I arrived back home on Monday and went immediately to my book group meeting. I guess my family knows where it rates. We had a fantastic discussion of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Our next book is The Submission by Amy Waldman which one member declared to be her most favorite book we have read. In a few months we are going to The Mirage by Matt Ruff. We did not intend to read three 9/11 related books in a row – it just worked out that way. They are all so different and it will be interesting to see how each author deals with an event that so changed perceptions. Eldest and I also embarked on a one day home improvement project which has stretched into day four (hopefully we will be done tomorrow) so not much reading had been done. But there is always next week.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
Two books have caught my interest from the Book Review Pages. The first is Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to Nazi Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski reviewed in The Washington Post. I grew up in a Mitford household so I have long known about Unity Mitford and her fascination with Hitler. I have also read In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson which discusses the Dodds Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Martha Dodds is in Hitlerland (Unity is not – being English) but the author focuses on other Americans “such as the journalists Sigrid Schultz and Hubert Knickerbocker, the embassy official George Messersmith…” some of whom appeared in In the garden of Beasts. This book seems like the perfect expansion of Larson’s work and I am hoping the library will have a copy soon.
The second book I found in The Guardian, Girl Reading by Katie Ward. This debut novel sounds fascinating. Many book bloggers feature pictures or paintings of women reading. Ward has taken seven of these portraits and written a story for each one. These “scenes” are thematically connected but separate in character and story and each takes place in a different century. Joanna Brisco writes in The Guardian:
Championed by Hilary Mantel as a work of “rare individuality and distinction”, this debut should appeal to a wide but discerning readership. Not for Katie Ward the coming-of-age first novel starring a barely disguised over-sensitive heroine airing her resentments: Girl Reading reads as though its author is five books down. She has plunged straight into a series of difficult challenges, her handling of time and place accomplished with authority, skill and knowledge.
Danielle of A Work in Progress delights in finding books that have been “lost in the stacks”. This week she has found a novella by Elizabeth Spenser, winner of several O’Henry Awards and once nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The novella, The Light in the Piazza was originally published in 1960 and now can be found in The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales. The story was adapted into a movie in 1962 and a Broadway musical in 2005. Set in Florence, the novella follows an American mother and her daughter while they explore Italy. The daughter becomes infatuated with an Italian man but this is more that a simple love story. It has family secrets, moral quandaries, deception, and conflict between a mother and a daughter.
Elizabeth Taylor, British author has long been on my radar and I picked up a copy of At Mrs. Lippincote’s at a used book store recently. Now I have to find another one of her books because Rachel of Book Snob makes A View of The Harbour sound wonderful (and she scores additional points by comparing it to Villette by Jane Eyre (one of my favorite classic novels). Set in a decaying seaside village after WWII, the novel focuses on the lives of the villagers, their lonliness, their betrayals, and most of all, their watching each other as newcomer Bertram, a retired navel officer, moves among them with an agenda of his own. Maybe I can get it through inter-library loan?
Kim of Reading Matters hosts a weekly post where the selected guest author answers threee questions: a favorite book; a book that changed their life; and a book that deserves a wider audience. This past week author Georgina Harding answers the questions and now I want to read The Ice Palace by Norwigian poet and novelist Tarjei Vesaas. Recently my mother and I had a conversation about people you meet and there is an instant connection. Siss and Unn have such a connection spending only an evening in each other’s company. The next day Unn disappears and this has a devistating effect on Siss. This is what Harding says about the novel, “t’s about a friendship between two schoolgirls and what happens when one of them disappears. The past of the friendship, the continuing enigma of the lost girl, and the present search for her, are interwoven with an extraordinary tension within a frame which is that of the winter itself. The resolution can of course come only with the spring. And it’s so moving that it is hard to separate joy from pain.”
Finally, Danielle of A Work in Progress has been exploring diaries and while her exploration has focused on non-fiction, she has come up with a list of 13 novels written in a diary format. It is definitely a list worth considering.