9 books, 2802 pages (up 487 pages from March), 93 pages a day
Emily, Alone Stewart O’Nan
Underlying the humor and her disdain for common idiocy, O’Nan gives us a portraiture that is an incisive investigation of the ways cultural forces shape private lives. The constant clash, though rather subdued and not pronounced, between Emily and her children has as much to do with generational differences as with issues of temperament and personal inclination. This is a quiet book, but full of life. One of the best reads of the month.
The Rain Before It Falls Jonathan Coe
Coe’s writing is thoughtful and contemplative, but the story itself mediocre at best. It’s forgettable. It leaves me with a feeling that the book is under-written. The story that runs through my mind is the same mistake perpetrated by generations of women, who compound their ill fate by making poor choices, neglecting and mistreating their children. I’m underwhelmed by this one but will explore Coe’s other works.
The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood
retains its sense of mystery to the end, when the interplay of secrets in the sister’ tangled lives are revealed. Iris is one of the most memorable characters in contemporary literature. As she reflects upon the path she has taken to old age, she is oblivious to her own hand in the downward turn. Victim to whom fate has not been kind, but whose ills (like those of many victims of circumstance) are largely of her own making, even if her contribution was often one of complacency. So glad I have finally read this paramount classic.
The Book of Joe Jonathan Tropper
Tropper continues to amaze and satisfy. Self-deprecatingly funny about provocatively insightful, it is the story of a writer who was once an alienated youth but achieves literary success with a novel that salvages his hometown and its people. Beneath all the humor is an emotional heft of a late coming of age story. Tropper rocks.
A Year in Provence Peter Mayle
What a whet to my taste buds! This book chronicles Mayle’s first year living in France. Although the transition to living in Provence is not the smoothest for the Mayles, and that everybody in the region has strong opinion about everything, the Provençales all agree on the importance of food. What is better than learning a culture through its culinary art and gastronomic particulars?
The Help Kathryn Stockett
I’m resistant to bestsellers but this one does live up to its hype. Despite some stylistic flaws, he Help succeeds in what literature ought to achieve—appraising and exposing human condition. However exaggerated the story might be in spurts, it demonstrates the indomitable will of human beings to survive against all odds.
The Transit of Venus Shirley Hazzard
I have mixed feelings about this book. Hazzard is no doubt a wordsmith who knows her language. But throughout the entire story Hazzard does not cling on to any notion of hope: Her characters are not worthy of empathy, some are plain nasty and pretentious, others are miserable before rescue. While the novel lives up to what befits a literary fiction in the value and power of language, the story needs desperately to be trimmed to its honest bones.
The Spectator Bird Wallace Stegner
Stegner has become another signature author for me. The book is about a man’s soul searching and aging with dignity. The 20/20 hindsight on a past event makes an old couple realize that true marital communion does not allow room for dishonesty. Stegner’s style is at once brilliant, contemplative, and effortless. So often that you have to read between the lines to appreciate the intimacy of the marriage.
Young Hearts Crying Richard Yates
This book is a long manifestation of what it means to be a loser. In a pervasive tone of sadness, with prose so unadorned and unsentimental, Yates creates a vision, a relentless and unflinching scrutiny of a wasted life. This novel is about the desires and disasters of a tragic, hopeful couple, whose once bright future gives way to life of adultery and isolation. They are adrift in their miseries. It’s ultimately tiresome to read about the circular ruts of these people and I want to shake them and rage at them.