Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Recent reads:
The Earth Hums in B Flat, Mari Strachan.
“Mari Strachan’s debut novel has charmed readers
around the world with it sparkling portrayal
of one unusually imaginative twelve-year-old
girl whose investigation into a local crime yields
startling repercussions.” –from the bookflap
Highly recommended.

Annie Dunne, Sebastian Barry.
This lyrical novel portrays the later years of two
old-maid cousins who take on, for the duration
of a summer, the care of their young grandniece
and nephew. It’s a stunning meditation on the trials
of growing old set against the landscape of 1950’s
rural Ireland, where time-honored traditions
are rapidly disappearing.
Highly recommended.

what are you like? Anne Enright.
This story of twins separated at birth resonates
with poetic language. Every chapter stands alone
as its own universe of artistic articulation.

Best Love, Rosie, Nuala O’Faolain.
The posthumously-published novel by the author
of the much-praised My Dream of You.
Uninspired and in need of a heavy-handed editor.
Our narrator, Rosie, discovers the existence
of an abandoned cottage on the coast where her mother,
who died in childbirth, was raised. While attempting
renovations, O’Faolain also attempts a commentary
on the middle-aged woman, but ultimately the novel
misses the mark.
Not recommended.

The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga.
Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize.
Set in contemporary India where, in this scenario,
the caste system has disintegrated into two classes:
the upper class, who live in insulated excess,
and the lower class, who live to serve the wealthy elite.
Extremely compelling – I finished in under 24 hours.
Highly recommended.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
An epistolary novel set on Guernsey and London
in the aftermath of WWII, I can’t help but disagree
with the book critic from the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It’s tempting to throw around terms like “gem”
when reading a book like this. But Guernsey is not
precious….” And yet it is precious, and sweet
and completely predictable. There are a few token
concentration camp scenes, as well as the requisite
heart-tugging scenes of Brit children being evacuated
to the country. It's not poorly written, and it's not
a bad book. Perhaps it's just been hyped to death.
But it comes off as WWII-lite. If you want something
that you can get your teeth into, skip this one.
Lukewarm recommendation, and with reservations.


  1. T., I'm halfway thru The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and I completely agree with you. Precious, but lite and predictable. I prefer teeth-sinking good. It's popular, though -- when I went to the library to reserve a copy, there were almost 400 holds on 100 copies, so I bought the darn thing.

  2. A number of my friends have read "The Guernsey..." and have been absolutely raving about it. They keep telling me to read it, and I'm sure I will, but I'll move it a little further down the stack.

  3. I'm just into, Jon McPherson's "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things". Although it is written in a most unusual fashion from the point of view of an omnicient narrator with absolute no names mentioned and no quoted dialogue, it is most compelling and I'm motoring through it.
    I have Enright's "The Gathering" lined up for some time in the future. Is it good?

    I'll have to look out for your recommendations on my thrift-store shelves (my greatest library source).


  4. I read a gorgeous short story by Anne Enright in the Paris Review years ago, and it has really stuck with me. I am going to check out What Are You Like. I would love to see what she does with a novel.

  5. oh my "best love, rosie" stayed with me and stayed with me. not the plot so much, which was a little sweet, but the theme of aging. reconciling an aging, less attractive body with the passions that still burn within.

  6. Poetikat & Valerie -- I loved Enright's The's more of a straightforward novel than What Are You Like.