RidgewayGirl Reads in 2021, Second Quarter

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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2021, Second Quarter

Bearbeitet: Jun. 30, 4:24pm

It's already Spring!

Currently Reading

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Newly Acquired

Bearbeitet: Jun. 26, 1:10pm

Mrz. 22, 11:44am

In countless ways and for countless reasons, I loved growing up in many countries, among many cultures. It made it impossible for me to believe in the concept of supremacy. It deepened my ability to hold multiple truths at once, to practice and nurture empathy. But it has also meant that I have no resting place. I have perpetually been a them rather than an us. I have struggled with how to place myself in my family histories.

I initially picked up Aftershocks, a memoir by the far-too-young-to-be-writing-memoirs Nadia Owusu, because she had spent her childhood living in different places. Her father worked for the UN and so the family was posted to places like Italy, Tanzania and Ethiopia. I was initially interested in her experience of living a childhood moving from place to place. And she describes that world beautifully, the experience of living in a privileged bubble even in the center of countries being torn apart by war and famine, of never feeling centered in one place. But there's a lot more to this memoir than that; her parents, one Ghanaian, one Armenian-American, divorced when she was young and her mother only visited sporadically and briefly, and when her father died when Owusu was fourteen, her mother refused to take her and her younger sister in, leaving them with their stepmother, a woman with whom Owusu had a contentious relationship.

Owusu ends up, like so many rootless people, in New York. Despite her privileged childhood, she is struggling to get by and running up against the harsh realities of the American dream and her own unresolved trauma from being constantly abandoned. There's a lot of uncomfortable honesty in this memoir and if Owusu doesn't exactly emerge in a secure space, there's the feeling that she will probably manage to find her way. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

Mrz. 22, 12:24pm

Aftershocks sounds really good, Kay. Great comments, as usual.

Happy New Thread.

This reminds me to check out the ToB. Is it over yet?

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 22, 12:33pm

>9 BLBera: No, it's in the quarterfinals. It's been a great year so far -- the books were all well-chosen, the judgements worth discussing and the comments section has been really active.


The Tournament of Books is the only reason I'm not confused when someone brings up the NCAA at this time of year.

Mrz. 22, 1:03pm

Happy new thread, Kay! I for one am glad that there are no photos of frightening women sporting weapons of mass destruction here.

Nice review of Aftershocks.

Mrz. 22, 1:13pm

Hi, Darryl, those nice ladies were only going to do some light gardening. No need to be scared of them.

Mrz. 22, 2:50pm

>8 RidgewayGirl: That looks like a very good book. Looking forward to your Springtime reading. Cheers!

Mrz. 22, 7:27pm

>13 rocketjk: Thanks, Jerry!

Mrz. 22, 11:54pm

Wow, look at you and your organization. And what an impressive number of books you've read so far.

Mrz. 23, 1:50pm

Abandoning this one. A story that's been told before, with characters out of central casting and some annoying stylistic tics. Writers, you don't need to get fancy. Don't use the first person plural when the traditional third person omniscient narrator would do a better job! Blech.

Mrz. 23, 1:55pm

Huh. I'm trying to recall when/if I ever read something in first person plural and all I can hear is "we are Borg"...

Mrz. 23, 1:58pm

>17 LolaWalser: It's written from the point of view of the entire neighborhood. Which might work, except the action immediately left the neighborhood. And the neighborhood was the most boring entirely white, well-off, white picket fence place imaginable. Give me a neighborhood with a little life and stick within its boundaries for the story and it might work if the author is skilled enough.

Mrz. 23, 4:19pm

>18 RidgewayGirl: Jeffrey Eugenides pulled off first-person plural in The Virgin Suicides, and I also remember liking Hannah Pittard's The Fates Will Find Their Way. But I'm not sure there are many others. It really needs to be a plot point, not a gimmick.

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 23, 7:47pm

>16 RidgewayGirl: Hi Kay: I can't see the title of the one you abandoned. It is very interesting; I just started a book that begins with first person plural narration, like a chorus. The second chapter switched to third person, so I'll see if the chorus returns.

But we don't see first person plural narration often. One famous example is Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily."

Mrz. 23, 9:16pm

>17 LolaWalser: >18 RidgewayGirl: We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen uses the first person plural to pretty good effect, although not continually throughout the narrative. It is an excellent novel about several generations of a Danish fishing town. Jensen returns from time to time to the first person plural in sort of a magical realism way to offer the perspectives of the ghostly formerly drowned town residents to the goings on of the currently living.

Mrz. 24, 1:32pm

>19 lisapeet: Absolutely, it can be well-done and integral to the plot. In this case, the novel begins with the neighborhood watching this perfect golden girl grow up, so far so good, but when she runs away, the neighborhood continues to observe her, which made no sense.

>20 BLBera: Oh, sorry, the book is We Can Only Save Ourselves by Alison Wisdom. If the narration had switched to omniscient narrator when the main character left the neighborhood, that might have worked, especially if, when she returns, they come back as narrator, but without the information gained outside of their view.

>21 rocketjk: I don't mind it if it makes sense for the novel and the author is able to pull it off. All the other times, I hate it.

Mrz. 24, 4:52pm

Josephine is one of The Divines, girls attending an expensive boarding school in England. In her fifth year, however, things go badly wrong, beginning with her sharing a room with an unpopular girl, which jeopardizes her social standing and ending in mayhem and tragedy. Going back and forth between this pivotal year and Josephine as a married adult, Ellie Eaton tells the story of what happens when over-privileged girls are kept together with too little supervision and what happens when a girl who has always been a follower is put in a position where her values are tested.

I'm a sucker for a school story, especially one set it such a different world, but this one ultimately pulled its punches in ways that left me dissatisfied. I did like how Josephine was passive in her own story, how she was unable to parse the motivations of others, or even understand herself. Feeling left out of her friend group had her willing to make friends with a townie, a girl who both encourages Josephine to take a new look at her privileged life and who has her own motivations for hanging out with her. Josephine as an adult is not that different from Josephine as a teenager. She's contemptuous of her previous life, but also fascinated and eager to find out what happened to her former schoolmates.

Mrz. 25, 5:30pm

This is my second time reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, so I'm not going to review it, but I am going to say that this is a book worth rereading. I bought a copy of The Mirror and the Light right before everything shut down last March and it's been sitting on my shelf for a year as I've dithered about either rereading the first two books in the trilogy or just diving right in to book three. I'm glad I finally decided to do the reread as I am enjoying it so much. I turned the last page in Wolf Hall and immediately started Bring Up the Bodies.

Mrz. 25, 7:31pm

>24 RidgewayGirl: I turned the last page in Wolf Hall and immediately started Bring Up the Bodies.

Definitely that kind of writing. I too found The Mirror and the Light just as everything was shutting down last year, and it really took me away from today's problems and into that other world. I'll be interested in your take on it, and on your reading experience with it.

Mrz. 25, 8:10pm

>25 SassyLassy: I'm excited about it. I rarely read two books by the same author in a year, but I'm treating the trilogy as one long novel.

Mrz. 26, 2:07am

>24 RidgewayGirl: Wolf Hall is my all time favorite novel. I would kill to be able to write like that.

Mrz. 26, 5:24am

>24 RidgewayGirl: Excellent. You're in plenty of time for the BOTB group read discussion.

I really hope The Mirror and the Light isn't a bit underwhelming after BOTB.

Mrz. 26, 12:16pm

>27 Cariola: Yes, absolutely. And how lightly, yet deeply she weaves in all her research.

>28 AlisonY: Yep, catching up to all of you. So glad you all decided to make a formal effort, because without that, I'd still be looking at The Mirror and the Light and trying to decide if I could read it without rereading the first two books.

Mrz. 26, 12:45pm

If it's any consolation, Kay, I'm still eyeing my reread of Bring Up the Bodies, but have a bunch of books to read by the end of April first. But I fully intend to!

Mrz. 26, 7:54pm

>30 lisapeet: Ah, the books that need to be read. They are both a joy and a hinderance to those other books we want to read now.

So Beverly Cleary has died. I loved her books as a child.

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 27, 11:11am

Mrz. 27, 11:21am

Mrz. 27, 12:28pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: That's about it.

Mrz. 27, 2:24pm

>32 RidgewayGirl:, >33 Nickelini:

I want to add that all though I'm both reading and buying books at a furious pace, I have to remind myself that unfortunately, I have only so many books in my future and I just can't read them all. A few weeks ago one of the book shows on CBC radio interviewed a celebrity, who -- like me-- is in her mid-50s. She had 3.500 unread books and her wife pointed out to her that if she read 50 books a year and had 30 good reading years ahead of her, she'd only be able to get to 1,500. and that's not including the books that haven't been written yet and will be published during those 30 years. Plus, they lived in an apartment so were renting a storage unit just to hold books. So she purged 1,500 books. It was an interesting conversation and somewhat eye opening. I'm pretty sure I'm never going to read my copy of Under the Volcano. Why am I holding on to it (multiply that by probably hundreds of books)?

Mrz. 27, 4:15pm

>35 Nickelini: Maybe because, like me, the books have meaning for you irregardless of whether or not you read them? Interesting question. Why do we keep our books?

Mrz. 27, 5:59pm

>35 Nickelini: I, too, have more not-yet-read books in my house than I can read in my lifetime, and I like it that way. A) a house full of books makes me feel good. and B) How do I know which ones I'm going to want to read 15 years from now?

But mostly A) :)

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 27, 9:45pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: The best meme of this I've seen so far!!

Thanks for the review of Aftershocks. I'd seen a synopsis of this but I am trying not to add books to my wishlist based on just a synopsis... (see above), so it's useful to read your review (and yes, it's on the wishlist now)

Mrz. 27, 11:15pm

Tender is the Flesh, The Vanishing Half, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Moon of the Crusted Snow, Deacon King Kong, Aftershocks - seriously, this thread. And the books aren't even on my Suez barge, just imagining them on there. Anyway, I'm catching up, so it's a heavy imaginary pile. Terrific reviews. I was relieved to not want to read every book posted here.

>11 kidzdoc: >12 RidgewayGirl: I was surprised to to find I missed these ladies. I opened the thread and immediately felt something was missing and then I remembered the various threatening household objects...

Mrz. 28, 11:57am

I’ve missed the threatening ladies too, Dan. ;-)

The meme is great, Kay. I just did a screen shot to send to my daughter. I have many more books on my shelves than I’ll ever get to. And Joyce’s comment about the celebrity sounds just like my daughter. Her LT catalog has well over 3,500 books, and I’m not sure if she still keeps it up since she doesn’t post anymore.

Mrz. 28, 12:33pm

>18 RidgewayGirl: Oh, dear, I grew up in a white, reasonably well-off neighborhood, but it was anything but boring.

Mrz. 28, 12:38pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: How topical. LOL.

Mrz. 28, 9:50pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: That is a pretty great image, Kay.

Mrz. 30, 11:43am

>35 Nickelini: Who I am as a reader now is not who I was a decade ago and when I reorganize my shelves, I keep that in mind and usually manage to find a few books to put in my donate pile, only because I no longer find them interesting. But this is such a small number.

