I had time to read while on my long sojourn, but the pickings were slim. Hotels often have a little library in an out-of-the-way spot, consisting of all the books previous guests have read and discarded. It stands to reason that for the most part, these books were the ones not worth bringing home.
Jonathan Kellerman's horrid psychological thrillers, Ruth Rendell's dark and nauseating mysteries, Patricia Cornwall's forensic tomes that are stuffed full of fulminating dead and bloated bodies covered in maggots. *shudder* What choices! Yet one does come across the odd treasure.
The pool cabana at the hotel in Bali had its own weary and water-stained collection, but this was a bit more varied than the usual fare. Mainly because half the books were Dutch translations of best-sellers, a third were Chinese, and the rest a smattering of German, French, and Japanese books. In the end, there were only four books in English, so I worked my way through three of them. The fourth, an Anita Shreve novel, I couldn't force myself to pick up.
Patricia Cornwall's Trace was hideous, and I vowed on my sadly-only-imaginary Chinese-translation Bible to never read another of hers. Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl was amusing and entertaining -- perfect beach reading. But the last one, My Invented Country, by Isabelle Allende, was the best.
I'd tried to read Allende's fiction before, but apparently one magical realism book per lifetime is my personal quota. (Perhaps because I overdid it and read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude either two or three times.) Yet Allende's autobiographical book, about her experiences as a writer, a Chilean, and an expat, was compelling and fascinating. The sensation of feeling oneself "different" or "other" -- and of finding everything in the world quite curious and strange -- she describes it beautifully.
So beautifully and so truthfully that I desperately wanted to steal that book.
Yet once again, I resisted the temptation, because how cruel would it be to reduce the Bali pool cabana's English catalogue by 25%? Really not on. Even I could not bring myself to be so unkind to future reading guests.
Thought of it later: I should have left my copy of Eat, Pray, Love there! But that would have been equally mean. And I'm just not that kind of girl.