Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Handful of NOT Reviews, Sorry!

I'd hoped to do another post or two before my trip, but that's obviously not going to happen, given the list I'm still working my way down.
However, it's important to me to at least record the titles of books I've reading so here are the last few I remember:
Reginald Hill's A Cure for All Diseases -- Glad to see The Fat Man back in action but with Pascoe more confident about holding his own, under the approving stare of the wonderful Wieldy. A new character I quite liked and the surprising re-appearance of one I'm not so sure about. One of these days I'm going to go back and discover the early D&P's I've missed along the way. Every one is so well-written by someone who loves words!
Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key -- recommended by one daughter and then lent to me by another who, it turns out, had rec'd it as a Christmas gift from me (and I'd forgotten!). My reservations about this novel are in how it skirts the edges of chicklit -- setting in romantic Paris, details a marriage/romance/breakdown/possible other attraction -- while educating us about some of the horrors of the Holocaust. While I'm not entirely persuaded by Brecht's speculation that writing "about trees" in the wake of the horrors of the Third Reich, I'm uncomfortable with using such a packaged format to deliver knowledge that should be much less palatable. That said, the novel does meet its goal of remembering the children who were sent to the camps (and, ultimately, ovens) by the French, an event France does its best to forget. And both my daughters were moved by it and informed. Certainly, it's well written and the information is convincingly presented.
Nancy Huston's Fault Lines deals with a related subject but the structure she chooses is neither neatly packaged nor ultimately comforting. It is, though, absolutely brilliant. Oh, I wish I had more time! The way this four-part structure, each narrated by a child from a successively earlier generation in the same family (so part I, narrated by a young boy in contemporary USA, part II, by his father as a young boy living in first, US, then in Israel, then III that young boy's mother in 50s/60s US, and then her mother in wartime Germany) catches the reader up with the pleasures of a narrative and then frustrates, intrigues and destabilizes. More questions are raised than are answered, and the novel is haunting. I have put it aside to reread.
Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire. Oh, my! This trilogy is so very satisfying -- everything one might want in a mystery series. I'm intrigued by Lisbeth and by Blomkvist both, love the very fatness of the books, and am beginning to think about visiting Sweden.
Eva Hoffman's Appassionata This one I'm not finished yet, but will be trying to read quickly over the next day or two. It's hardcover so not light or disposable enough to bring on the plane with me, and I'd be loath to leave it unfinished for three weeks to try to pick up when I get back.

Haven't yet, but I'm hoping to pick up a secondhand copy of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities which would work well for this summer's Dickens project, since I'll be shuttling between those two cities AND have recently read Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety (history of French Revolution, focussing on the personalities of some of the major players, esp. Danton and Robespierre -- and the women in their lives) -- which, oh dear, I just realized I haven't blogged about yet either! I am way too far behind - should I even be bothering with this blog?
Also reread, in preparation for my Montreal conference paper last month, Bill Gaston''s Sointula, which stood up quite nicely to a second reading, although I ended up finding some parts of it as self-indulgent as its main protagonist, a woman who rather irritated me. It's always fun, though, to recognize one's own landscape (and waterscape, in this case).


  1. Yes, do keep up this blog! I love to know what you're reading and what you think of the books you do read.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, tiffany -- although I've decided to at least keep up a book-listing for myself, it makes a difference to know there's someone out there reading it, and if that someone is an astute reader and generous commenter such as yourself, so much the better!

  3. Oh, please do keep the blog. I love reading your thoughts on what you've read, whenever you get to them. I always read your musings, but not necessarily right away.

    I very much enjoyed the Larsson series and found them quite satisfying. Fault Lines and Sarah's Key are both on my list, the latter on my "bicycle book" list and the former for slower reading. Based on your description this might be the correct apportionment of reading time. And I haven't managed any Hilary Mantel yet, something that must be corrected.

  4. Although I don't check this blog regularly, I always enjoy it when I do. And yes, Sara's Key is best appreciated as an acknowledgement of the extent of French complicity in deporting Jews to deathcamps. Superficial characters and wooden structure undercut the horror.

  5. Mardel: Don't know how I missed your comment -- perhaps when we were away? I'll be curious to see what you think of both Fault Lines and Sarah's Key.
    Anon: Thanks for the kind words and for taking time to comment. I'd recommend Sarah's Key only on the basis you suggest -- its closeness to a "chicklit" package will gain it readers, I'm sure, but makes me uncomfortable.