Alternating a little rain and a little sun today in Oregon. I have had a very nice week but I have to pack up and go home tomorrow. The new Mastiff and I have been playing a lot and I have been reading past New York Times Book Reviews. My mom and I have started the Christmas Shopping and have lunched out numerous times. And yesterday and today were baking days making muffins, brown sugar cinnamon cranberry white chocolate bars and Nutella shortbread bars. I did finish both The Woman Upstairs and Heading Out to Wonderful. I restarted Behind the Beautiful Forevers but have struggled to get into the story – not because of the writing but of the subject. I think I need something a little more upbeat right now. So I have put it down about a quarter of the way done and will try to finish it some other time.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
I really enjoyed reading By a Slow River by Phillipe Claudel and have been looking for another work by him, Monsieur Linh and His Child. Now it looks like I will have to add another book of his to my list based on the description in Lizzy Siddal’s post on books she has been reading that are reminiscent of Kafka’s work. The Investigation is about the senseless obstacles that hamper an investigator of a series of suicides. The harder the investigator tries t do his duty, the harder it becomes and he has the feeling he is being watched at every turn. While Lizzy had some issues with the ending, I have so enjoyed the Claudel’s writing, I am willing to go on the ride he is offering.
Buried in Print has provided me two books of interest. The first book is by Australian author Mary-Rose MacColl, In Falling Snow. This saga moves from WWI in France and 1970’s Australia. Iris was a young girl when she went to France in 1918 to retrieve her brother. She stayed to serve at a field hospital staffed entirely by women at an old Abby. This was unheard of in those times and the novel is based on real events at a hospital at the Abby Royaumont. The author stumbled across a book about the hospital and it served as a jumping off point. Interwoven with the first story is a narrative about Iris’s granddaughter Grace who is dealing with her own difficulties as a woman in medicine.
The second book couldn’t be more different – Amana Leduc’s The Miracles of Ordinary Men. I must admit, when I read the description of the book on Amazon I was a little leery but BIP’s review has me convinced. Seriously, this is one review to click on and read, it is that good. The novel is about an ordinary man named Sam who is growing wings – is this a blessing or a curse? And his cat, Chickenhead, has been reanimated. I love the fact a cat is a character in a novel; I also like the fact the epitaph is from the work of Soren Kierkegaard, “And is it not true in this instance also that one whom God blesses he curses in the same breath?”. I have often told my boys that one’s greatest strength is, at the same time, often one’s biggest weakness. This book sounds like it may be confusing to read and from what I can tell, this confusion is mirrored inSam’s experience as we, and he, struggle with what is real and what is not. As BIP points out, there can be multiple narratives, one for each point of view. Sam’s doctor sees only scars on Sam’s back whereas someone else sees the growing wings. And who could argue with prose like this:
Lilah crumples her napkin onto the plate and watches it unfold, slowly, like a flower. This is what she’s learned, from years of travelling and searching and needing something else: that there isn’t something else, that some people will forever look at the world and see broken things that they can’t change.
Finally, I came across three fun links this week. Savidge Reads has a list of books that “encapsulate England” for him. Beauty and the Sleeping Cat has a great list of books by German Women authors (at least two have made it onto my to-be-read list). And Heavenali has a post on “fat books” just in time for Winter when curling up with a long book sounds very appealing.