8 Atmospheric Books to Read in Autumn

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. As we are slowly about to say goodbye to summer and welcome Autumnal Equinox in the Northern hemisphere on 23 September, I put together a list of few books with autumn vibes, a beautiful veil of melancholy and nostalgia. In my view they all are great reads for longer, colder evenings which might compel readers to reflect.

QUARTET IN AUTUMN BY BARBARA PYM

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym published in 1977 (and nominated for the Booker Prize) is a poignant exploration of loneliness. This is a story of four single people in their 60s: Marcia, Letty, Edwin and Norman who have worked together for several years in an office in Central London doing unspecified clerical work. They don’t socialise together out of work, they don’t have any close relatives, they live alone and lead what one could define as a rather quiet life. Romantic love has never become a part of their lives. Despite their advanced age, two of them still live in rented single rooms. Pym is an excellent chronicler of an ordinary and unnoticed life with focus on single elderly people and their fate as they face health problems as well as housing and financial insecurity. Quartet in Autumn has moved me deeply. It is a thought provoking character study which portrays an emotional baggage of four characters as they grow old facing isolation and loneliness. This book also constitutes an interesting commentary on the British society of the 1970s and its attitude towards the ongoing social and cultural changes especially when it comes to treatment of immigrants. Writing is beautiful, lyrical and multilayered. There is nostalgia and wry humour. If you love the likes of Anita Brookner, Penelope Fitzgerald or Patrick Modiano, you will also enjoy Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym. It is a great read, especially during long autumnal evenings. FULL REVIEW

THE MASTER AND MARGARITA BY MIKHAIL BULGAKOV

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is one of my favourite books I have ever read. This book holds a special place in my heart as it depicts beautifully with all the necessary nuances the most important characteristics related to Russia and Eastern Europe during the course of the tragic 20th century. The Master and Margarita is a multi-layered book with many symbolic references. It does help to dig into the history of Russia and Eastern Europe of the 1920s and 1930 to better understand all the symbolism in Bulgakov’s masterpiece. I wrote a long review of this book which might help those not familiar with Eastern European history and culture to understand this book better. It is a great read during long autumnal as well as wintertime evenings. FULL REVIEW

INVISIBLE INK BY PATRICK MODIANO

Invisible Ink is an enigmatic, dream-like, melancholic, beautifully written novel which contemplates the existentialism of memory, its gaps and its missings that make up one’s existence, growing old and how our perception changes over the years, the connections that we make throughout our lives and how we recall people, places and times written in invisible ink on the pages of our own history. The title of the book, Invisible Ink is a metaphor for our memories. Our memory is like the page with invisible writing that reveals over time important details about our lives that were previously unnoticed. On a surface, Invisible Ink tells a story of a private detective, Jean Eyben who thirty years earlier was briefly involved in the search of a missing woman, Noelle Lefebvre who vanished from Paris. That case continues to haunt him decades later. Despite the passage of time, the pieces of Noelle’s life story keep overlapping with the detective’s life throughout the years that follow. As he gets older, Jean learns to notice things he did not as a younger self and slowly comes to the realisation how much of that cold case involves his own life. Invisible Ink evokes melancholy, nocturnal walks across vintage Paris. This time Rome -“the city of forgetting” does also play the role in Modiano’s novel. Typically for Modiano there is always this unmatched philosophical depth and mystery in his poetic writing. Modiano’s books are like an addiction to me. They always provide me with the feelings of solace and calmness. His writing is reassuring, strangely comforting. I highly recommend this book and every book by this author, especially during long autumnal evenings. FULL REVIEW

THE WHEEL BY JENNIFER LANE

The Wheel is such a beautiful, tender and magical book. It is a truly soul-soothing read which takes a reader on a mystical journey of a (self-) discovery through wild landscapes of the British Isles filled with wonderment, gentleness, and magic. It is a nuanced, profoundly moving exploration of our connection with the nature, contemporary toxic working environment which many of us are forced to be a part of, and the healing power of witchcraft and ancient rituals. The Wheel is such a ray of sunshine, beautifully written, and extremely engaging. The Wheel by Jennifer Lane is a wonderful, magical autumnal read and hugely beneficial for people having experienced toxic work environment and their health damaged as a result of that. Also, it is a great read for those interested in the connection between the natural world and humans, in the ancient rituals, beliefs of our ancestors and their impact on our contemporary life in a modern society. I am truly in love with this gem of a book. I highly recommend it to everyone. FULL REVIEW

