Posts Tagged: Books
For distinguished fiction by an American author:
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” by Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf), a diverse yet consistently masterful collection of stories that explore Jewish identity and questions of modern life in ways that can both delight and unsettle the reader; and “The Snow Child,” by Eowyn Ivey (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown), and enchanting novel about an older homesteading couple who long for a child amid the harsh wilderness of Alaska and a feral girl who emerges from the woods to bring them hope.
Cora is a character I fell in love with. It was fascinating to see how her life played out. She was an admirable woman who managed to live a full life despite her many hardships. This book IS about “The Chaperone”.
THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY by Margot Livesey: This book is also historical fiction – set in the 1950′s and 60′s in Iceland and Scotland. Several reviews of this book call it a “re-inventive imagining of the classic, JANE EYRE.” It was a beautifully written book that I could not put down – for most of the book. However, as a reader, I simply could not go along with all of the many twists and turns that the author built into the plot. I could barely make myself finish the book because of this.
I loved the story-line. Gemma Hardy becomes an orphan at 3 when her Icelandic fisherman father drowns at sea. Her kind Scottish uncle becomes her guardian and welcomes her into his family. Gemma enjoys an ordinary life with her adopted family until her uncle passes away. Overnight, circumstances change for the worse for Gemma and she is suddenly hated, resented, and ostracized by her Aunt and cousins. At barely 10 years old. she is sent off as a “working girl” to a private boarding school. When that school goes bankrupt, she is forced to take on a job as an au pair on Orkney Island for the forlorn 8-year-old niece of Hugh Sinclair – a London businessman and owner of the remote Blackbird House. Gemma’s life takes off and circumstances at the Blackbird House cause her to deal with relationships and ensuing “flights” that are rather challenging for an orphan with such a hardscrabble life.
The beautiful prose and the magic realism of this book – set against the backdrop of Scotland and Iceland – made this a wonderful read. All was spoiled for me as the book neared its end. I simply could not accept the way the author developed the character of Gemma Hardy.
WINNER: THE CHAPERONE
This marks the end of the first round of the Niles Tournamant of Books. Of the twelve books that entered the contest, six remain:
The Yellow Birds
In the first contest of round two, Donna considers Arcadia against The Yellow Birds.
Therefore, The Round House wins round one.
Today Darlene considers Friends Like Us, an example of chick lit with depth, against Gone Girl, a black-comedic mystery.
Lord Crick has died. While convulsing. And turning yellow. And providing his family with a gruesome corpse. Although young Lord Crick had some health issues (i.e. the pox) and a rather nasty disposition, it really was a ghastly and horrific death. His sister Lady Lydia decides that there must be a further investigation. The gossip against her husband Captain Flynn, who is her brother’s heir, is becoming scandalous. On the advice of her cousin Francis, she travels to London to meet with Dr. Thomas Silkstone, an American physician who is working, studying and teaching with British anatomist Dr. Carruthers. Silkstone, who is quite taken with Lady Lydia, agrees reluctantly to exhume and examine the corpse and answer questions at the inquest.
When he is at the estate, he finds not just a house in mourning, but a household full of secrets. Silkstone uses his primitive forensic and toxicology skills to study the remains, but he finds more questions than answers, and his list of suspects in the household grows. The tension swells, and the plot twists, but will Silkstone (with some help from Carruthers,) find the answers with his scientific methods before there is another body found on the estate? Harris writes a layered tale of forensic mystery using engaging characters who struggle with the conventions of their time. Silkstone is wonderful as the outsider looking into their society. Can’t wait to read the next one in the series!
Yesterday’s post was by Barb P. Today Cecilia tackles Anne Tyler’s Beginner’s Goodbye vs Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods.
First of all, I am already an Anne Tyler fan. So, I knew I would be biased in her direction. But, after reading both, there is no comparison in which one I prefer, Tyler bias or not.
With The Beginner’s Goodbye, Anne Tyler once again captures the heart and soul of someone going through a trying time. This time, it’s Aaron…who lives an unremarkable life with an unremarkable woman…Dorothy. But, after Dorothy’s sudden death, Aaron’s period of adjustment offers more than just grief and depression. He simply cannot let Dorothy go. This is a touching, sweet book that is filled with heart and emotion. I found myself laughing at Aaron more than once…whether this was intentional humor on Tyler’s part… just the sad-sack, vulnerable ways of Aaron manifesting themselves as comic moments I do not know. I would like to think that Tyler wanted us to laugh at him a little…so he and her reader’s would try and take life a little less seriously. Tyler, who is known for her engaging and emotive character studies, really captures the soul of this wayward man. I would be hard pressed to say it is Tyler’s best work but it is one of her most engaging.
On the flip side, you have Helen Dewitt’s Lightning Rods. Comparing the Dewitt book with the Tyler book is like comparing avocados and apples. NOT MUCH SIMILARITY. Dewitt’s book is a statement book about state of sexual harassment and general sexual tensions in the workplace. I would call it a satire, but it not told in usual “satire” form…with a wink and a nudge. This story is told with seriousness and devoid of any humor, which makes it all the more tough to read and even stomach. Now, I do not consider myself any type of a prude and I do understand what the author is trying to say here (I guess) but this commentary on the state of workplaces, sex and male-female relationships just did not sit right with me. In trying to be witty and edgy, Dewitt just becomes crude and inane.
The clear winner here is THE BEGINNER’S GOODBYE by ANNE TYLER.