Hello readers! My self-imposed hiatus is over. It has been a very busy month thanks to a 3/31 deadline, but we’re through that now and hopefully I’ll be back to posting regularly!
Perhaps it’s because of the madness at work, but I got a TON of reading done on the train and before bed this month. I made it through six books.
I suppose it would be that one won’t love all the books one reads in a year. This was my first “bust” of 2014. The book is in three portions, following three segments of our protagonist Ruth’s life. First, when she is four and her mother begins an affair with her husband’s assistant who is 16 years old, Second, when she is mid 30s and contemplating marriage, and Third, when she has been widowed about five years after the wedding. The first segment is the strongest of the three. While I found the affair totally gross (sixteen year old boys? Oh yuck let alone not even legal) it’s the best written. But I found adult Ruth to be an incomplete person–there were times where I felt her actions or reactions were completely implausible, and I got really sick and tired of the running commentary on her physical appearance. I hate to say it, but the whole thing seemed like a man trying to write a woman and just not getting it. I have another Irving book on my Kindle, The Cider House Rules, which I have not read yet but only got because it was on super sale and I loved the movie. I really hope I have a better reaction to that one! I can’t say I would recommend this book to my blog readers.
The world building in this dystopian fiction is fantastic. Our main character is Fan, a teenage girl who lives in B-More (formerly Baltimore). In this America, the rust belt cities are occupied by “New China” residents who moved to North America after China became too environmentally unsafe to live in. The other segments of this country are the Charter communities, which are the upper class, and the Counties, which resemble a backwoods, every man for himself environment. Fan leaves B-More to search for her boyfriend who has gone missing. It’s such a great, subtle commentary on late stage capitalism–you have to really process what the characters think, say, and do to really get the full picture of this strange new world. It’s a terrific story, I can’t think of anything else like it, and it comes highly recommended by me.
This is a hard one to review. It’s more than the story of the Troy Davis trial, it’s his (and his family’s) biography. As I got closer to the ending, and I knew what was coming, it just made me feel sick. I feel strongly that the US Corrections system does not work, and have felt so for some time, but this book makes the failings of the prison and justice system so personal that it helped shape my take on the prison system even more. I am deeply touched having read this book, and I urge people to at least read about the Troy Davis case or the UN’s position on the death penalty (or the UN’s Alternatives to Incarceration) if you cannot make it through this difficult book.
The title of this book is the names of the three women featured in this novel. Boy Novak runs away from her abusive father to live in Connecticut, where she marries a man with a beautiful stepdaughter named Snow. Boy becomes pregnant and when she gives birth, it’s clear from her daughter Bird’s appearance that her husband is actually a black man and passing for white. Using elements of mysticism and fairy tale, Oyeyemi explores race relations in 1950s New England with touching results.
Did you like Gone Girl? Well put this right on your list then–Harrison’s first and only novel (she passed away last year, sadly) examines the long term partnership of Jodi and Todd. It’s told in a similar style (sometimes our main character is Jodi, sometimes it’s Todd) and as you keep turning the pages the crazy grows and grows. I’m very sad this is Harrison’s only book, I really dug it and I think I got through it in only a few days as I couldn’t put it down. So if you like relationship psychothrillers, this is a can’t miss. Also, if you read this book, I totally envisioned Jodi as Robin Wright (aka Clare Underwood on House of Cards).
The too-strange-to-be-true-but-really-is-true story of Huguette Clark–the youngest daughter of W.A. Clark who made his millions mining copper in Montana. I feel like I don’t want to say too much to give anything away–first, the book tells of her father’s ascent in business and politics, then on to her childhood, then on to her very sheltered adulthood. Huguette passed away a few years ago, and still had assets in the nine figures to her name, so the conclusion of the book discusses the dissolution of her estate. It’s a fun, fascinating read about the .001%, and about American History, and human nature. A real gem of a story.
Total books read in 2014: 13