I don't thing we're intended to end life having finished the last book on our tbr pile. We should still have a choice in front of us when we're choosing that final book. And then there's the sheer joy in seeing those books arranged on the shelves.

>36 labfs39: I agree. It's not just the act of reading that makes a book important. My criterion for keeping a book once I've read it is whether I can see myself rereading it at some point in the future, although given that I only reread a handful of books each year (or none at all), there's more to it than that.

>37 rocketjk: Yes, yes and yes. I do love how my living room feels. Houses with no books visible are so much less interesting.

>38 wandering_star: Aftershocks is a book worth spending time with.

>39 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan. And I'm glad last year's ladies didn't chase you away forever.

Mrz. 30, 12:19pm

I miss 'em too! That party dress/chainsaw ensemble always made me smile.

And I also like to be surrounded by my books, with no illusions that I'll be able to read them all before I shuffle off. My son is a reader, but I doubt he'll want them all... but that'll be his problem. At least I won't leave him closets full of Tupperware or anything like that, just lots of books and stationery.

Mrz. 30, 2:25pm

>44 RidgewayGirl: This discussion led me to post the following on my thread. I'll repost it here it for conversation sake.

Over on Kay's (Ridgewaygirl's) thread, the question was raised as to why we keep more books than we could ever read. Lois (avaland) was teasing me that now that I've moved to Maine I need to keep my books for insulation if nothing else. It started me thinking about the different roles books play in my life. My shelves are not only TBR storage units, or even insulation. They are an intellectual photo album of where I've been and with whom I've spent time, a walk down memory lane, a jog to a not-so-perfect memory, displays for my most attractive books, talking points, a hobby, and something so integral to my identity that my daughter has asked on more than one occasion if she will get all my books when I die. She did not want me to weed before we moved, as though it would be giving away bits of me. I don't own nearly as many as some folks here on LT, and I have read the majority of them, but it's still far more than I need. But then what is need when it comes to books? Yesterday I was sitting sleepily staring blankly at some bookcases and realized that I was going along and identifying by spine color/shape/magic which book was which. It was quite enjoyable. Either I'm going nuts, or I get a lot of pleasure simply being surrounded by books. Probably both.

Mrz. 30, 3:24pm

>44 RidgewayGirl: Who I am as a reader now is not who I was a decade ago and when I reorganize my shelves, I keep that in mind and usually manage to find a few books to put in my donate pile, only because I no longer find them interesting. But this is such a small number.

I don't thing we're intended to end life having finished the last book on our tbr pile. We should still have a choice in front of us when we're choosing that final book. And then there's the sheer joy in seeing those books arranged on the shelves.

I too love to look at all my books (and I have thousands in my house), but I know I don't need to keep them all. Maybe releasing some of them to other readers would be a very good thing indeed.

My personal takeaway from the conversation was that I just can't read all the books, so choose the ones I want to read wisely. As for the celebrity, I think the take away for her was that one, they lived in an apartment and space was limited, and two, they were paying monthly rent at a storage locker. Those storage lockers are pretty evil addictions. Who ever makes a habit of going and checking if they want any of their stuff?

Sorry I gave the impression that I expect to read every book I own. My husband can vouch that that will never happen. But some more realistic balance would be a healthy thing. I'm not about to start Marie Kondo-ing my shelves ;-)

Mrz. 30, 4:07pm

>44 RidgewayGirl: Yesterday I was sitting sleepily staring blankly at some bookcases and realized that I was going along and identifying by spine color/shape/magic which book was which. It was quite enjoyable. Either I'm going nuts, or I get a lot of pleasure simply being surrounded by books...

Yes, that's a lot of the joy for me as well, it's marvelous to look up from whatever I'm doing and see the books there on the shelves and think about different ones as their spines catch my eye, and look forward to reading others. Their physical presence enhances my living space.

>47 Nickelini: I did Marie Kondo my shelves, Joyce! I went through and held each one in my hands and asked myself if it brought me joy and kept the ones that did and they are currently all displayed as a collection in a pleasing way. I highly recommend doing this. It may not reduce the count in any meaningful way, but it did reacquaint me with each book and made me more eager than ever to read each one. Kondo says that any collection needs to be displayed so that it can be fully enjoyed.

I agree that a storage unit is a bad thing. It's not like those books are visible or able to be pulled out and looked through, or contemplated when choosing the next book. I'm very much against the idea of having so many possessions that there is more than a household's worth, but I do live in a house with plenty of space and not a small apartment in a big city.

Mrz. 30, 4:18pm

>48 RidgewayGirl: I lived for two years in Florida, in a two bedroom apartment, and had a climate-controlled storage unit primarily for books. It was a different situation, in that I knew it was short-term, but it was still lousy. I worried about them as though they were children, or at least well-loved pets. Unpacking has been a joy, and although I dig sort out a few that no longer gave me joy, for the most part it was a joyful reunion. :-)

Mrz. 31, 9:49am

Last weekend I went through my mother and her boyfriend’s books. She’s in assisted living with dementia and he’s moved out of state, so the house needs to be cleared. What to do?

Some were easy. Cookbook and health books to goodwill. But there were about 200 really good books, mostly from the 1960’s and 1970’s. I picked out four, took the rest 1st to a local half price (traded about 30 or so for two novels by Muriel Spark, no money changed hands), and then to goodwill.

Made me realize my books are worth as much as i make them for me. Once I’m past them, they’re just a problem for someone to deal with.

Anyway, I keep all mine because I actually imagine reading them...and I am pleased when I do read one. But reality is held at a distance in my reading life. (Tbr is roughly 1000 books, and growing)

Mrz. 31, 12:41pm

>49 labfs39: When we went to Germany for three years, most of my books ended up in storage and every visit to see my parents (who lived in an adjacent city) included a trip to the storage unit to pick up a few I wanted to read. I was so glad to bring them all home.

>50 dchaikin: Daniel, my parents, and now my Dad, have been clearing out their house for a good decade now. Hoping to have the same amount of time to get things squared away. I don't think my kids will want to keep more than a few dozen and I would not want them to keep more.

Apr. 2, 10:27pm

No One is Talking About This is a novel by Patricia Lockwood. Told in short segments, the first half is about her life centering around the Portal, a stand-in for twitter. She went viral once and has been speaking and making appearances with other people who are twitter-famous. Then something real happens to a family member.

Lockwood wrote the funny, heart-breaking and perfect memoir, Priestdaddy, and this novel is similar in tone and with characters who largely correspond to her family members. But while Priestdaddy is a book you could pick up in a decade or two and enjoy, No One is Talking About This is for this moment in time, being a snapshot of life during the Trump Presidency and of that moment of extremely on-line culture. Lockwood is a poet and it shows here.

Apr. 3, 8:48am

I have what I consider ample book storage in our home. An entire floor to ceiling wall of built-in shelves in one room and two beautiful free-standing shelves that my dad made as CD storage for me back in the 90s that I now use for books. My policy is that I can have the books that fit there. I simply make room by donating books when others come into my life. I imagine this will work for me for a long time. But I also use the library to check out most new releases to my kindle, so my book buying isn't as high as some readers.

Apr. 3, 8:56am

>53 japaul22: I have this on reserve at the library, Kay. I've heard some varied comments, so I look forward to it. I didn't read Priestdaddy.

My dad has made a lot of shelves, all of which are full. I am trying to read from my shelves and find new homes for books. Unfortunately, the shiny new books from the library distract me from this.

Apr. 3, 10:16am

>53 japaul22: I have plenty of space for books. My husband keeps offering/threatening to build more bookshelves, but I've got plenty of space to work with, I just need to get better of letting go of the books I've loved, but am not going to reread.

>54 BLBera: Priestdaddy is better, but No One is talking About This will give you a good feel for how she uses language.

Apr. 4, 11:12am

Ben Okri's short story collection, A Prayer for the Living, feels like a series of dreams, some full of wonder and discovery, unexpected twists of fate, and some read like nightmares, sharper and more terrifying than life. The stories travel through the world, set in London and Istanbul, Africa and the Americas.

There's a story about Don Quixote in an African printer's shop, a story about a father and his two sons trying to get their broken-down car home in Lagos, several brief, horrifying stories involving the Boko Haram, and a fairy tale involving an enchanted doll house. A London detective uses his intuition to find the culprit, a lonely man dreams of Istanbul, a curious man witnesses the power of a magical mirror held by a cabal of Rosicrucians and, in the titular story, the living envy the dead.

I enjoyed my first encounter with this Booker Prize-winning author.

Apr. 4, 11:44am

>56 RidgewayGirl: Wow. He covers some ground in that collection.

Apr. 4, 1:45pm

>57 labfs39: Ha, yes he does. But even as he roams geographically and through genres, his writing style is distinctive enough to mark each story as being by Ben Okri. I'm interested in reading more by him, but I'm not sure I want to jump into The Famished Road.

Apr. 9, 4:02pm

So how to review a perfect collection of short stories? Elizabeth McCracken's The Souvenir Museum is such a book and I am at a loss for words. Nevertheless, here are a few.

McCracken's strength lies in her characters. Quirky and grounded, willing to combine both whimsey and harsh reality. I know that sounds dreadful, but McCracken pulls it off. A young man has his parents' permission to run away to sea for a few weeks, but he fails to return, instead running away to London to become a ventriloquist. An aging actress with a role in a children's game show watches an entertainer make balloon animals on a ferry during a storm. A man discovers that parenthood involves going places, like a German-themed waterpark, that he would never normally visit. And there are stories that link together in the best ways. I can't point to a weak story or a clunky phrase in the book. I loved it.

Apr. 9, 4:56pm

>59 RidgewayGirl: Kay, did you read her collection Thunderstruck? I really loved it, and can't wait to get to this one. She's doing a Center for Fiction event with Paul Lisicky next week, and I'm frustrated because it's at the same time as a National Arts Club event with George Saunders, and of course I'm signed up for them both and can't decide which one I want to watch. I've heard Saunders talk on his newest book (which I also can't wait to read) on a few podcasts, so I have a feeling I'm going to catch Elizabeth McCracken, but it's a hard call. (Yeah, I realize that if this is as conflicted as my life gets that's probably not such a bad thing but still.)

Bearbeitet: Apr. 10, 12:50pm

>60 lisapeet:} What a wonderful conundrum! I'm planning to buy a copy of the Saunders book as soon as it's out in paperback as after looking at a copy and hearing an podcast where he was the guest I realized that I'll want to mark it up.

The only thing I'd read by McCracken previously was Bowlaway, which I liked, but I like her short stories far more. I did pick up a copy of Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry? immediately after finishing The Souvenir Museum.

Apr. 9, 11:34pm

>61 RidgewayGirl: I loved her first novel, The Giant's House, when it first came out. 20 years ago, maybe?

Apr. 10, 12:38pm

Great comments on the McCracken collection, Kay. I have a couple of her books on my shelves, which I should read. From your description, it sounds like she is an author I will like.

