I can't quite get my head around writing about our holiday, mostly because I am unable to decide where to start. Writing about books seems like a good displacement activity.
You may remember that my chosen book for July was 'A Crime In The Neighborhood' by Suzanne Berne. I have not finished it, I just couldn't connect with the characters or the story. The novel is set in the 1970s in suburban Washington DC and is centered around the murder of a neighbourhood boy. Marsha, then 9, recalls what happened during the summer of 1973, including her own role in causing a stir in the community by voicing her suspicions about who had committed the crime. The novel is a study of suburban America in the 1970s, and quite a good one, too. I did like this aspect of the book but the story was not for me. So much for being adventurous and choosing a book that would not normally be my first go-to.
I listened to a crime novel, 'A Dark Secret' by Michael Hjorth & Hans Rosenfelt The novel is set in a small town in Sweden. The main character of the investigating team is Sebastian, a profiler with a troubled past (of course). Having retired from work after the death of his wife and daughter, his involvement in the investigation is both accidental and self serving. The rest of the specialist investigative team is more likeable. The plot is credible and the small town community is well described. It is not a story about a deranged serial killer, but that of an unfortunate 'accident' spiraling out of control. If the opportunity arises, I'll be happy to read the next book in the series.
You know by know that I am on a quest to read all of Margaret Atwood's novels. This month I read both 'The Edible Woman' and 'Cat's Eye'. I enjoyed both. In fact, I loved every line. In Cat's Eye we meet Elaine Risley, a painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. It is a touching story about a childhood different from the average, about a vulnerable child/woman finding her place in life and about coming to terms with her identity and the relationships and events that have shaped it. In The Edible Woman, Marian McAlpin realizes that she can no longer eat after she becomes engaged to Peter, a prototype bore. At first it is only meat she cannot eat but as the wedding day moves closer, more and more foods are off limits. All the while, Marian somnambulates through her life. It is Duncan, a mildly obnoxious but strangely likeable character who helps Marian understand.
I also read Ian McEwan's 'Saturday'. I very much enjoyed this novel about a day in the life of Henry Perowne, a successful neurosurgeon living a privileged life with a beautiful and equally successful wife and two talented children. The gentle flow of his life is troubled by an early morning sighting of a burning plane, the impending war with Irak, and a chance confrontation with Baxter, an aggressive youth with two equally aggressive sidekicks. It is a book of contrast I think, deliberately so and to some readers, this might not appeal.
Two quick reads shall end this post.
Post apocalyptic fiction seems to be rather trendy this year. I randomly picked up Adrian Walker's 'The End of the World Running Club'. Ed, slob, disappointing husband and reluctant father 'lives' a rather unsatisfying life when the earth as we know it ends. In this book, it is an asteroid strike that destroys vast parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Ed's family survive in their cellar in Edinburgh purely by chance and eventually are picked up by what is left of the army. During an exploratory mission into town, Ed's family is evacuated by an international task force. Ed misses the ride and what follows is first the realisation that family does matter after all and then a quest to find his family before they are transported by sea to the Southern Hemisphere from Falmouth at the other end of the country. I did rather enjoy this easy read.
The second quick read was Karen Joy Fowler's 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves'. Rosemary Cooke used to be a talkative little girl but now she is silent. Silent in particular about her childhood and a traumatic event leading to the 'loss' of Rosemary's twin sister, Fern, and eventually to the criminalisation of their big brother (with an forgettable name). I didn't identify with the characters and I didn't enjoy the sloppy writing much either and I really don't quite get the hype around the book. Alas, we all like different things in our books.
For August, I am going post apocalyptic once more: I have chosen to read 'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel. I may have chosen this book for the name of the author alone :-) Watch this space for a brief review.
I am joining Laura's at A Circle of Pine Trees. The Year in Books 2015 is a great way to keep up with all sorts of literature. Have you checked it out recently?