It has been a sad week as you can see from my post below. In other news youngest and eldest will fend for themselves this week – the longest period of time they have been alone together in a long while. Himself and I are in Oregon, he for a conference, and me for a visit with my parents (and a leisurely morning at Powell’s). I do have lots of reading material: Diane from Bibliophile by the Sea graciously sent me her ARC copy of Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp (I finished in the car and I loved it); I am reading Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard on my Kindle and youngest picked up three books for me from the library – The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig, A Good Hard Look by Ann Napoloano, and The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stucky-French. The week ended on a high note – Friday was the last day of class at Satori Camp and Himself’s class of 18 campers flew the rockets they built during the week. Only one cato (a so not good landing) and three motor malfunctions. Only one rocket ended up on a roof and one near the football field – other than that it was pretty much picture perfect flights. It was great to see the kids so excited about their rockets.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
Stuck in a Book has a brief mention of Let Not the Waves of the Sea, a memoir or elegy by Simon Stephenson about his older brother (by 16 months) who died in the Indian Ocean Tsunami. As Simon Simon quotes the jacket blurb, “more than a book about what it means to lose a brother: it is a book about what it means to have one in the first place.” I have been thinking a lot about oldest and youngest’s relationship as they embark on this next stage of their lives as well as members of my own family – my brother and my second cousins particularly. There is something about the person you were raised with – who knew you back then, the good and the bad. Simon also links an article by the author in The Guardian and I find I cannot resist a book by someone who can write the following passage – particularly the last lines. The rest of the article is just as breathtaking.
When we entered our teens, our hormones surged and with them the seeming differences we’d first glimpsed so many years before. I overtook him in height, but he developed impressive muscles in places where I did not seem to have any. He started crew-cutting his hair and I grew mine long. Most obviously, there was our music, our perpetually competing stereos an awful cacophony of the bright rhythms of his reggae interspersed with the rainy introspection of my grunge. Yet even as we grappled with these changes we indelibly remained the boys: many teenage nights we’d stand out on the Meadows in Edinburgh, silently throwing a Frisbee back and forth until long after it was dark and every throw and catch had become an act of fraternal faith. (Simon Stephenson, The Guardian, July 23, 2011)
On a slightly lighter note, Danielle from A Work in Progress reviews Losing Nicola by Susan Moody and it looks like a great summer read. Set both in the immediate years after WWII and the present, the book is both a coming of age story and a murder mystery at the same time. Eleven year old Alice lives in a small seaside town in England with her mother, brother, and her mother’s aunt in a boarding house. Her father works in Oxford but due to the war, housing is both scarce and expensive. Soon a young girl, Nicola, comes to live in the house as well; she is seems captivating and charming at first but her “thoughtless cruelty” comes forth. Nicola is soon murdered and the culprit is never found. In the present, Alice returns to the seaside town seeking understanding about what happened and how it effected Alice. Unfortunately, this one isn’t at my library yet so it will go on a “watch for” list.
One book getting a lot of buzz is recently published Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante reviewed here in the New York Times and by Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog. This novel is told through the point of view of Dr. Jennifer White who has had to retire from her career as a noted orthopedic surgeon because of the onset of dementia, an unreliable narrator in the extreme. Dr. White’s best friend has been killed in such a way that Dr. White is a person of interest. Dr. White cannot remember or is unwilling to remember if she did or did not commit the crime. It seems like it would be easy to peg this as a genre book but the Times says it isn’t quite that simple, “But to call “Turn of Mind” a thriller — or a chronicle of illness, or saga of friendship, for that matter — would confine it to a genre it transcends. This is a portrait of an unstable mind, an expansive, expertly wrought imagining of memory’s failures and potential. “
Another book with Demntia at the center is The Birdhouse by Kelly Simmons found here at Shelf Awareness and here in a review by Rundpinne. This novel seems to fit within the Women’s Lit genre but I won’t necessarily let that run me off – I like the genre if it is very well done and the reviews I have seen have been good. I like the premise of mothers and daughters, family secrets, and finally, memory and the role it plays in family dynamics. Little eight year old Ellie has to do a school project on her family history. Ellie’s grandmother, seventy year old Ann Biddle, uses this as an opportunity to grow closer to her grandchild as well as reflect back on a troublesome past while at the same time she cannot remember simple things from the present. And this is a family with the death of a young daughter, infidelity, secrets galore, debt, and lies. What got me the most about the book is a line that appears at the end when Ann declares, “”We had our own constitution now, our little family, built on a solid foundation of lies, secrets, regrets, and debts. But even dark underpinnings can support something solid and light, can they not?”
Finally, a book recently published is getting a lot of press and reviews so it caught my interest numerous places – the novel is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. This is going to be one popular read if you can judge by my library’s hold list. The library has four copies, all checked out, and I am number 11 on the list so this one seems like it will be a popular one. Set in the late 1930’s, Rules of Civility takes place in New York City where two women, Katey and Eve, navigate the intricacies of life in the bustling city. There is jazz in Greenwich Village clubs, scandal in the secretarial pools of Wall Street Banks, and the high fashion of society in the offices of Conde Nast. On New Year’s Eve of 1937, the two women meet solitary and enigmatic Tinker Grey and they all become fast friends. Of course there is a tragedy waiting in the wings. Reviews mention echos of Wharton, Fitzgerald, and Capote. I just have to wait for several people to finish before I can tell you if the novel reaches that high of a standard for me. Reviews of the novel can be found at the following blogs: Bookdwarf (mini review); Linus’ Blanket (“exquisitely written book”); Literatehousewife (with quotes); and Rundpinne (with link to the author’s website).