Book Club Recommends

A banner showing the three recommended books.

For this article, Quench Lit asked the Book Club committee to recommend some books!

Tennessee Williams‘ “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Edeh Gharibi

This was a very difficult choice, but I would say the book I find myself going back to often is A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. I know we all studied it for A-level English, but it stuck with me.  

The play tells the story of Blanche DuBois going to live with her sister, Stella, and Stella’s husband Stanley, while trying to run from her past and attempt to step into the future of America.  

As with so many of Tennessee Williams’ plays, every character is so terribly flawed, but you see yourself somewhere in them. When the characters do something terrible, it is almost impossible to condemn them, and you can’t help it but understand them, or they understand you. The fear of alienation that the characters face, of growing old, losing love, our past, is something we will always relate to.  

Not to spoil anything for a play that came out in 1947, but the ending is the perfect tragedy in my eyes. Blanche’s perfect downfall is heart-breaking to see, and despite her flaws, all she wants is for someone to love her, and who can blame her, isn’t that what we all want? In spite of the inevitable ending, when you finish the play, you don’t feel heavy or sad – Williams somehow makes it so that we feel cleansed of our emotions, giving the perfect cathartic feeling.  

Terrible things happen in the book to almost every character, and no one gets a happy ending, but I think what always gets me, no matter how many times I read it, is how it is so embedded with love – for Blanche, for New Orleans, for theatre, for jazz and ultimately, for the Tennesse William’s sister, who met her own tragic end. 

The book captures a perfect tense, almost suffocating hot summer of desire, full of every emotion humanely possible. I think it’s a book everyone can get something different from, if given the chance. 

Katherine Arden’s “The Bear and the Nightingale” by Izzy Peart-Mills

When thinking of a book to recommend, a few came to mind, but ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden was one I easily settled upon. It is the story of Vasya, a girl who was born enchanted to see the spirits that reside alongside humans. These spirits of the hearth, the stables, the lakes, and the forests are unseen by all others, apart from Vasya’s new stepmother. But where Vasya befriends the spirits, her stepmother fears them, and in turn fears Vasya. At its heart, this is a story about the conflict between the old ways and the new. How the new faces in Vasya’s life challenge the beliefs of her village and how that affects the fate of Vasya’s family, the spirits, and Vasya herself. 

The book is a mixture of folklore and feudal Russia, with often poetic prose and loveable characters that make the book hard to put down. The way the landscape and the changing seasons are written can only be described as transportive. The characters are messy and loving and intriguing – a perfect combination of people you love and people you love to hate. I love the everyday magic of the story and how at the same time everything is mysterious and unknown. In my eyes, it is an almost perfect fantasy novel, and a brilliant start to a fantastic series. 

Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Klara and the Sun” by Josie Waller

My favourite book is ‘Klara and the Sun’, a speculative sci-fi novel by the author Kazuo Ishiguro. Set in a world where AI robots have been designed to combat loneliness in children, this story is written from the perspective of one such robot called Klara. Klara is purchased by a family to care for their child Josie, who suffers with a chronic illness, but as Klara’s AI becomes more sophisticated with experience and she becomes more equipped to understand the world around her, we slowly learn the ulterior motives this family have for taking Klara into their home.   

I love a sci-fi story; however, they often focus so heavily on the technology that they miss the emotional side of their stories. ‘Klara and the Sun’ is able to incorporate both of these aspects in a way I had never come across before. This is very much a robot attempting to understand a human world, yet sometimes her raw ‘emotion’ seems much stronger than any humans’. Furthermore, observing interactions through Klara’s perspective allows you to see human behaviour through a unique lens. Situations unfold that are so blindingly obvious to the reader whilst the characters are not able to perceive them.   

Throughout the book, Kazuo Ishiguro comments on a wide range of themes including climate change, loneliness and grief, and the future of technology yet despite this broad array he is able to portray clear thought-provoking messages.

I adored this book. Its unique writing style, gripping story, and ability to tackle large themes was able to get me out of a long reading slump. If it’s possible for a robot to have a coming-of-age story, this is it.  

Thank you to the committee for the recommendations!