings-on. I love it because it’s intelligent, looks at books of all genres, and often introduces me to ideas and authors I have never encountered before. Some of the amazing books I’ve recently read (and loved) on the recommendation of this podcast are: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold, Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang and The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I’ve also just bought myself a copy of Constellations by Sinead Gleeson. If you already love The Guardian Books podcast, and want more bookish podcast content, check out the Readings Podcast!