Apr. 10, 10:27pm

>61 RidgewayGirl: >62 lisapeet: Oh, I also loved The Giant’s House. I’d recommend that one, Kay.

Apr. 11, 12:02pm

I will definitely be reading everything Elizabeth McCracken has written, including her twitter feed, which is delightful.

Apr. 11, 2:48pm

Libby's big, messy Irish-American family is falling apart. Her Dad is dead, her mother spends her time, when she is home, in her room with the door closed. With her older siblings busy with their own lives, Libby feels the pressure to keep everything safe. One evening, during an argument, her mother kicks Libby's twelve-year-old sister out of the car a few miles from home. This event becomes a catalyst for larger changes to this family and especially to Libby, whose constant fear and vigilance are not necessarily good for her or anyone around her.

A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion is set in suburban Valley Forge, Pennsylvania during the summer of 1980, when parental supervision was negligible and the adults were far too busy destroying their own lives to worry about the children. Libby is an interesting character to follow as she gets so much wrong along the way. This is a coming-of-age story structured chronologically, with a lot of details of suburban America during that time. It doesn't cover any new ground or do anything differently than any of the many similar novels out there, but it's well-written and is an enjoyable book to read.

Bearbeitet: Apr. 13, 3:33pm

>59 RidgewayGirl: The Souvenir Museum just went on my wish list yesterday. I like McCracken's short stories and have enjoyed several of her novels (although not particularly the last one about the ladies' bowling establishment).

To add to the discussion of TBRs: When I retired, I had to clear out my office and got rid of well over 1000 books; I simply had no room for them at home and had no wish to transport them. Most of them I put into bags outside the office for students to help themselves. It was delightful to see them gleefully pulling out books they would never think to buy for themselves or could not afford to buy. Most of these were either academic books that I had used in preparing to teach, duplicate editions of Shakespeare and other classic novels. Those that were left were packed up inboxes by students and shipped off to a library in some faraway place.

Since then, I've purged books at home at least once/year. Initially I donated them to the local library for their book sale, but the last two times I have donated to an online auction for the animal rescue with which I volunteer. The last purge, about a week ago, was cookbooks. I found quite a few that had maybe 4-5 recipes that I would ever make, so I simply copied them and put the books in the bag. They will get a good price! I got rather ruthless because I was recently diagnosed with diabetes and knew many of these books had recipes that wouldn't be on my list of acceptable foods. Someone else will really enjoy them! I also donated many novels that, due to changing tastes, I doubt I will ever read. It gives me joy to imagine someone else enjoying them, to be able to get a big box of books out of my closet, and to see empty space on my shelves for more books that are tucked away in boxes or drawers.

I gave in and bought a kindle about 8 years ago. Buying on sale books to add to my TBR is another downfall--but at least they don't take up physical space, and I rarely buy anything that costs more than $1.99. I subscribe to several book deal emails and generally wait for things I want to go on sale. I almost always download a free sample to give it a quick try before buying. But I know I have way too many books there, too! Most of my reading is done on the kindle these days. As I get older, I appreciate being able to enlarge the font, and when my arthritis is acting up, it's much easier to hold/prop up than a heavy hardback or a pb that I have to use constant pressure on to keep open.

So yes, all in all, I still have way more books than I will ever read, but that's OK. I like the option of browsing for what I'm in the mood for, and I don't mind giving books away for a good cause or to folks that will be happy to have them.

Bearbeitet: Apr. 13, 3:30pm

>61 RidgewayGirl:, >64 NanaCC: I loved The Giant's House, too! It's the one that put me on to McCracken. Just also discovered her husband, Edward Carey, whose novel Little was wonderful, too.

Apr. 14, 2:25pm

>67 Cariola: There's definitely effort involved in maintaining a personal library that isn't so large it becomes a source of anxiety or embarrassment, or so small that the owner can't find a book to read that suits their current moment.

I have Little on my iPad waiting for me. I hadn't known that Carey was married to McCracken. It makes me want to read it more. Which is a weird reaction - how can who an author is married to affect how I feel about a book - but it's definitely an influence for me. Finding out that Catherine Lacey was married to Jesse Ball made me a little less eager to read her newest book.

Apr. 14, 4:14pm

Pickard County, a rural area of farms and very small towns in Nebraska, is not an easy place to live. Harley Jensen works as a sheriff's deputy, patrolling the lonely rural highways and abandoned farmhouses at night. Pam Reddick, who married and had a child before she was ready, is slowly drowning, isolated in a trailer with a very young child she wishes she wasn't responsible for, as her husband works long hours for far too little money. They're both restless, but what pulls them together is the Reddick family and the tragedy that defines them. When the three Reddick boys were young, the oldest boy disappeared and his body was never found. Harley is haunted by the one case his department never solved and Pam, married to the middle son, lives with the after effects of that event and how it formed her husband.

Set over a few days, Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton explores the tragic roots of old sorrows and how they affect the living. There's a lot of dark roads, messed up families, repressed feelings, drugs and hopelessness in these pages. Everyone knows your family's secrets and are eager to spread word about any bad behavior, distances are measured in how much gas you have left in the tank and a body can lie hidden for decades.

I'm not entirely sure what I think about this one. The imaginary Pickard County is richly imagined, but often described in ways someone without that visual map in their heads had no way of following. The characters were nuanced and vivid and the ending was very well done, but the story was sometimes self-indulgent, like a story turned over a few too many times. Still, I'm always happy to find a new author writing in a noir-like vein and I'll take a look at whatever she writes next.

Apr. 18, 11:49am

When the time came to choose a new book to read, the stack of books I choose from looked unappealing. But I had a copy of The River by Peter Heller, that I'd picked up because the men in my family like this kind of thing and they are also lazy and expect me to keep books on hand for them. And, in that moment, it looked like just the kind of book I wanted to read. And it was.

The River is the story of two college friends who are on a wilderness canoe trip in Canada. Partway through, two things happen that irrevocably alter a fun trip into something far more dangerous. First, they discover that a large forest fire is moving in their direction. Without any means of calling for help, their only hope is to reach the settlement on the shore of Hudson's Bay before the fire. Second, they meet a man canoeing alone and he tells them his wife is lost in the woods.

This is an adventure story told in a straight forward, Hemingway-esque way. The sentences are clear and direct and unadorned. The two young men are likewise straight forward guys, healthy young men who enjoy the wilderness and have the skills to make this kind of trip. And there is a lot of enjoyment to be had from a good story, well-told.

Apr. 18, 3:08pm

>71 RidgewayGirl: Nice review, Kay. Have you read any of his other books? I liked The Dog Stars a lot, The Painter less so. I'll have to look for this one. In college I hung out at Ledyard Canoe Club and was always awe-struck when Peter would show up—he was already a bit of a legend there—and I remember helping him one afternoon with a boat he was building. Very nice, soft-spoken, and a great kayaker. I have his nonfiction book, Set Free in China: Sojourns on the Edge, but haven't read it.

Apr. 18, 3:38pm

>72 labfs39: Lisa, this was the first of his I'd read. I've picked up a copy of Celine, which my husband has now. It's not often that my father, my husband and I all like the same book.

Apr. 19, 7:27am

>71 RidgewayGirl: I really liked The Dog Stars. It had just the right elements of a good dystopian novel for me. Haven't read the others, though I've got Celine the a shelf somewhere.

Apr. 19, 2:19pm

>71 RidgewayGirl: I've been meaning to read The Dog Stars, but this one sounds good, too, Kay.

Apr. 20, 2:49pm

I'll keep an eye out for The Dog Stars.

Apr. 20, 3:06pm

I reread Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies in preparation for reading The Mirror and the Light. I had forgotten what a quick read it is -- just action-packed until the inevitable conclusion. I may have enjoyed this more on reread, but as I gave it five stars back then, maybe not.

Apr. 20, 3:18pm

>77 RidgewayGirl: I'm waiting on my copy of The Mirror and the Light - it gets released in paperback here next week. Is it chunky?

I'm almost nervous to read it in case it doesn't measure up to the first two.

Apr. 20, 3:31pm

>78 AlisonY: Alison, it's over 700 pages! But I'm loving it so far.

Apr. 20, 7:36pm

This is what life with cats looks like.

He did it to himself. He did it twice, showing that he was not going to learn from experience.

Apr. 20, 8:21pm

>80 RidgewayGirl:

Ha! You should check out Maru, the legendary Japanese cat on YT. There isn't a holder of any sort, shape etc. he hasn't stuck his head into.

Although here, if I'm not mistaking the container, it could be the siren call of ice cream rather than sheer caprice that's to blame. And if so, I feel that cat.

Apr. 20, 10:46pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: I kind of feel like he's a metaphor for me. I hope he thought it was worth it.

Apr. 21, 12:04pm

Was that photo swiftly followed by a fall of the edge of the table?

Apr. 21, 1:03pm

>81 LolaWalser: Lola, the lure of Ben & Jerry's was irresistible.

>82 lisapeet: Homer is all of us, Lisa. This household's ice cream consumption has gone up over the past year for some reason.

>83 AlisonY: Alison, I pulled the container off of his head before this happened. I couldn't get to it earlier as I was laughing too hard. And my son was taking a picture. Homer is such a lovable dolt.

Bearbeitet: Apr. 21, 6:52pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: Ha! That reminds me of the time I and a classmate from medical school were studying together. We had just finished dinner, and there was an empty paper bag on the dining room table where we were sitting which contained whatever takeaway food one of us had ordered. Her cat Minnie put her head and chest in the bag, but had trouble getting out. She backed up, then fell off the edge of the table. Kaori and I laughed uproariously; Minnie gave us a "F*** you" look, then walked away.

Apr. 23, 1:24pm

>85 kidzdoc: Despite their marketing themselves as elegant and graceful, cats are just giant goofballs.

Apr. 23, 1:25pm

Hurrying home from Colorado on Christmas Eve, Darby hopes to beat the snowstorm over the mountains. Instead, she takes shelter at an isolated rest area off of the highway. Inside, are four other stranded travelers and outside, in the back of a van, is a girl in a dog crate. After Darby discovers the girl, she has to find a way to protect herself and the girl, while figuring out which of the other travelers is the kidnapper and how to notify the police on a mountain, in a storm and without cell phone service.

No Exit by Taylor Adams is the kind of thriller that is published in quantity, the kind of book that is read quickly and forgotten almost as fast. But when all the parts come together as they do here, it's more than what it is intended to be. It's solidly written, solidly plotted, has a few genuinely surprising but logical twists and has characters who, while never especially nuanced, are three-dimensional. And the novel's heroine is not a particularly nice person, or even a good one. It's just that when she's thrust into the middle of a crisis, she finds the will to try to do the right thing. The setting, a mountain in a snowstorm, is pretty fun, too. I don't read many thrillers of this kind, but if they were all as well executed as No Exit, I would read more of them.

Note: Everything about the cover for this one demonstrates how little care or time was spent on it.

Apr. 26, 11:23am

In the mid-nineties, bodies were being discovered dumped in out of the way places outside of New York City. There were similarities in how they were dumped and all of the men were gay. At a time when AIDS was at its peak and homophobia rampant, the disappearance of a few gay men didn't make the news. In Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York, Elon Green focuses on the stories of the victims and of the lives they led and the gay piano bars of midtown Manhattan where they met the murderer.

