Happy Sunday to everyone. It is a beautiful spring day here. Himself is at a Bonsai study group, youngest is buried in the basement recovering from the Graduation all-nighter. My dad is out on the back deck reading from his Kindle and my mom sitting on the couch and she is almost finished with To the North by Elizabeth Bowen. She rarely brings books to my house as she can easily grab from my stack. She also brought me Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and To The End of the Land by David Grossmman. She enjoyed both and I get to borrow them next. It has been a busy week getting ready for graduation, company, not to mention the graduation parties. It has been fun, exciting, and a little nostalgic to see these kids go from kindergarten to college. We figured out that 19 of the 24 children in youngest’s first grade classroom graduated on Saturday from the high school. Given the transient nature of our society, I find that a pretty remarkable feat.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
Eva from a Striped Armchair always reviews such interesting books and her latest find, The Translator by Leila Aboulela is no exception. Aboulela is a Sudanese author and playwright who writes in English. She has been both long and short listed for the Orange Prize and her fiction has received other accolades as well. The Translator is about a devout Islamic woman who works as a translator for the Department of Middle East Studies at a university in Scotland. Her son lives with family in the Sudan and through her work she and a professor develop feelings for each other. However, the professor is a secular man. Eva writes, “Really, every aspect of her prose is marvelous: it manages to be lush and spare at the same time, with a flow that never falters.” I also am interested in Aboulela’s latest work, Lyrics Alley which was inspired by the life of her uncle, the poet Hassan Awad Aboulela. Set in the Sudan in the 1950′s when the Sudan is on the brink of independence, the novel is about a wealthy family dealing with political and domestic turmoil.
Francis of Nonsuch Book has me very intrigued about an author I have never heard of Javier Marias, and a trilogy (rather it is more like a three part novel) that I have never heard of, Your Face Tomorrow. Marias is a Spanish author and Richard says of the work it, ” is probably one of the most important works in Spanish language literature of the last 10 years judging by its reception by the critics. At the same time, its reception has been such that even people who have embraced its ambition and prose have questioned its overall success as a genre-bending work of art.” Described as an intelligence thriller meets Henry James. I loved the first lines Francis included. Richard is hosting a summer-long group read which helps split the reading up and allows for discussion along the way. I might not do the group read as I am struggling with the group read of The Discovery of Heaven, but do recommend the method in general especially for these longer works.
Frequently the books I come across on Dovegreyreader are not yet available in the United States but in a recent post she mentions a book that she reviewed in February 2009 and Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgal is available here and it is going on my list. First of all, alth0ugh I don’t totally trust Amazon reviewers, it is worthy to note that 24 out of 24 reviewers gave this book five stars. Second, is that one of those reviewers mentions one of the pleasures of the book, “is its acute sense of place, as it captures dead-on the feel and, yes, even the taste of present-day Kansas City.” The product description and Dove talk about how “Thin Blue Smoke is an epic redemption tale, the story of two men coming to terms with their pasts. It is also a novel about faith, race, storytelling, bourbon, the language of rabbits, and the finer points of barbecue technique.” and Dove goes on to add:
The narrative flows effortlessly back and forth filling in histories and events in everyone’s lives, each chapter often feeling like a short story in its own right but all wrought with a finely balanced blend of seriousness and humour that isn’t easy to achieve.
I knew when to laugh and I knew when not to is about as simply as I can put it. Infused with themes which sound a bit hackneyed but trust me they are not, of love and forgiveness, faith and doubt, giving and receiving, prejudice and tribulation and a sense of a community somehow in touch with its inner godliness, whatever that might mean and wherever it lay. Thin Blue Smoke has been a mouth-watering, soul-feeding pleasure to read…
Who could resist this book after a review like that!
I seem to have become fascinated with books written in the 1940′s. This weeks highlight is Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (originally published in 1948 and reissued in 2003) reviewed by Simon of Stuck in A Book. Dodie Smith is the author of 101 Dalmatians and I Capture the Castle is her first novel. It is told throough the journal of Cassandra Mortmain who lives with her very poor and very interesting family in a crumbling castle. Soon a wealthy family with two eligible boys moves in and various romantic problems ensure.
Cornflower Books is another English blog I like and once again I am lucky because the book briefly mentioned came out in the US on June 9th. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai is a debut novel about a 26 year old unmarried children’s librarian and her favorite client, 10 year old Ian. Ian has to smuggle books past his somewhat overbearing mother who also seems to want to put him in a religious reprogramming program. At this point Ian decides to run away and the librarian goes along. I have many fond memories of librarians who understood who I was inside, not to mention memoriws of those book cards and book pockets inside library books. I think this one will have to be a vacation read.
Finally, there is The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott. I first heard of this book when the English Bloggers were talking about World Book Night and it was just published in the US and reviewed by Winston’s Dad (which, by the way, is one of the best blogs to learn about translated literature). This is a debut novel about Henry Cage who seemingly has his life together. However as he nears retirement that life begins to unravel. His ex-wife is ill, he is estranged from his son, and he is the victim of a random act of violence. Reviewers call this book:
A powerful and well-written portrayal of loss and grieving.
…a wise and moving debut, an accomplished novel of quiet depths and resonant shadows.
Elegant, rich and gratifying
This seems like a worthy addition to the ever growing To Be Read pile.
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