Tuesday, October 23, 2012
What's on Your Nightstand Pre-Halloween edition
Had I known part of this story would have an hopelessly PC part to it's story, I'd have thrown it back. [To spell this out more would be major spoiler time so I won't!] So, it's good I didn't know because instead of making me mad it made me remember conversations with my Grandmother (who was 16 in 1920) that occurred as I discovered various "facts" of life while growing up. I also remember the kindness my Great Aunt showed friends who "passed" all their adult lives as "cousins." So the "other" story in this book (not the one about silent film star Louise Brooks) left me only mildly annoyed at the PC overtones of the "intent" of the story. You see, Cora's view ended up mirroring my own relatives' views on the subject. I enjoyed this book so much--wishing I was brave enough to take a chance on something new again. Wishing, like Cora, I'd stumble across a Joseph worth having (and who would think the same of me). I'm afraid silent star Louise Brooks reminds me of all of today's spoiled, never-told-no, always-entertained-because-life-must-be- fun-fun-fun kids. And she reminded me of many of the troubled teens I've encountered (for good reason if you read the story) with their "consequences don't matter" mindset. This book WILL trouble some readers, but there is nothing truly "shocking" and only a few instances of story-appropriate language or tame descriptions of sexual activity. Plus, if you get it on audio, you get Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey herself (i.e. Elizabeth McGovern) reading it! The Chaperone: A Novel by Laura Moriarty
Taking Tuscany: A Novel by Renee Riva.
This is one of two books this month that "spoke" to me so strongly I sort-of "live tweeted" reading them. I say sort of because I used Facebook. While there ARE reasons to snark on this one--her self- centeredness, her certain knowledge that a fulfilling, authentic, oh- don't-you-wish-you-were-me-?-life can only be lived in NYC, I have chosen to ignore those. I understood her longing for food, for the scents of food. I can still bring back to my mind the exact scent of my grandmother's spice cabinet, can still taste her cheese "stuff" [trust me, you do NOT want to know how this was made! Or that I was allowed to eat it, but it was the BEST EVER.] And while Luisa does make too much of herself, she also loves her family, respects her parents and "parent friends" and gets over herself long-enough to admit she's a Berliner and not really a New Yorker. Many, many young adults, on the cusp of marriage and parenthood (or soon there after) realize that East, West, Home's Best. The stories about the Berlin foods were worth it, though the story of her discarded boyfriend really wasn't, but hey! I'm 50 not 25 and reading about how many notches someone puts on their bedpost isn't that thrilling. The pickled herring brought back memories of every Christmas at my grandmother's, happily stuffing myself with it when not stuffing myself with the cheese stuff. The Mexican Meatballs are a must-try ASAP. Several other recipes sound wonderful, but might be a tad difficult to source. So, if you love food, if you've made big changes to be happy, you'll like this one. My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss.
Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I also posted meaningful quotes from this one--having to sometimes stop the car and scribble on the side of the rode since this, too, was an audio book. While I did find passages that could have been whittled down a few hundred words, about 80% of this book was tremendous. My soul mate was not the reclusive author who has never told the truth about herself in an interview, but rather the would-be biographer finally chosen to tell the story. Part Grimm's Fairy Tales, part life of a book loving, perfect-vacation-is-a-trip-to-an-archive biographer's story of writing the story of the author's life, this book has the feel of Daphane De Maurier's classic Rebecca. There's no Mrs. Danvers but that lurking "someone" is always present. It also presents the dark gloom of Heathcliff's moors in Jane Eyre--in fact that book is almost a "character" in this story. This is not a book for someone who doesn't love research and doesn't love books. It's not for someone wanting a cheery happy families story. The family part is more Glass Castle than Elizabeth Enright, but that was ok to me.
Maine was tiresome. No real character development--all seemed cardboardish. This book also meets another of my pet peeves [which is apparently one of those of the "author" in Thirteenth Tale who said "my books sell because they have a beginning, middle and end]. It seems today that you send in your completed manuscript and then a college intern drops the chapters on the floor and reassembles them in any order. This book jumps around and might have been better told with fewer attempts to be so "[whatever the word is here--hip? with-it? unique? artsy-fartsy?]. This is a blah book. Don't bother. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan.
Here are a few more random thoughts on this one: Could she say "MY DAUGHTER" just once and not the insipid "my little girl" ad nausea? And, has the author ever been around 12 year olds--they aren't three!! Isn't 12 1/2 a little old to be called a "little girl" all the time?? Loved the line "Cammilla-style" headgear.... Seriously? She actually wrote "between Uncle Les and Uncle Paul...." Please..... and "Serial Monogamist" is from "Four Weddings and A Funeral." Try something else. Laughing over the serious video prep--this must pre-date YouTube!! Everyone with a phone can post a how-to video these days!
Snark aside this was a nice novel about nice people doing nice stuff and I enjoyed it enough to finish it and think back over it several times. I'd love to have a "group" like that in my life!
Need something to read? Find great suggestions on other nightstands at What's on Your Nightstand over at 5 Minutes for Books.
What if Charles HAD married Camilla in the 70's? A fun look at what might have been....