This is a well-written and researched work, where the emphasis stays on the lives of four ordinary gay men, whose life paths were very different. It's a snapshot into a time and a place not that long gone, done with respect and empathy. If this is the future of true crime writing, bring it on.

Apr. 26, 11:27am

>88 RidgewayGirl:
That sounds super interesting

Apr. 26, 12:45pm

>89 Nickelini: Joyce, I really liked the insight it gave into what life was like for gay men who weren't activists or artists, just ordinary guys stuck hiding a large part of who they were from the people around them, and finding a place to be themselves in a midtown bar, gathered around a piano, singing show tunes. And even there wasn't safe.

Apr. 26, 1:09pm

>90 RidgewayGirl: Really interesting interview with Elon Green on the Longform Podcast talking about his editorial choices and how his thoughts about the true crime genre have changed over the years. I want to read the book too.

Apr. 26, 5:04pm

>91 lisapeet: I listened to that one and to the Maris Review podcast interview. He gives an interesting interview.

Mai 4, 12:59pm

So this Hemingway guy is kind of a polarizing figure. He's undeniably one of our greatest literary giants who had this kind of larger-than-life image whose writing style still has a significant impact on literature. He was a thin-skinned, petty man who treated his friends and romantic partners abominably and he was obsessed with appearing masculine, to the point of hurting those around him, and factored into his own death.

Ernesto: The Untold Story of Hemingway in Revolutionary Cuba by Andrew Feldman doesn't really stick to its subtitle. Instead, it's a straightforward biography, with a strong emphasis on Hemingway's relationships with women. And it's a history of the Cuban Revolution, with an emphasis on Cuban-American relations and an emphasis on events that would have affected Hemingway, who had a house there. The biography half is told chronologically and is a good basic account of Hemingway's life, with a little added detail around a long-term relationship with a Cuban woman he kept secret. The Cuban history half is a mess. Feldman clearly knows his history well, but was unwilling to omit details that were both outside of Hemingway's story and the interest of most readers. There are a lot of lists of the names of people in the room where meetings happened, lists of names of revolutionaries/functionaries/administrators who were in the room when decisions were made, descriptions of events that made the papers but were not central to the story of the revolution. If Feldman had stuck to a clear timeline with a few colorful stories, he would have had a very good book on his hand.

Mai 5, 7:17am

>93 RidgewayGirl: Did you watch the recent PBS biography of Hemingway by Ken Burns? Although I'm not a Hemingway fan, I thought it well-done, and the commentary by other authors was very interesting.

Mai 5, 9:57am

Well, I have gotten very behind on your reading so I've had a bit of a catch-up.You are always reading something interesting, even if it is not something I might pick up for myself (I think I've become less adventurous these days). I note the Ben Okri collection. I don't read him as much as I do Helon Habila, but I do try to get to Okri when I can (I just finished twhat I thought would be my last Abdulrazak Gurnah novel I had on my TBR ...but now I see he has a new one coming out. I never seem to catch up...)

>55 RidgewayGirl: Regarding more bookshelves. How high are your ceilings? Ours are 8 ft and we made good use of the two feet above our heads without taking up floor space ;-)

Mai 5, 12:00pm

>94 labfs39: Lisa, I haven't yet watched it, but according to the members of my book club who did, it followed the book's biography closely.

>95 avaland: Would you like my copy of the Okri? And we have very high ceilings, 15 feet in the living room (designed for hot SC weather, the heat rises and the house stays cool, at least until a certain point in the summer.) and my husband has talked about that, but I think I'd like to keep my library at the size it is now, removing and adding as needed. It's ample, but not overwhelming.

Mai 5, 12:58pm

Hi Kay - I also thought the PBS Hemingway bio was well done.

Mai 5, 1:00pm

>96 RidgewayGirl: I am tempted to yes, but my TBR pile teeters and I feel obligated to continue to pick away at it (funny thing, they never get smaller, do they?!) But, thanks.

Oooo, 15 ft!

Mai 5, 4:55pm

>97 BLBera: That was the consensus of the book club members who watched it, too. No one wanted to be friends with Hemingway, but I did point out that if you were at the bar at the same time, there was a solid chance he buy the drinks.

>98 avaland: Let me know if you change your mind. It is a slender paperback that takes up very little space.

Mai 5, 4:55pm

Come On Up is a collection of short stories and the first work of Spanish Catalan author Jordi Nopca to be translated into English. Each story is set in one of the neighborhoods in and around Barcelona. While most of the characters have college degrees, most of them are dealing with economic insecurity, whether they've managed to find work in a restaurant or as a journalist. Things are precarious, relationships falter under the weight of unemployment. But the stories aren't depressing, Nopca's characters are a resilient lot. And while, on the whole, the stories themselves were not extraordinary, the setting and the culture were and I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of how ordinary Barcelonians live.

Mai 6, 11:59am

It's 1987 and the Malone family is falling apart. Pat has MS and is intent on drinking himself to death. When he is laid off, he has time to really devote himself to drinking. Dan is fifteen and working hard to fly under the radar when he is inspired by an English teacher with unusual teaching methods to excel. He's got a solid group of friends and he really likes this one girl. While his home life is not great, his focus is elsewhere. And then there's Anne, who is doing everything to keep her family going. She works as a substitute teacher and all of the housework, childcare and cooking fall on her, even when her husband sits home all day. When her non-communicative husband loses his job, she works harder, clipping coupons and switching to cheaper brands. When she is called to serve as a juror for a high-profile murder trial, Anne's mental energies are focused on that, and while a juror has a responsibility to do a thorough job, she may have crossed a line when she begins to drive through the Dallas neighborhood where the crime took place late at night.

I found Sophomores by Sean Desmond to be a frustrating book to read. His suburban Dallas setting is well-depicted. It's very well-written and Desmond really nails the world of a sullen teenager stuck in bland suburbia and longing for something more authentic. How wonderful it was to hang out with your friends and maybe even talk to that person you like. The simultaneous desire to be recognized and to not be noticed. And his portrayal of an alcoholic unable to look past himself to the family he's destroying is compassionate and nuanced. But the most interesting character in this novel is left one-dimensional. Anne is viewed not only by her family as a cold, nagging housekeeper, but also by the author. There was so much more to be said about this intelligent woman stuck in the role of the faithful and submissive Catholic wife and how being a juror might have changed her, had her character been afforded the same development as Pat and Dan.

Mai 6, 3:18pm

Felix Pink is a retired widower whose experiences have led him into becoming an exiteer, a volunteer who keeps the terminally ill and dying company when they decide to end their own lives, saving their families from legal jeopardy and providing comfort, but no physical assistance. The day Felix is paired with a new young partner named Amanda, things go badly wrong and the wrong man dies. Felix sees that the police are getting nowhere and he realizes that he will have to step in and figure out who set them up, while protecting both his one-time fellow volunteer and keeping a promise he makes to the man who should have died.

Exit features the same detectives as Belinda Bauer's Booker-nominated novel, Snap, but as in that novel, they are secondary to the story being told. This read, to my utter delight, a lot like a Jackson Brodie mystery, only without Jackson Brodie. There's that same sense of a tangle of threads being eased apart and that moment when everything falls into place. Bauer has written some very engaging characters and interjected humor into the story without sacrificing verisimilitude or the impact of a murder on the people affected. Felix is a wonderful protagonist, a cranky octogenarian who misses his wife deeply and brings his dog Mabel along with him wherever he can. He's determined to do the right thing but isn't really sure what that is, and until he figures that out, he'll rectify the smaller harms.

Mai 7, 5:57am

Enjoyed catching up on your reviews. I was poised to add the Hemingway biography to my wish list, the the non-editing of the Cuban history part which irked you would likely annoy me as well when it's not the point of the book, so I'll pass for now.

Mai 7, 3:32pm

>103 AlisonY: Alison, if you have a solid understanding of the Cuban Revolution, it's probably fine. But it was too muddled, both superficial and bogged down in detail, to work for someone who doesn't know much about it.

Mai 7, 5:14pm

Catching up here, Kay, and you’ve done some good reading. I recorded the Ken Burns Hemingway series, but haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. It sounds like I should.

Mai 7, 10:19pm

The Nopca book sounds like one I would like, Kay. Great comments on all your recent reads.

Mai 9, 1:36pm

>105 NanaCC: From what I have heard, it does sound like a better option than the book I read.

>106 BLBera: Yes, I really liked the experience of hanging out with regular Barcelonians.

Mai 9, 1:36pm

The Portrait of a Mirror by A. Natasha Joukovsky centers on two beautiful, expensively educated couples and what happens when they fall for each other's partners. Gorgeous Wes Range, whose ownership of an of-the-moment tech company befits his upbringing, is married to Diana, an equally beautiful and high-powered management consultant. Things are stale, they tend to annoy each other more than they delight each other, but there's no question they look good together and share the same values, which is to say, they know the right place to be seen skiing or own a third home. While on an exclusive tour of a new exhibition at the Met, Wes sees Vivien, who attended the same expensive school he did, and parlayed her money and connections into an enviable position as a curator. He had had a crush on her in school, and now she's even more gorgeous than before. Meanwhile, his wife is sent to Philadelphia, where she is partnered with Dale on a high-profile project. Dale is engaged to Vivien, but it doesn't take long before he is smitten with Diana.

It is, of course, perfectly fine to write about rich, beautiful, successful people who have everything. It is, however, a lot more difficult to make the reader care about their tender feelings and inner pain. But the author isn't asking us to empathize, or even get to know her characters. She's mocking them even as she's lovingly describing their every meal, their every shopping trip, their every perfectly insouciant outfit, painstakingly put together to imply carelessness. With the exception of far too many Linked In profiles, emails and text messages, this novel was well-written, but the humor often felt forced. Still, this will be fun for those who like to watch rich people being made fun of as they blithely continue with their lives as wealthy, beautiful, expensively educated people with connections and easy success.

Mai 10, 11:06am

Catching up on your thread is always dangerous, it always leads to adding more books to my TBR! This time I am adding The Souvenir Museum and Exit and make a note to self to try Bring Up the Bodies again.

Bearbeitet: Mai 10, 1:03pm

I love catching up on your thread. Just read your past month. Too much to comment on, although noting Bring Up the Bodies. I’m going to try to keep up from here on out.

>108 RidgewayGirl: no. No no no. Not for me. I have the image of authors using wealthy characters as an excuse to avoid all the other life problems and stresses. Of course, enjoyed your review.

Mai 10, 2:02pm

>110 dchaikin: The Portrait of a Mirror wasn't for me, either, but look at that gorgeous cover!

Mai 10, 2:13pm

>111 RidgewayGirl: yes, very nice cover. 🙂

Mai 10, 4:30pm

Yeah, I can have a real problem caring about rich people's problems. Presumably they're every bit as real as those the rest of us have, but that overlay of money... I don't know, it just makes my empathy turn off.

