intense sensations

What novels were invented for

Posted on: August 24, 2011

Miss WorldMiss World by Randi Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are many different reasons why we like to read books but there is one reason that I prize above all others and that is to feel a connection with someone. It’s difficult to predict when this will happen. All the marketing in the world can’t drum up an authentic human experience if it’s not there in a novel and you can scour a bookshop in vain for something that will reach out and touch you.

It often happens when you’re not expecting it and when it happens you’re reminded of why you’re addicted to reading and why it’s the best investment of your time ever.

I downloaded this book to my Kindle some weeks ago and I skimmed through it out of curiosity. At first I didn’t think I would like it. But I came back to it after a few days and settled down to read it properly. Then I became totally absorbed.

Usually I discuss what I’m reading with my flatmate. I’ve got to stop doing that. Sometimes the books I’m reading disappear. This time my Kindle disappeared.

For days.

Luckily I had a backup of Miss World on my computer and my iPhone.

It’s also lucky that I am a faster reader than my flatmate, otherwise she would have totally ruined the story for me because she couldn’t stop talking about it over dinner every night (even though the events depicted are not suitable for discussion at the dinner table).

We both thought of Amy Tan when we read this novel. In case you don’t know her, Amy Tan was born in California to Chinese immigrant parents and is the author of the novel The Joy Luck Club.

Being overseas Chinese ourselves, we enjoy the novels of Amy Tan. But whereas Amy writes about connecting with her Chinese heritage, Randi writes about how it feels to be an American teenager, which makes her writing, to my mind, much more immediate, more raw and more personal.

But the Chinese influence is still there. Anyone who is Chinese will immediately recognise the evil Aunt Tai and the controlling, hypocritical Chinese mother.

It’s an uncompromising novel. Everything is laid bare. The tone is deadpan but the writing shows great sensitivity and humour. It is at once irksome and deeply pleasurable. It’s compelling, moving and funny. In many ways, it’s what novels were invented for.

View all my reviews


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