The Stranger by Albert Camus
It was written in French. I’m recommending Matthew Ward’s translation, done in 1988 or so (as opposed to what I believe was the more common translation, done by an Englishman in the late 1940s). I think the publisher’s description best sums it up: An ordinary man unwittingly gets drawn into a senseless murder on a sundrenched Algerian beach.
How it starts: "Maman died today. Or yesterday, maybe. I don’t know."
It’s relatively rare that I come to a classic as an adult, without it already having been ruined for me because I had to write a paper on it for a teacher who saw all sorts of things in it that I didn’t. But I found this book to be more interesting than many classics. At least, until it was “reinterpreted” for me at my book club meeting as representing Albert Camus’ relationship with the philosophy of existentialism (though I’ve since found out that Camus strongly refuted this idea). But I recommend it anyway, as a fascinating story in its own right. This is not a particularly likable protagonist, so if that’s important to you, you should probably skip it. But the way events spiral is, to me, a mark of good storytelling.
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
Genre: general fiction
The Space Between Us centers around Sera, an upper middle class housewife of an abusive husband, and Bhima, a poor woman who has worked in Sera’s household for over twenty years. A life-changing event connects the two of them, and they're forced to make choices they never imagined. The story is set in Bombay, India (Or Mumbai, if you’re below a certain age).
For most of the world outside Europe and the USA, having household staff seems to be the norm, and the relationships between people who know each other as well as family but are most definitely not family is complicated and sometimes painful.
This is a fairly new show – the second season will be on television in June. Basic premise: Mike Ross has a photographic memory, and since being kicked out of law school, mostly makes a living by illegally taking the LSAT for people. While doing an (also-illegal) favor for a friend, he stumbles into a job interview for a prestigious law firm, and impresses the attorney so much that he’s offered the job, even though they both know the firm only takes Harvard grads.
So far the show is doing a lot less with Mike’s photographic memory (which was what attracted me to it to begin with) and a lot more with the web of lies he and his boss have spun. Still, I’m looking forward to the second season.
Awesome tag line: "Two lawyers. One degree." And Gina Torres (Zoe from Firefly) plays a founding partner of the law firm. J