Come on Up definitely looks like my kind of thing, though. And I love the cover!

Mai 11, 2:07pm

>113 lisapeet: For me, it's a combination. Like you, the author has to work a lot harder to get me interested in the characters and it also feels like writing at an easier setting, where the obstacles and frustrations of a less wealthy life don't need to be taken into consideration. Yes, I am aware that my two points contradict one another.

Mai 11, 6:46pm

>113 lisapeet: & >114 RidgewayGirl: " . . . it also feels like writing at an easier setting, where the obstacles and frustrations of a less wealthy life don't need to be taken into consideration."

This is the case for me, too. Also, if the characters are super talented or charismatic. It's not that such characters can't be written to be interesting or invested with problems/conditions that make them interesting or sympathetic, but as you've said, so many writers use those advantages/characteristics to instead erase roadblocks that other "normal" people would have.

Mai 13, 11:23am

>115 rocketjk: Exactly. There is a genre of escapist lit that just revels in characters who have everything, but outside of that, it's the struggles that people face that make novels interesting.

Mai 13, 11:24am

A rainy August at a loch-side holiday park in Scotland. Stuck in the small cabins, the vacationers watch each other and the rain. Each chapter of Summerwater by Sarah Moss follows a different person stuck waiting for the rain to stop, from a girl and her brother annoyed by another girl interrupting their play, to the teenager so bored with being inside that he goes kayaking and discovers that he may have overestimated his abilities, to the young mother who jogs early in the morning to escape all the demands on her time. Moss is a wonderful writer, able to create complex characters in just a few paragraphs, and the picture she draws of this vacation site is one that appears stagnant, but that is teeming with life. This is a gorgeous and not entirely benign novel that is maybe just a touch shorter than it needed to be.

Mai 13, 12:46pm

Terrific review. Moss is on my list of authors to revisit.

Mai 13, 10:14pm

>117 RidgewayGirl: Bumping that one up the virtual stack...

Mai 14, 12:40pm

>117 RidgewayGirl: I also loved Summerwater, Kay. Moss is so good with creating atmosphere as well as character. I laughed at some of her one-line descriptions of the people at the resort.

Mai 14, 5:40pm

>117 RidgewayGirl: Sounds like one for my TBR list.

Mai 16, 12:07pm

I usually feel uneasy when someone says they're going to read a book after I've raved about it, but Summerwater is so gorgeously written and so tightly put together.

Mai 16, 12:54pm

>117 RidgewayGirl: All the reviews I've read on this have been excellent. I definitely need to try a Moss book.

Mai 17, 6:51pm

>122 RidgewayGirl: I'm afraid I will be reading it too, but I already had it on my wishlist, so don't feel uneasy about it.

Mai 18, 3:17am

>117 RidgewayGirl: I am always a bit disappointed in Moss (I am in the minority I know) but each time I can't resist reading her. Your review makes me want to give her another try!

Mai 18, 2:25pm

>123 AlisonY: You should try her. Summerwater is very short.

>124 sallypursell: Ha!

>125 Simone2: Barbara, I'm wondering if there are authors I find slightly disappointing and yet continue to read their books. There must be.

Mai 18, 2:25pm

The Chengs of Plano, Texas are not okay. Somehow they've stopped being a family and are just individuals on their own. There's Liang, who takes on the housework and childcare while nominally supervising his photography business, whose past, as a child with a mother who committed suicide during the Cultural Revolution, has scarred him in ways he's not dealing with. And there's Patty, whose green card got them all to the US, who is working long hours and has no space left to check on her family's well-being. Annabel, the daughter, who was born in the US, is struggling to find her place in the private elementary school she's attending and having trouble in how she interacts with others, And, lastly, there's Jack, who was born in China and left behind with his grandparents until his parents were settled. He's quiet and careful and is doing his best to hold his family together. And then a crisis hits them all. It will either finally bring them together or destroy this precarious family.

Nights When Nothing Happened by Simon Han is the story of an immigrant family in which the fact that they are immigrants is important, but not the focus of this novel. Instead, it's about the factors that make a family and how failures to communicate and failures to understand can build up over time.

I liked what Han is doing here and how carefully he built up each character and treated them all with such love. It's interesting to see suburban Texas chosen as the setting for this story and I enjoyed Han's descriptions of it, and how he incorporated how much of each day is spend driving around into the novel. I'm interested in what he writes next.

Mai 19, 8:31pm

>127 RidgewayGirl: Nights When Nothing Happened sounds interesting. I'll keep an eye out for it.

Mai 19, 8:38pm

>125 Simone2:, >126 RidgewayGirl: I definitely have authors which I'm regularly disappointed by and yet I keep reading! I think it's often if I really like the first book of theirs that I read, so they are still in my mental category of 'authors I like'.

I am also a Sarah Moss sceptic, although on the basis of a violently negative reaction to the only book of hers that I've read, Cold Earth. I do know this is a minority view on Club Read!!

Nights When Nothing Happened sounds really good.

Mai 20, 10:14am

Nights When Nothing Happened sounds good, Kay. Great comments. I do like character-centered novels with a keen sense of place.

>129 wandering_star: I didn't like Cold Earth as much as some others did, either, but I have really liked both Summerwater and Ghost Wall. I also loved her memoir of the year she spent in Iceland.

Mai 21, 12:48am

>129 wandering_star:, >130 BLBera:
I liked Cold Earth, but there were aspects of it that were weak. I thought Ghost Wall was much better.

Mai 21, 12:19pm

I liked Cold Earth quite a bit, but her newer novels are much stronger. Which brings up an interesting question -- when you read a book and don't love it or find it weak and disappointing, when do you give the author a second chance? And has giving an author a second chance ever worked for you, or were you disappointed again?

Mai 21, 12:20pm

The Gate is François Bizot's account of his final months in Cambodia in the mid-seventies, first as a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge and then of the days in the French Embassy in Phnom Penh as foreigners and Cambodians took shelter there and how they managed to leave.

Bizot was in Cambodia researching Khmer Buddhist traditions and was traveling around the areas being taken over by the Khmer Rouge with two Cambodian assistants when he was taken by the Khmer military and sent to a prison in the countryside, really just a makeshift camp in the jungle where the prisoners were kept locked in ankle stocks and lying in rows. Because Bizot was too large for the shackles and to keep him isolated, he was chained up near the entrance to the camp. His main interactions were with the camp leader, a man who would later be infamous for being in charge of torture, but with whom Bizot formed a sort of relationship, one that led to him finally being released a few months later. Back in Phnom Penh, he takes shelter in the French embassy and given his fluency in Khmer, he soon took on a leadership position. He's also one of the few willing to venture out of the embassy in search of the foreigners who chose not to come to the embassy earlier or to search for supplies. Eventually, a risky exit is planned, a logistical nightmare involving moving over a thousand people through Khmer-held territory into Thailand.

Bizot is not a likeable man and it's to his credit that he makes no attempt to make himself so. He's arrogant and he holds attitudes and ideas about the Cambodians, and especially a fetishization of the women, that he might be encouraged to examine and rethink today, but that doesn't change the value of this document of an important and terrifying time in history.

Mai 21, 2:32pm

>133 RidgewayGirl:

Noting. I started a while ago some fiction about Cambodia, also by a French author but a few decades earlier, and was thinking I'd like a later view too.

Mai 21, 3:00pm

>134 LolaWalser: There's some interesting stuff here about how the Khmer Rouge were first perceived by many in the West and how long it took for them to see that this was a government intent on committing genocide on its own people. And while he was clear-eyed about that, he also had a romantic idea about French Indochina and how benevolent that was. I was fascinated by how Bizot was able to see through one kind of (for lack of a better word) propaganda, but not another. Probably this is true of all of us to some extent.

Mai 21, 3:39pm

>132 RidgewayGirl: I usually give an author at least two changes, Kay, depending on my reaction. If I found the first one terrible, I might now search out the author again unless I hear great things about subsequent books.

Mai 21, 4:52pm

I think two chances unless the first was just egregiously awful. Because people improve, and sometimes they were just warming up in their debut. But I have to have liked it at least a little.

Mai 23, 8:30am

>133 RidgewayGirl: That does sound very interesting, both in itself and as you have observed where his blind spots are.

I have seen the gate itself, which remains in the grounds of the French Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Mai 23, 2:57pm

>133 RidgewayGirl: This was a fascinating book, and as you say, a valuable document. Bizot at least did testify against Douch, whom I just discovered died this past September. You sent me back to my notes on it from 2013.

In my mind, one of the best primary source books of that time is Cambodia: Year Zero by François Ponchaud, who later worked with Bizot in helping refugees get out. Ponchaud was a priest, so two very different approaches to the topic.

Mai 23, 4:32pm

>136 BLBera: Yes, and I find I give more space to authors writing something substantial and less to those writing what Graham Greene called entertainments. An author I see as important gets three books from me and that has worked -- I am certain that Phillip Roth is an author I can disregard and it took Joyce Carol Oates that long for me to find my way to her.

>137 lisapeet: I read a lot of debut novels and they have their weaknesses, but I can usually get a general sense if I want to pay attention to what they write next. And, yes, how their future books are received is an influence.

>138 wandering_star: Oh, it would be so interesting to visit Phnom Penh. Was is possible to see that city as more than its recent past? I ask as someone who spent some years in Germany, which has its own recent past.

>139 SassyLassy: I've made note of that, thanks! As someone for whom more than half of whose knowledge of the Pol Pot regime comes from the American movie, The Killing Fields, I have a lot to learn. What continues to echo in my mind from the Bizot book is the idea that a government would attempt to commit genocide on its own people.

Mai 23, 5:31pm

>140 RidgewayGirl: If you are ever in the mood for a fictional work on the Cambodian genocide, I would recommend In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. Her father was a minor prince in the royal family, and she was five when the Khmer Rouge took power. The novel is loosely autobiographical. I found both the story and the writing to be exceptional.

Mai 23, 6:44pm

First They Killed my Father is also a good memoir, Kay. I think the author has also written follow-up work.

Mai 23, 7:43pm

>140 RidgewayGirl:

I hope you won't mind if I speak frankly?

a government would attempt to commit genocide on its own people.

This is a contentious formulation, and not because anyone wants to defend the Khmer Rouge. But it's nothing new that Americans and their allies manipulate the term "genocide" as a political tool (witness how long it took the American government to recognise the Armenian genocide).

One should also acknowledge the propaganda war around the events in Cambodia which has to this day proven an obstacle to an understanding on how many people died and were killed, and how and by whom.

Now, I have no problem whatsoever in seeing that Pol Pot's regime was a monstrous one, that the Khmer Rouge committed crimes and massacres of the civillian population that deserve to be called a genocide if that's the term for something like "quantitatively and qualitatively the worst mass death that can befell a population, caused directly and indirectly".

I only want to point out that Americans have killed, directly and indirectly, easily comparable numbers of people in Cambodia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, and yet that doesn't get called "genocide"--well, not generally by the same people who will say the Khmer Rouge committed genocide.

