Family Sagas in July: The Makioka Sisters, The Lowland, or My Brilliant Friend #TTWIB

27 Jun

TTWIB reading challenge latest image

During the month of July, we invite you to pick one of three family sagas, which will take you to Japan, India, or Italy, for an absorbing, multi-generational story. In our poll taken at the Travel the World in Books Goodreads group, these three novels were about equally popular:

The Makioka Sisters by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki (translated by Edward G. Seidensticker) tells the story of four aristocratic sisters in pre-World War II Osaka, Japan. Two are married, one is still single because her family has rejected several proposals, and one is carrying on a relationship in secret. The book has a good key to its characters at the beginning. I am already excited to follow these sisters and their families in this watershed period for Japanese culture; it’s not only a divide between traditional and modern ways of doing things, but also a time on the brink of the devastating Second World War. This book is described as perhaps the greatest Japanese novel of the 20th century, and it’s the masterpiece of one of Japan’s most important modern writers–a literary journey well worth making.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri is a story about two brothers who grow up in Calcutta, India. They are very close but differ widely in temperament and goals. Udayan will plunge into a dangerous political movement, while Subhash chooses academia and a life of scientific research in America. But Subhash will return to India when his family is rocked by crisis and a terrible loss. Lahiri can be depended upon to create a moving and psychologically penetrating account of this family, and the larger forces of society (both Indian and American) at work in their lives.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein), and her subsequent ‘Neapolitan novels’ in this series, are already such a sensation that I hardly need describe them. Two girls growing up in Naples in the 1950s and 1960s forge an unforgettable friendship (which will truly suffer some ups and downs as the series develops).  I have read some of Book 2, The Story of a New Name, but I need to go back and see how it all began!

Any of these three novels would be excellent company this summer, and I hope you will join us as we read along and share our impressions of these family sagas set in three different countries. I will have two twitter chats, on Wednesday, July 13, 9:00 pm EDT and on Sunday, July 31, 3:00 pm EDT — both using hashtag #TTWIB. You can tweet about what you are reading any time! I will also post Discussion questions at our Goodreads group.  It should be interesting to talk about some of the characteristics of family sagas in general and compare notes on the particular novels we are reading.

Do you like family sagas (about one family, or two contrasting families) as a genre? If so, what have been some of your favorites? Which of the three books above would you most like to read?

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5 Responses to “Family Sagas in July: The Makioka Sisters, The Lowland, or My Brilliant Friend #TTWIB”

  1. WordsAndPeace June 30, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

    I have hesitated to start The Makioka Sisters, but one day I’ll make the jump!

    • Lucy Pollard-Gott July 18, 2016 at 10:19 pm #

      It reads very smoothly so far! I hope you do read it some time, since I would be interested in your comparisons to other Japanese fiction that you’ve read.

  2. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review July 18, 2016 at 12:57 am #

    I do love family sagas. One I reread and loved recently is the Eliot family trilogy by Elizabeth Goudge. I’m hoping to read The Makioka Sisters soon — it’s on my classics club list. Probably not in time for the chats though. I’ve read My Brilliant Friend and enjoyed it!

    • Lucy Pollard-Gott July 18, 2016 at 10:21 pm #

      Thanks, Lory, for the suggestion of the Elizabeth Goudge family saga. I have heard her name with high praise, and this trilogy sounds perfect for me to make her acquaintance.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My High Summer Read-a-thon Reading Menu #HSReadathon | The Fictional 100 - July 19, 2016

    […] Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge (#TTWIB) in July, I am getting immersed two different family sagas, The Makioka Sisters and My Brilliant Friend. I […]

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