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE BY GAIL HONEYMAN

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine constitutes a meditation about isolation and loneliness among young people in the modern world. Gail Honeyman said somewhere that what inspired her to write this book was reading an article about the experience of one young woman who said that she did not speak to anyone from the time she left work on Friday evening until she was back at work on Monday morning. This book will resonate with anyone who has experienced loneliness or feeling of being isolated or abandoned in their lives, while loneliness does not necessarily mean something negative. This is also a story about people who are introverts and treat them as ‘equal’ to the socially accepted extroverts in the Western world. This is one of these books where the hero / heroine is an ‘ordinary’ person trying to make the ends meet while dealing with some internal struggles caused by their earlier life experiences. In my view, this is also one of the best portrayals of professional life of an ‘ordinary’ person and of social interactions between people in their workplace. This book is a soul-soothing gift from its author which can contribute to some normalisation of loneliness, aloneness and being an introvert as a way of life. One has to remember that often we can live with others, be surrounded by many people, but still feel lonely and isolated. FULL REVIEW

FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS BY VALERIE PERRIN

This book is the most extraordinary, moving tribute to the resilience of human spirit. I must admit that I don’t remember when last time I was so deeply touched by a story. This tale evolves around a small graveyard in a small French town, Bourgogne. We meet an array of interesting, nuanced characters, including our main protagonist, Violette. The story of Violette’s life is slowly revealed to us through her own words or through the interconnectedness with the lives of other people. Fresh Water For Flowers is a tale about difficult love, mature love, grief, loneliness, god, death, the absence of those whom we love, relationship between people and their animal companions. There are many insightful observations about relationships between parents and their adult children, also about finding love at the later stage in life. This is a profoundly sad story, but at the same time it leaves the reader with a sense of hope and belief in the strength of a human heart. Writing is lyrical, melancholic, just beautiful. I highly recommend this book to everyone in need of magic in their life, especially during long autumnal evenings. FULL REVIEW

MADONNA IN A FUR COAT BY SABAHATTIN ALI

‘When we walked side by side, did I not feel his humanity most profoundly? Only now did I begin to understand why it was not always through words that people sought each other out and came to understand each other.’ I was profoundly moved by this gem of a book. In ‘Madonna in a Fur Coat’, Ali portrays the deepest corners of the human soul. We, the readers, witness the development of the feeling called ‘love’ from the perspective of a young, extremely sensitive Turkish man, Raif Efendi. Ali’s writing offers probably one of the best description of a sensitive man, deeply emphatic soul. Ali’s words have the ability to penetrate readers’ soul in the most exquisite manner. Ali was a magician of words; he added a sprinkle of stardustto the seemingly mundane story and created a profoundly moving tale of the most basic human emotions. This book is a real gift to the human thought and it is a wonderful book to read during colder months when days become shorter, nights longer. FULL REVIEW

10 MINUTES 38 SECONDS IN THIS STRANGE WORLD BY ELIF SHAFAK

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is one of these books that you want to give everyone around you as a gift. This tale is very precious, not only because of its diverse topicality, but also due to the lesson of profound empathy. The characters in this novel moved me deeply and the writing is somehow spiritual, its gentleness touches something deep in my soul. Reading 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World made my heart full and my soul chuffed. I find Elif’s writing emotionally sensitive and compassionate. It does connect with me at a deeper level and it is a tool for me to exit this current world of mine and to join Leila on the journey into her (story)land. In my view, it is a book to heal one’s soul. The story of Leila is also a story of heavy silences, social and cultural taboos such as the position of women in the patriarchal society, the position of newcomers, immigrants and outcasts in their newly found home. The themes of the journey, both for human beings but also for objects, an enchanting descriptions to “the city of scars”- Istanbul, an exploration of empathy and diversity of opinion within the same group, community are movingly told addressing all the nuances for a better understanding of the world we live in. FULL REVIEW

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