If this is a political remark I feel within my purview to make (as an interested layperson), there are also other academic points, that I can't represent adequately. But I may at least mention that historians, political scientists etc. do disagree not just about the definition of "genocide" in abstract but its application to historical events, including the Cambodian genocide/war crimes. It's not about denialism, but making sense of history in as much detail as we can muster.

So, for instance, the term "democide" has been used too, in case of Cambodia and elsewhere, and so has "politicide"--I mention these simply because I came across them, not because I personally feel qualified to determine which applies best where.

Point is, much as we may regret it, everything we say on these subjects has been and is shaped by bias. Let us know our biases.

Mai 23, 9:06pm

>140 RidgewayGirl: Was it possible to see Phnom Penh as more than its recent past?

That's a good question. The first time I went was in the 90s, and I visited the Killing Fields and also the Tuol Sleng museum (a former Khmer Rouge prison), which I found incredibly affecting. It was hard not to look at everyone over a certain age and wonder what their experiences were - or the impact on those that were younger, and on the country as a whole, given that up to a quarter of people were killed either directly or indirectly.

There isn't that sense of history in the fabric of the city though in the way that there is somewhere like Berlin (although of all the cities I've been to only Jerusalem compares to Berlin in that density of history). Of course this may be partly because many of the current political elite, including the Prime Minister, have or had ties to the Khmer Rouge so there hasn't necessarily been the sort of reckoning that there was in West Germany.

Mai 24, 4:47pm

>141 labfs39: & >142 BLBera: Beth and Lisa, I've made note of both, but it's a hard subject to read about.

>143 LolaWalser: Lola, please feel free to be contentious here! I'm basing my comments on Bizot's recounting of what he was told in conversation with the Khmer Rouge leader he spent hours with. The idea was that it was acceptable to kill all but those truly committed to the ideals of the Khmer Rouge. No argument from me that the American government, and those acting in her name, have done their level best to commit genocide on numerous occasions and can, at best, be said to have been utterly unconcerned about how many of "the other" they killed. And, of course, the Vietnam War was an atrocity committed for reasons even the most ardent of defenders now realize was spurious. Is it possible to be an adult human and not have hundreds of biases, some enormous and harmful? The process of simply living has to be one of constantly reexamining the things we believe and the things we think we know.

>144 wandering_star: Thank you for your thoughtful answer. "Density of history" is a great way of describing Berlin, a city I am endlessly fascinated by -- on the one hand so alive and diverse and modern, and on the other, how there's a palpable sense of history in every single block that's more pressing and immediate than I've felt elsewhere. It is interesting how the different ways the Nazi era was remembered in the DDR and the FDR and how that impacts the politics of Germany now.

Mai 24, 8:02pm

>145 RidgewayGirl:

Thank you very much, I'll try to keep it as brief as I can as this is such an unpleasant topic for a hundred reasons.

The idea was that it was acceptable to kill all but those truly committed to the ideals of the Khmer Rouge.

Yes. Now, I'm afraid that no matter what, the following will be seen as nit-picking, or discussing "technicalities", and even worse, I by no means have the wherewithal to pronounce on the issue authoritatively. But, since I am aware of the discussions around "genocide", I hope it is better at least to gesture toward the problem, and even from such a weak position as mine is, than to say nothing about it at all.

"Genocide" is a term originally coined to describe specifically the Holocaust, the Nazis' programme of annihilating the Jews (all of them, everywhere). Since that paradigmatic event, it has come to be applied more and more broadly, especially in popular use--and this is where the problems arise. Academically, as I understand it, the basic criteria for a genocidal killing include an intersection of target, purpose, and scale--a defined ethnic group (genus); the purpose of annihilating said group; and a number of victims high enough that the further existence of said group is impossible or highly imperilled.

It's important to note next that the Holocaust, and by extension the term associated with it, genocide, have come to represent absolutely the worst crime against humanity, the highest evil etc. Today, if Peter and Paul both commit large-scale massacres with exactly the same number of victims, the one that can be labelled "genocide" is seen as worse than the other.

Enter politics. As soon as this moral primacy of genocide as the ultimate crime in public perception became apparent, so did the attempts to pronounce genocide/s (or, just as important, attempts NOT to pronounce them) in the interest of political combat and propaganda.

With the exception of the paradigmatic case of the Holocaust, in and after the Cold War it was never simple, i.e. unanimous to say which atrocity was or wasn't a genocide. The rhetoric around the concept is poisoned.

To take the example of Cambodia, while no one of importance is denying the scale of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, people do disagree on whether "genocide" applies. If, as I said above, the criteria ask for a programme of complete annihilation of an ethnic group, if the Khmer Rouge were killing utterly randomly any and all Cambodians, there is the evident absurdity that this "government" would have ended up with an empty country (and logically been obliged to off themselves too but nvm).

But, as Kay wrote and I copied, they weren't killing utterly randomly, nor, as far as I know, is there evidence they were intent on emptying the country of people. They were killing a section of the population, the class enemy, as they saw it. They didn't hate their victims for being Cambodian.

This is why (I mean examples like these, Cambodia isn't the only one), people have suggested terms like "democide", "politicide" etc. It's an attempt to preserve telling distinctions, which is a basic precondition to understanding history, to gaining knowledge.

I'm afraid this is way too long but what can I say but sorry.

Mai 28, 11:14am

It feels as though there are a lot of novels being published currently by young Irish women writing about relationships. And, honestly, I've liked one of the three I've read so far. Yet, here I am, picking up another one, like that rat in the cage, pushing on the bar, hoping for a treat.

Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan is a novel about an Irish woman's volatile relationship. The novel's narrator is desperately insecure and wants nothing more than to fall in love, so when she meets Ciaran, she is ready to submerge her life into his. And, for awhile, this seems to work. But Ciaran disapproves of much of what she does and becomes cold at the slightest infraction. His coldness just pushes her into trying harder to be the perfect girlfriend, even as he becomes more exacting and even when he makes it clear that he's still emotionally involved with his last girlfriend.

The first part of the novel reads like many other stories about a young woman and how she becomes trapped in an abusive relationship with a manipulative man. But as the novel progresses, Nolan complicates the story in ways that reflect real life. This was a far more interesting novel than it initially seemed and I'm looking forward to what this author writes next. Definitely stay far away from Ciaran, though.

Mai 28, 12:49pm

Just catching all the recent conversation here, and wondering how I handle authors that may or may not deserve a second chance. I quickly get obscured in nuance - like, well, first of all, how does this apply to me since I don’t do random books lately. So, Nabokov was going to get a lot of chances regardless of what I thought of his first book (which is nice, but very much marks a road not followed by him later on). And if I’m reading the Booker list and an author I don’t like is on there...well, then...well, hasn’t happened yet. Anyway, certainly I’ve closed several books thinking, “I will never read this author again.” Usually it’s because what they are doing in that novel does not interest me. But sometimes it’s just a sense of something about their approach to storytelling or writing or thinking that I either find flawed or don’t like. (Curiously I’ve only read on Philip Roth, American Pastoral. I thought it was very good and I also hated it. He felt very one track, one style, one theme in that book - which is certainly my own imagined perspective but makes reading more unappealing. I could read him again if pressed, but probably not otherwise.)

Anyway enjoyed your reviews, as always, and found the Cambodia posts all interesting. I know very little about what went on there then - and nothing about Cambodia outside that. Noting Acts of Desperation and Nights When Nothing Happened (i do know suburban Texas.)

Mai 29, 7:17pm

>148 dchaikin: I feel like I've suddenly read several books set in Texas, after years of only encountering it in westerns or hardboiled crime novels where everyone dies.

Mai 30, 3:31pm

>132 RidgewayGirl: Do you give those authors a second chance? I would have to answer: sometimes. I guess if there was something in the first book that lingered in my mind, I might try again.

Mai 31, 5:36pm

In a Barbados unseen by tourists, two Barbadian women struggle with the aftermath of a violent event. Mira married a wealthy Brit, but their yearly vacation is destroyed by a home invasion that ends in a death and Mira is left to deal with her sorrow and loss. Lala runs off and marries Adan when she is still a teenager and soon after has a baby. Raising the baby in a small and rundown house is difficult and it's made more difficult as Adan turns abusive and controlling. When their baby dies, Lala is left to hold together what she can.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones is a novel willing to lean hard into misery. Moments of grace or simply relief from the unrelenting poverty, crime and misery these women experience are rarely seen. There was certainly a lot going on with this novel, from rapist grandfathers, to dead babies, to violent sociopaths, but I think that the misery would have had more impact if it had been leavened with with grace and hope now and again. Jones's writing is assured and full of life, and there's no question that she has a bright future as a writer.

Mai 31, 6:04pm

>151 RidgewayGirl: Yikes. I'll hold off on that one. Nice review though

Mai 31, 7:43pm

>152 labfs39: The writing is good, but I have a limited tolerance for relentless misery.

Mai 31, 9:15pm

>153 RidgewayGirl:

Several booktubers were very excited to read How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House but then they start it and pull up with a big "Oh!" Good for you for finishing. Not everyone does.

Jun. 3, 1:33pm

>154 Nickelini: I have seen one person who loved it and characterized it as fast-paced, which it is.

Jun. 3, 1:34pm

No Dominion by Louise Welsh is the final book in a trilogy about what happens when a virus kills a lot of people suddenly. This novel picks up several years in the future, as the people left on Orkney Island and the people who flee there, looking for a safe place have created a self-sustaining democratic small community. The island's few teenagers, those found as lone, surviving children, often in grim circumstances, have grown bored with island life and when strangers arrive telling stories of how exciting Glasgow is, it's not difficult for them to be persuaded into running away and bringing an infant with them. Two islanders, Magnus and Stevie, are appointed to attempt to bring the children back, but what they find on the mainland means that just surviving will be a challenge.

Welsh has created a very interesting dystopian world and I've enjoyed this trilogy quite a bit despite not generally being a fan of the genre. Each book falls into a different genre, the first, A Lovely Way to Burn, a crime novel where Stevie, a young woman working as a presenter on a shopping network, tries to find out who killed her boyfriend, as the world collapses around her and no one has any interest in a simple murder. The second, Death is a Welcome Guest, follows Magnus, an up-and-coming comedian who finds himself being mistakenly arrested and instead of being released the next day, is trapped in a cell while the world convulses outside. This final book pulls together the characters from the first two novels and provides a larger picture of what happened while bringing together the characters of the first two books for a sort of grim adventure. It's a worthwhile trilogy that showcases what an excellent writer Welsh is.

Jun. 3, 5:31pm

In Crimson Lake by Candice Fox, Ted Conkaffey is a cop with the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A few minutes after he was seen parked at a bus stop and talking to a girl by people driving by, that same girl is abducted and harmed. After his arrest and the media frenzy, it hardly matters that the prosecutor didn't have enough to take to trial. Ted is released into an Australia that believes him to be a violent pedophile. Taking shelter in a small town outside of Cairns in an old house facing the croc-infested river, he does his best to lie low. But he does need a job and the one person who will hire him is the local (and only) private investigator, a woman with her own lurid past. And his first job is to assist her in investigating the disappearance of a bestselling author.

