Tuesday, September 3, 2013

August Reading

August was a great month for reading.  At the beginning of the month I was on vacation and had lots of time to read.  Then through the rest of the month I had a pile of good books that I wanted to get through - and there wasn't much on TV to distract me.   I probably should have blogged separately about some of the books but ... I didn't.  Here is the list:

  1. The Dinner by Herman Koch.  Two (Dutch) brothers and their wives have dinner together in a restaurant and talk about what to do about their sons, who have committed a terrible act.    This reminded me of a cross between Louis Malle's film My Dinner with Andre and Yasmina Reza's play God of Carnage.  I truly enjoyed this novel and the way that Koch played with my perceptions of the characters.  Highly Recommended.
  2. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.   I am a huge Ian McEwan fan, although I know that others aren't.  It can't possibly be a spoiler to say that he, as usual, has a twist at the ending of this novel that is fairly meta and many people may not like it.  I did.  Prior to reading this novel I had taken to saying that I miss the Cold War.  It's an odd  thing to say, I know.  But I was born in 1960 and by the time I was in school the Cuban Missile Crisis was over and the world pretty much knew that if we blew ourselves up it would be by accident.  We had no "duck and cover" drills.  But we did have lots of government funding for literature and dance and art and "the arts" so that we could show those Damn Commies that capitalistic societies could have high culture too.  Some of that funding was up font and some of it was under behind the scenes through the CIA budget.  Now that we've won, no one wants to fund anything.  In this novel, at the end of the Cold War, British intelligence is funding writers.  Sigh.  Recommended.
  3. Solar by Ian McEwan.   A global warming themed novel where the "work for hire" doctrine of intellectual property ends up being a plot point (ok, my non-lawyer readers won't appreciate that, but I did).  Parts of it were very funny, in part because the main character is somewhat atrocious.  Not as good as Sweet Tooth.  Recommended
  4. The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard.  A woman returns to Wisconsin for her father's funeral many years after her brother was accused of killing his girl friend.  Lots of flashbacks.  Somewhat predictable.   I can totally see this being made into a movie.  There isn't a lot of "there" there, but it kept me reading.  Good Beach Reading.
  5. The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath.   I'm not sure how I made it this far in life without ever reading this novel.  I'm glad I read it.  Her portrayal of a young woman's descent into deep depression is searing while at the same time having many humorous moments - life is ludicrous sometimes.  Recommended.
  6. The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner.   A young woman artist who also rides motorcycles is involved with an older Italian artist from a wealthy family.  I thought this was a powerful novel and I was particularly intrigued by how the main character was an independent interesting thinker who seldom said anything interesting out loud.  I think this is often true of young women, and the question is whether they ever reach a point where they become comfortable enough in their own skin that they can truly be themselves.   I like how Kushner captured the 1970's.  The world changed for women in the 1960's but it didn't change for every woman overnight.  Between this novel and Meg Wollitzer's The Interestings, this has been a summer of remembering the 1970's for me.  Highly Recommended.
  7. Murder Below Mount Parnasse by Cara Black.   There was a new Amy LeDuc novel this year and no one told me?  Amy's adventures continue as she gets involved in trying to recover a stolen painting.  I really like this series.   As usual, mysteries are the genre writing that I escape to when I can't read anything else.  I recommend this one but you should really start with the first in the series. 
  8. Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant.   Last month I read Malice of Fortune, a mystery that featured Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci.  But the other main characters were Rodrigo Borgia and his son Cesar.  I wasn't sure I wanted to read another Borgia book so soon, but I generally enjoy Sarah Dunant and, hey, I was on a reading roll.  She didn't disappoint.  Her Borgias are much better fleshed out.  I always like how Dunant makes me feel that I'm really in whatever time period she is describing.  My only complaint (which seems to happen with every Dunant novel for me) is that she spends a little too much time "telling" me things about the characters and plot rather than showing me.  But Recommended.  And there will be a sequel.
  9. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman.  I had a somewhat contentious relationship with this novel.  On the one hand, I spent most of the novel thinking "YES!  That's exactly how a large number of men think about women!"  On the other hand, I kept thinking "Is this REALLY how men  think about women, or if this is just how intelligent women like me and Waldman think men think about women?"  I'd like to hear a group of men discuss this novel.  If you are a single woman thinking about dating, be warned that this may make you give up.  Highly Recommended.
  10. Crocodile on the Sand Bank by Elizabeth Peters. When Barbara Mertz, who wrote some of her novels under the name Elizabeth Peters, died recently, I realized that I had never read any of her mysteries.  I decided to start with the first in the Amelia Peabody series.  I've always loved ancient Egypt and, when I was younger, wanted to be an archaelogist.   I was somewhat disappointed, I found the novel rough going.  Too little archaeology in this first one - which was a shame because they were at Amarna!  I'm reading the second one in the hope that now that the characters are established, things will move a little faster.   Meh
That's it for August.  I've made a big dent in my "to be read" pile.  And I'm back to having less time to read than I would like.