Recent Reading and Rereading

CARHART, Thad:  “The Piano Shop on the Left Bank:  Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier.”  (memoir).  A beautifully written book for those interested in pianos, music, France, and French passions and obsessions.  He is an American ex-pat in Paris.

JOYCE, Rachel:  “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”:   A man goes out to mail a letter—then realizes that his words are not adequate to the occasion.   This extremely well-written novel is about love, loyalty, walking, regret.
ROONEY, Kathleen:  “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk”:  a lovely novel about an 84 year old woman who was a feminist before her time.  Talented, ambitious, and richly observant, Lillian Boxfish is a compassionate story about aging and reflecting back upon one’s life.  Writing is almost poetic.  Recommended for those who like NYC, character driven books, and the history of women’s work through the 20th century (although written recently, the book is set in 1984).
SIMONSON, Helen:  “The Summer Before the War”.  (she wrote “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” also).  It’s 1914 and this historical novel, set in England, has an inevitable sadness and nostalgia because you know that the war is coming (the characters don’t know that).  It’s great for fans of “Downton Abbey”, small English towns, and Barbara Pym and Jane Austen.  Latin teachers!  Social banter!  Complex characters!  But the title warns us that all cannot end well.
LEVY, Deborah: “Hot Milk” (Booker prize finalist).  Not really a comfortable book but the intricate plotting and the inspection of a mother/daughter relationship that stifles the growth of the daughter is fascinating.  Begins with too much of a post-modern jolt, but something captivated me and kept me reading.  I now understand why Levy is an important contemporary author.   Probably would not have nominated for book club but at 200 pages it’s  a tightly woven web of allusions and symbolisms tied up with an enigmatic  resolution.   “My love for my mother is like an axe.  It cuts very deep.”
McEWAN, Ian:  “Nutshell”  McEwan’s pyrotechnic prose and unusual situations are profound and funny.  I would not have recommended this book to the club, but I do recommend it to anyone who enjoys a wicked sense of humor that leads to very deep issues—McEwan has done the same sort of thing in “Atonement,” “On Chesil Beach,” “The Children Act,” “Solar,” “Saturday,” “Sweet Tooth,”  etc.  His works are compulsively readable and  they always bring up big issues— his books bring up moral, ethical, often life-and-death  dilemmas that extend far beyond their particular characters and plots. Chewy books:  they read like candy but the aftertaste is  filled with big ideas.
BROOKNER, Anita and
FITZGERALD, Penelope  Not exactly Barbara Pym, but related.  Pleasurable, intelligent mostly slender reads.   They are quiet novelists who can pack a huge punch.  Their talent is so profound and deep that it’s really hard to actually catch them in the act of being talented.
CONNELL, Mrs. Bridge:  Perhaps the most compelling novel of character I have ever read.  If you want to understand your mother (or maybe even yourself) this is a great way to begin.  NOTE:  The relationship between this book and the film is tenuous.  The film dumbs the whole book down and changes major plot points.
Now, in review, I would call all of these books “quiet” and rather old-fashioned (although most of them were written recently).  They are primarily about characters rather than plot.
I have not paid much attention to this blog of late.  I’ve been feeling the interiority of life (not an unsatisfying position).  I’ve had another birthday.   I’ve had some failed social encounters that have left me baffled by the ever mysterious nature of other people.  My life is shot through with melancholy covfefe.
Some Villa-Lobos today has made me feel like writing.  I’ve been listening to music lately.

Author: Gubbinal

Bookish, tea-drinking cat-lady who loves great poetry and music and is in the midst of dying

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