There's a lot to like about this book. The characters are complex, even the bad guys, for the most part, receive more nuance than is usual. And while this is on the grittier end of things, there's a charm to the writing. Ted rescues a goose and her goslings and is reluctantly stuck with them until there is a moment of danger and his first thought is to get the geese to safety. It's a sweet little detail to humanize a guy working hard to be callous. And his new boss, Amanda, is a fascinating woman. Ted goes back and forth on wondering whether her past makes her a bad person or if she is reliable or not in an entirely predictable way, even given his own recent past. Fox also makes the setting of the Australian rainforest and mistrustful locals a colorful part of the story. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

Jun. 3, 5:31pm

>156 RidgewayGirl: The trilogy sounds interesting, Kay. I am in the midst of Octavia Butler's Parable books, but next time I'm in the mood for dystopian fare, I might try these.

Jun. 3, 11:16pm

>157 RidgewayGirl: This one sounds really interesting, Kay. I’ve just added it to my wishlist.

Bearbeitet: Jun. 4, 8:01am

Did you hear about the change in this year's Decatur Book Festival, Kay? It will now be a one day event on Saturday October 2nd at the First Baptist Church of Decatur, and there will only be five author events. The (free) Atlanta Jazz Festival, which is normally held during Memorial Day weekend in Piedmont Park, will be held on Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend this year. I did request to have that weekend off, so I'll plan to go to several jazz concerts that weekend, weather permitting.

ETA: If you and Pattie still decide to come to Atlanta on Labor Day weekend I'll still spend those days with the two of you!

Jun. 4, 8:02am

>160 kidzdoc: It’s a shame the Decatur Book Festival will be so truncated this year. It would be nice if the authors, especially the new ones, could get the support. At least it’s being held and wasn’t cancelled outright.

Jun. 4, 11:19am

Crimson Lake sounds good, Kay. I'll check it out. I am also intrigued by the Welsh trilogy. I have the first one waiting on my shelves.

Jun. 4, 5:05pm

>158 labfs39: Lisa, I'm a bit bored with dystopian novels right now, but I enjoyed this trilogy a lot.

>159 NanaCC: Colleen, it's fun to find a new crime series to enjoy.

>160 kidzdoc: Darryl, Pattie told me yesterday. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And that October weekend is the one time she can't make it, but I'm not sure such a truncated event is worth flying in from Phoenix for. We are, however, keeping our Labor Day week plans for her to fly out and we'd love to hang out and especially get a meal together. We're thinking of then heading over to Savannah to do a little literary-themed exploration.

>161 labfs39: I'm hoping that it's back in full next year, Lisa. A girl can dream.

>162 BLBera: Beth, while I find it is far too soon for novels based on this pandemic, it was interesting to see what someone writing years beforehand thought might occur.

Jun. 5, 4:24am

>156 RidgewayGirl: Happily, the whole trilogy is discounted on Kindle UK today - making this a budget book bullet! (BBB?)

Jun. 5, 8:36am

Those last two books sound good, Kay, and neither was on my radar. I'll definitely keep an eye out. (What do I even mean by that? It's not like I'm walking around going to bookstores or street vendors... but maybe my favorite library sale will come back, and there's always NYPL's ebook collection, which has both of them.)

Jun. 6, 11:29am

>163 RidgewayGirl: Have you read Station Eleven, Kay? My favorite pandemic novel.

Jun. 6, 12:48pm

Lisa, I do the same thing and it's always a huge thrill to find a book on my wishlist at a booksale. It's certainly more fun than just ordering it online.

Beth, I liked that one a lot.

Jun. 6, 6:12pm

So The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez was a wonderful surprise. I've liked the translator, Megan McDowell's choices of books to translate in the past and when this one showed up on the shortlist for the International Booker Prize, I thought it looked interesting enough, and boy, was it. This is a collection of horror short stories that are thought-provoking and odd. In the opening story, a woman is haunted by a decomposing baby, which pretty much sets the tone for the book. If you are a fan of Samanta Schweblin, were an emo kid, or just like weird and off-beat stories, then you'll love this.

Jun. 6, 6:44pm

>163 RidgewayGirl: That sounds good, Kay. I don't have my September schedule yet, but I should be free all day Friday and Saturday, and I'll probably go to the late afternoon and evening concerts of the Atlanta Jazz Festival on Sunday and Monday.

I also enjoyed The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, but IMO the earlier stories were considerably better than the later ones.

Jun. 6, 7:23pm

>168 RidgewayGirl:
I've only heard good things about this one. Please remind me where the author is from.

Jun. 6, 9:45pm

>169 kidzdoc: Wonderful! Just because the festival isn't happening doesn't mean we can't meet up and do fun things. And, yes, some of the middle stories were weaker than the others (I liked the last two quite a bit - the one about the missing children who return has haunted me a little), but as a whole it was outstanding.

>170 Nickelini: Argentina, Joyce.

Jun. 6, 11:27pm

>171 RidgewayGirl:
Thanks! Argentina makes it more likely for me to buy it (I'm trying to support authors from non-mainstream countries)

Jun. 7, 11:57am

Hilary Mantel completes her trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell with The Mirror and the Light. Again written from the point of view of only what Cromwell experiences himself, there's a rising sense of things swinging out of control, of the precariousness of Cromwell's position and yet still manages to surprise with the suddenness of the final events (no spoiler here -- the events have been part of the historical record for some centuries.) Eight years separate the publication of Bring Up the Bodies and this novel, so if you read the first two books within a few years of their publications, I can recommend a reread of the first two books. I found that reading the trilogy as one long book was both immersive and rewarding.

Jun. 7, 3:20pm

>171 RidgewayGirl: Absolutely, Kay! I'll be on the lookout for things to do that weekend, and the three of us can decide whether to revisit favorite restaurants (e.g., Revival and The Iberian Pig), or try new places or cuisines, especially outside of downtown Decatur.

Yes, I do agree that the first three or four and the last two stories in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed were outstanding. The other stories weren't bad, but they suffered in comparison to the brilliance and uniqueness of the other ones. I would not have been unhappy if it was chosen for the International Booker Prize instead of At Night All Blood Is Black.

>173 RidgewayGirl: I'm glad that you enjoyed The Mirror & the Light, and I thank you for your recommendation to reread the previous two books first. I've had fleeting thoughts about diving straight into Book #3 this month to catch up with the group, but I read the two previous books shortly after they were published, so I'll take your suggestion and get to them later this year or sometime in 2022.

Jun. 7, 4:17pm

>173 RidgewayGirl: I’m happy so many of us read/are reading the trilogy together as sort of one. Each book has its own style, but the characters don’t change. Glad you enjoyed (i have 200 pages left).

Jun. 10, 11:01am

>173 RidgewayGirl: Such a great trilogy. I'm so pleased you all persuaded me to give it a go - I'd convinced myself for years it wasn't my thing.

Jun. 10, 2:49pm

>173 RidgewayGirl: I still need to get to this one, Kay. I did a reread of Wolf Hall a couple of weeks ago, and would like to reread Bring Up the Bodies before starting the final book. I read the first two when they first came out, so feel I need the refresher.

Jun. 10, 3:08pm

>174 kidzdoc: It's a rare short story collection that doesn't have a few less-than-great stories stuck in the middle. Looking forward to Labor Day weekend!

>175 dchaikin: It was a great reading project. Thanks for getting that going. Without the push of a group read, I'd still be thinking about getting around to reading them.

>176 AlisonY: Alison, the Tudors are very much not my thing at all, but Mantel had me with that first scene of Cromwell looking at Walter's boot in the first pages of Wolf Hall.

>177 NanaCC: You're already well underway, Colleen. Bring Up the Bodies is a quick read and then you're on to the new book.

Jun. 10, 9:48pm

>178 RidgewayGirl: not me. It was Rhian_of_oz who started our Cromwell binge.

Jun. 11, 3:42am

>156 RidgewayGirl: No Dominion sounds great. As somewhere to survive the end of civilisation, Orkney would be a good choice I think. Small enough to be isolated and more fertile than a lot of other Scottish Islands.

Bearbeitet: Jun. 11, 10:21am

>178 RidgewayGirl: Right, Kay. Nearly all of my favorite short story collections, including The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories by Carson McCullers and A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor included stories that I didn't enjoy as much as other ones.

I'm also looking forward to seeing you and Pattie again on Labor Day! BTW, one restaurant we could consider trying is Cooks & Soldiers in West Midtown, a very popular Basque restaurant located at the western end of the street I live on. A large group of us will go there for dinner on Thursday, as a nurse practitioner on the Psychiatry service had the great idea of meeting there earlier this week. This will be the first time I've dined in a restaurant since...hmm...probably September of 2019 in London, not long after we had that epic dinner in Barcelona Wine Bar in Inman Park after the last day of the Decatur Book Festival. Cooks & Soldiers is part of the Castellucci Hospitality Group, along with The Iberian Pig, and I like it nearly as well as that great restaurant.

Jun. 11, 12:02pm

>179 dchaikin: Whoever's fault it was, I found out that I'm still susceptible to peer pressure. The last time this happened was a group read of Moby Dick over in The Salon in 2012.

>180 SandDune: Yes, Welsh chose well. Of course, the first book occurs largely in London and the second somewhere in the midlands.

>181 kidzdoc: That was an epic meal! I hope you enjoy your first return to a restaurant. I never realized before how much having other people at the other tables enhances the experience, but it really does.

Jun. 11, 3:27pm

>181 kidzdoc: I don't read a lot of short story collections, but Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find is one of them. The first two stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find and The Life You Save May Be Your Own made a strong impression.

Jun. 13, 12:21pm

Flannery O'Connor is one of the best short story writers every, I think.

Hi Kay - I read both Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies last year, so I think I can hop right into The Mirror and the Light. I guess there is something to be said for procrastination, right?

Jun. 13, 7:57pm

Lisa and Beth, O'Connor is just fantastic. She's the one who characterized the American South as "Christ-haunted."

Beth, I heartily approve of procrastination. It is my best skill.

Jun. 14, 12:43pm

In Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabouts, a woman lives a quiet life in an unnamed Italian city. Each short chapter centers on a daily activity; going to the store to buy a notebook, spotting a friend arguing in the street, remembering her father's love of theatre. As the novel progresses, the woman seems less content with the life she has chosen.

This is a short novel full of gorgeous writing, the kind of writing that pulled me right in and I would have gladly read a much longer novel about this solitary, lonely woman going through her day.

Jun. 14, 12:47pm

>186 RidgewayGirl: I like the sound of this one too. Onto my wishlist.

Jun. 14, 6:29pm

>187 NanaCC: Oh, good. I really liked this one a lot.

Jun. 14, 6:30pm

Inspired by the real life case of the Turpin family, Girl A by Abigail Dean tells the story of Lex, a successful lawyer who is called back to England when her mother dies, leaving a house and a small inheritance to divide among the surviving children. Her younger sister conceives of the idea of turning the house into a community center, but they need the rest of the siblings to sign off on the project, so Lex visits each in turn, which awakens her memories of what happened in that terrible house.

