Friday, July 11, 2008

Good Summer Reads

  • Reader, Bernard Schlenk. I just devoured this short novel. Although I can't say that I actually 'liked' the characters (usually a pre-requisite for me) but the complex moral problem set up by the author is compelling. Stayed with me for days. Weeks. Heck, it is still rumbling around in 'there' unsolved.

  • Without A Map, Meredith Hall. I joined a book group in the late winter. This book was on the reading list but not selected by the group. In the spring, going to a meeting on a work day and listening to NPR (my singular source of daily news and culture) I came upon an interview with Hall in which she read parts of the memoir. And I was hooked. I had arrived at my destination but Hall was still talking/reading. I just could not leave the program and so kept driving around that small town up and down hills and decided at that moment to read the book. Usually, I am not fond of memoirs. Usually they tell all and tell more than any sensible person cares to know. But this one. This one is fantastic! It takes place in a small New Hampshire town in the 1960s and obviously is a MUST read.

  • Summer People, Marge Piercy. Larry, a book-collector, bought this book for me a few years ago. A signed first edition. Frankly, I think I might have read the book when it came out nearly 20 nearly years ago........but then again....... Whatever, I read it recently and decided at that moment to return to Piercy whom I have not read in years. A really good read.

  • The Gathering, Ann Enright. A British novelist she tells the story of a large Irish family. I was particulary fond of the device she uses to tell a multi-generational story. Melancholy? Yes, of course. It's Irish. But it is a wonderful read.

  • Ladder of Years, Ann Tyler. I confess the obvious: I prefer books by women writers although I usually don't enjoy the 'quirky' Tyler characters. I quickly tire of them; I want to take them by the shoulders and say, "Buck up" "Get on with it". But I did like this story and felt enormous empathy for the female protagonist who 'runs' away from her much-older husband and family responsibilities. I think a pivotal moment in the book in terms of understanding the motivations of the character is when the husband turns to the police after his wife has gone missing. In responding to questions, the husband cannot recall what color are her eyes and what she was wearing! Read it!

I read The Sand Castle by Rita Mae Brown this weekend. I have not read Brown for decades I think! This book is another in a series of books about Juts and Wheezy (Loose Lips, Bingo, Six of One) whom I have never read and tells the story of family and loss and grieving through a day at the beach in 1952. Heck I might read the rest of the series.

I finished Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian today during an unanticipated sick day. It has the flavor you come to expect from Bohjalian: tight, spare writing. To the point. Without fluff or wordy description. He was afterall, a newspaper writer. And a darn good storyteller. While this one isn't a page turner, it has an even careful pacing and lots of detail in the unfolding of events and building of characters.

What's next on my bedside table? An Elizabeth Berg and
a Marge Piercy.

No comments: