Things to Read - On the Bookshelf (October 2015)
Lots of books this month because I haven't posted in awhile (plus, lazy days summer days at the pool and lake allowed for lots of reading time). My favorites are starred. What about everyone else, read anything good lately?
1. Outline - The idea of this novel is intriguing - everything you learn about the narrator is revealed through ten conversations she has while traveling to teach a creative writing seminar. And the writing is really good. But several of the conversations didn't seem "real" to me, after awhile I kept asking myself, "who talks like this?". Still, an interesting read, which made me wonder what I reveal about myself when talking to strangers.
2. After Birth - I'm so glad someone finally wrote a novel about how hard early parenthood can be and how little modern medicine/ society seems to care. But the narrator is such a bitch, really an absolute bitch, that I became sick of listening to her rant after awhile.
3. The Dinner - I keep going back and forth on whether to star this (I don't want to star everything). It's an intriguing novel, in which a somewhat-routine dinner between two brothers and their wives becomes completely horrific. I found the end a little over-the-top awful, but, still, I couldn't put this book down. And the plot makes you think about how far you would go to protect your own children (though hopefully never as far as one of the brothers). It also makes you wonder if some people truly are just born evil and then find equally evil people to marry them.
4. **** Among the Ten Thousand Things - READ THIS BOOK. It's about family dynamics and mistakes people make and, basically, how life goes on. The story, while told well, isn't necessarily original, but the way in which it is told (half way through the novel you learn "the end") makes this book different than anything else I've read.
5. All the Light We Cannot See - I need to tread lightly here, because I know so many people who love this book, which tells the stories of a blind French girl and a German orphan during World War II. And I can see why people like it - Doerr writes well, the characters are likable, and each chapter carries an element of suspense - but I I found it a little cheesy, with main characters who seemed inordinately "good". (Plus, as I mentioned last month, I loved Doerr's memoir, Four Seasons in Rome, and found it disappointing that I didn't find his fiction as compelling).
6. **** Suite Francaise - READ THIS BOOK. On the overnight train from Paris to Venice we shared our compartment with a German au pair named Sophie who was writing her thesis on Irene Nemirovsky, an author whom I had never heard of (and nothing irritates me more than not knowing about a well-regarded author). And now I'm a little obsessed with Nemirovsky. First of all, her writing is beyond amazing. And this novel - which deals with Nazi occupied Paris during World War II - is good, really good, we're talking War and Peace good, even though Nemirovsky never had a chance to finish the third through fifth sections. Nemirovsky died at Auschwitz as did her husband. Neighbors and friends saved her children by hiding them throughout the war and her oldest daughter, Denise, carried a suitcase full of her mom's writings everywhere she went. But it wasn't until Denise turned 50 that she opened the suitcase and started reading her mother's undiscovered masterpiece, hence how Suite Francaise came to publication. If the background story alone isn't enough to make you read it, then trust me, the book stands on its own. So so good.
7. **** Her - READ THIS BOOK. Similar in some ways to Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, Her is a you-can't-put-it-down thriller. The plot being that one woman befriends another woman, but her intentions seem sinister. You know something bad is going to happen, you're just not sure what or when. Or, really, even why. But the thing that makes this novel stand out is that the writing itself is so so good. Harriet Lane perfectly captures early motherhood and how it feels to lose some of your own identity when creating a family.
8. Crazy Rich Asians - Every bookworm's summer needs at least one guilty pleasure and this was mine. The characters are underdeveloped and the excess is over the top, but wow was this fun to read. And it made me grateful that I'm not crazy rich. Or even slightly rich.