This novel was a lot stronger than I had expected, given that this is Dean's debut novel. It's well-paced and with nuanced characterizations of all the various family members, even the parents, who are guilty of egregious abuse. And Lex at first appears like a woman who has it all together, which turns out later to be true. This is a family where the surviving siblings are not okay and there are good reasons for that. I'm looking forward to seeing what this author does next.

Jun. 16, 4:55pm

In Like This Afternoon Forever, Jaime Manrique tells the story of Lucas, whose mother left his violent father and managed to make a life for the two of them, and of Ignacio, son of indigenous subsistence farmers, both of whom showed an aptitude for learning which led to them being given the opportunity to go to a Catholic boarding school with the promise of being able to attend university and become priests. When they meet, they quickly become close friends, and then discover a love that would keep them together for the rest of their lives.

Colombia during the nineties and early 2000s was a violent place with many rural areas under the control of guerrilla groups and the military matching them in ruthlessness and corruption. As Lucas and Ignacio grow up in Catholic boarding schools and then go to university, Lucas grows stronger in his faith and Ignacio's fierce intelligence has him exploring the history of liberation theology. After they are ordained, they are sent into different neighborhoods in Bogota. Ignacio is sent to the most crime-ridden and poor parish, where he works hard to improve the lives of his parishioners and where he learns about the "false positives," and tries to get that story out into the world. Both his activism and his homosexuality put Ignacio into great danger.

This is a novel with a lot going on, so much so that it sometimes feels like a summary. The passages where Manrique slows down and describes the setting or the relationship between the men, the writing is beautiful and the story a lovely, if melancholic one.

Jun. 17, 12:55pm

Having moved back to Lagos, Nigeria when his wife gets a teaching position at the law school, Dr. Philip Taiwo takes a job investigating the causes of mob violence in which three university students are brutally murdered. He's a psychologist who wrote his thesis on mob behavior in American lynchings so he is asked by one of the murdered student's fathers to find a reason for what happened. Sent to the town of Okriki, Taiwo is often out of his depth, but he has a good assistant and a woman he met on the plane is also eager to help. But are they both hiding motives of their own? Taiwo finds himself in the middle of a situation he doesn't understand and he quickly finds himself in danger.

The strength of Lightseekers by Femi Kayode lays less in the plot than in the setting and how by creating a protagonist who both is and isn't an insider, allows Kayode to explain the culture, history and events to western readers without inserting long explanations. The author based his novel on a real incident and used that basis to explain aspects of Nigerian culture, like the presence on university campuses of violent confraternities and the difficulties students have in finding housing. Taiwo was more an observer than a detective, but this novel was interesting enough for me to want to read the next book in this series -- it very much feels like the start of a mystery series.

Jun. 17, 2:15pm

Enjoyed these last four reviews. They all sound good (although I didn’t take to The Namesake and so I’m a little scared off Lahiri’s longer fiction.)

Jun. 17, 3:07pm

>189 RidgewayGirl: I'm fascinated by the premise of Girl A, even though that makes me feel a little voyeuristic. I'll probably library it up at some point, though.

Jun. 17, 4:54pm

>192 dchaikin: I haven't read The Namesake, but I liked the short story collection of her that I read. I wonder if she's just better at shorter fiction?

>193 lisapeet: While Girl A was a little voyeuristic, it focused largely on the lives of the surviving children as adults, and far less on the abuse. Dean was far more interested in the psychological impacts and how that might play out in different ways for different people in their adult lives.

Jun. 17, 5:10pm

>194 RidgewayGirl: I’ve read one short story by Lahiri a long time ago. It was dynamic independent of the plot. I really enjoyed. I found The Namesake flat (and, for me, boring). So I have thought the same - that she excels in the short form, but can over-expand in longer form. Bit sounds like this latest novel works.

Bearbeitet: Jun. 17, 6:30pm

>194 RidgewayGirl: & >195 dchaikin: I read Lahiri's The Lowland several years ago and liked it pretty well, 3 1/2 stars' worth. Looking back at what I wrote at the time, the book started out well, dragged a bit toward the middle, and then took off again.

Jun. 17, 6:59pm

>194 RidgewayGirl: For what it's worth, I loved The Namesake. It was one of my few 5 star reads last year. I also liked the two books of short stories I read, and that's a genre I don't usually prefer.

Jun. 17, 7:08pm

Lahiri is definitely an author I'll read more of. I really loved Whereabouts and regret a little that I read a library copy. It's one I'll keep an eye out for a copy to buy.

Jun. 17, 7:20pm

I loved The Namesake as well, The Lowland, not so much. I have liked her short fiction the best, though.

Bearbeitet: Jun. 17, 9:18pm

Adding Lightseekers to my wish list.

Jun. 22, 2:08pm

Klara and the Sun is the first novel that I've read by Kazuo Ishiguro, but it won't be my last. The novel is narrated by Klara, an AI robot purchased to be a companion to a chronically ill girl. Klara isn't like the other Artificial Friends; she's more curious and empathetic than even the newer models. As Klara learns about the world, she describes her perceptions and experiences as she develops a more complex understanding. And as her bond to her owner grows, she is determined to do whatever is necessary to help her.

To be honest, I start yawning the minute AI is mentioned anywhere. So my expectations were low to start with. But Ishiguro writes in such a clear, engaging way that I was immediately pulled in to the world he'd created. He creates a complex world and then doesn't explain it, depending on the reader to pick up how things are as the novel proceeds. It was a fantastic method to use when the protagonist is also figuring out how the world works. That said, I didn't love the story and my heartstrings remained steadfastly unplucked. Which is to say, I enjoyed reading this novel because of the writing, the way Ishiguro developed his characters and for the way this fictional world was described, without really falling into the story. That may well be on me and in any case, I'm more than happy to pick up another by this author given that there are more than a few that are written about things that don't make me yawn.

Jun. 22, 7:34pm

>201 RidgewayGirl: I've been looking forward to reading Klara and the Sun. Ishiguro has been hit or miss with me. I really liked Never Let Me Go and A Pale View of Hills, but really didn't like When We Were Orphans. His topics are varied, so I'm sure you'll find something to your liking.

Jun. 22, 7:38pm

I've read Never Let Me Go, Remains of the Day, A Pale View of Hills, and And Artist of the Floating World. They were all excellent and all different. But what they have in common is that they always make me think and leave me with some questions. I need to get to another of his . . .

Jun. 22, 8:21pm

>201 RidgewayGirl: I second the recommendation for Remains of the Day—I think you'd like it. I'm looking forward to Klara and the Sun.

Jun. 22, 8:34pm

Ishiguro's writing is worth reading more of and I'll be reading more of him. I'm considering both The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans.

Jun. 22, 8:36pm

The whole world belonged to them because they were on their way to die.

In the spring of 1914, Paul struggles at Slade, the London art school, especially in Life Class. Coming from a northern working class background, he feels removed from the other students. But Elinor, one of the few women students welcomes him into her group of friends, which include Kit, a successful artist, and Teresa, one of the life models. All of their lives are turned upside down when war is declared and Kit and Paul sign on as ambulance drivers, Teresa disappears and Elinor stubbornly continues with her art.

This is the first book in a trilogy and, as such, I should almost wait until I've read the other two to say anything. Here, the most interesting character disappeared partway through and was never heard from again. I'm hoping she reappears because Teresa, scrappy Teresa with the troubled, dangerous husband and a determination to life her life, is far more interesting than Elinor, the upper class golden girl who attracts all the men. Still, this is a fascinating novel, describing everything from art school to how wounds were treated on and off the battleground (a lot of detail here, so be prepared). Pat Barker's research may be exhaustive, but she deploys it in such a natural way. Looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

Jun. 22, 10:22pm

>206 RidgewayGirl: I enjoyed the Regeneration Trilogy so much, I need to read more of her works. I have Silence of the Girls on my wish list.

Jun. 23, 11:37am

Great comments about Klara and the Sun, Kay. I also thought that telling the story from Klara's point of view was inspired. Her way of seeing was described in a way that really made me think.

I read Life Class when it was first published and don't remember much about it.

Jun. 23, 1:54pm

>207 labfs39: Lisa, The Silence of the Girls is just fantastic.

>208 BLBera: I like how Klara's narration became more sophisticated as she learned about the world.

Jun. 23, 1:54pm

My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee is an episodic novel that, as the title suggests, centers a college student's trip to Asia with his mentor, a charismatic, energetic immigrant entrepreneur named Pong. But that event is recounted late in the novel, one that first describes what happens to Tiller beforehand; his childhood in a quiet, well-heeled town being raised by his father after his mother leaves them. The book goes off on various tangents, the most interesting is the account of the life of Pong's parents in China, and the heart of the book is what happens to Tiller after his adventure, when he meets a single mother in the witness protection program and her unusual son and joins them in hiding out in a suburban tract home in Plano Stagno, Texas. The events advertised in the title are the oddest and least impactful moments in this novel.

The writing is excellent and Lee has created a wonderful, complex character in Tiller, a young man who combines insecurity with a sense of humor, a clear-eyed view of his place in the world, a sweet heart, and a willingness to adapt to new situations. And the structure of the novel, which feels random, pulls together at the end to explain something that was burning under the surface the whole time in such a low key way and was beautifully executed. There's humor here and heart and if the story edges towards Grand Guignol there towards the end, it recaptures its footing soon afterward.

Jun. 23, 2:06pm

>210 RidgewayGirl: Have you read anything else by Chang-Rae Lee? I read A Gesture Life, which I really liked. Understated and beautifully written.

Jun. 23, 2:10pm

>211 labfs39: No, this is my first. I'll look for more from him, though, and have added A Gesture Life to my list of books to look for.

Jun. 24, 6:43pm

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters is a messy soap opera of a novel. It's wild and full of drama, with conflicts aplenty. Reese is a kind-hearted, funny trans woman who is more than a little self-destructive. One day, her ex gets in touch with an outrageous proposition. He wants her to be a co-parent with his girlfriend who, having discovered that she's pregnant, demands that Ames either step up and be an equal parent or she will end the pregnancy and also the relationship. This is Ames's solid attempt to meet Katrina's need for a full partner even when he doesn't think he can do it. It's a messy, complicated solution, but Ames, for all his reticence, has some complications of his own. He was, after all, until a handful of years ago, not Ames but Amy and only detransitioned after becoming weary of the energy it took to deal with the hostility of every day life as a trans woman. And then there's Katrina, who reacts badly to learning about Ames's past, but finds herself wondering if it might not just work.

There is a lot going on in this novel and Peters never allows her characters to become noble representatives of trans women everywhere. They are simply themselves, and they are a mess. Reese is a fantastic character to read about, always entertaining or doing something to blow up her own life. I was worried that this would be an issue-of-the-moment book, but Peters is having too much fun throwing her characters into uncomfortable situations and celebrating their complexity for that to happen. This also didn't feel like a novel that was designed to educate and make the reader comfortable.
Dieses Thema wurde unter RidgewayGirl Reads in 2021, Third Quarter weitergeführt.