|The Sea by John Banville ~ Main & NHC PR6052.A57S43
After reading Banville’s Ancient Light and Mrs. Osmond, I immediately went searching for all his other books. Banville is magic. He captivates and enlightens. I love his vocabulary, which teaches me new words to describe the world. But by the time I almost reached the end of this tome, I was tired of the details of emotional and psychological poetic analysis. I yearned for some action that the characters could clamor through without reminiscing about it later in the book.
|Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
~Main & NHC Libraries PS3569.A7897L56“Bardo” is the Tibetan Buddhist name for a transition period between death and rebirth. Abraham Lincoln visits the graveyard where his boy Willie, who died of typhoid fever at age 11, is buried yet lives on in the bardo. Willie’s neighbors all have something to say. A little tedious. But the assortment of characters reminds me of the characters in Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. The best dialogue and thoughts are Lincoln’s. His mourning for his son and the devastation of the Civil War become inseparable. Saunders gives insight into the depression the President could not escape. While I liked this book, I much more enjoyed Saunders short stories, some of which are found in Tenth of December. Read an excerpt of Lincoln in the Bardo here.
|The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead
I struggled through this… several times thinking of giving up. But because it won the Pulitzer Prize, I felt I would eventually be drawn into Whitehead’s writing. But I never really got engaged, by the characters or the plot. The twist of the railroad being a physical train line with stations was under developed. Jay Norlinger states, “Whitehead’s book is most successful when it tells its story. It is least successful, I think, when it teaches and preaches … [like a] social-studies teacher, with one didactic paragraph after another… As a rule, teaching in a novel should be accidental, I think, not bluntly striven for.” (National Review). But you decide. Read an excerpt here.
|Half Empty by David Rackoff ~NHC Library PN6165.R35
Funny, dry, dead-on, and keenly observant, Rackoff managed to write about things that were ordinary but made seem uncommon. Rackoff was known for his life’s philosophy: always assume the worst; you’ll never be disappointed. When an author can spin that with laugh-out-loud honest descriptions and wit, I’m so there for the read. This collection of essays contains not only the warning “No Inspirational Life Lessons Will Be Found in These Pages,” but the guarantee that the author will have you “positively reveling in the power of negativity” (NYT Book Review). Read an excerpt here.
I am in the midst of reading all the entries in the Hogarth Shakespeare series. These are retellings of Shakespeare’s tales by prominent, contemporary authors. Since I find the originals difficult to enjoy and understand, I thought I would have a go at these covers. Intriguing! Click on the images to find the locations in our library collection or just hover to get the call numbers.
|After the Fire by Henning Mankell
The main character, Fredrik Welin, is a seventy-year old retired Swedish physician whose lonely island life is in due partly because of a past past medical mistake causing injury to a patient. Fredrik’s house burns down, taking with it most of what he owns. The fire forces Fredrik out of his isolation and into contact with the police, a journalist, and his recently discovered adult daughter. Fredrik’s emerging out of isolation and the investigation into the cause of the fire become the plot of the book. This book was a bit slow. The characters didn’t seem to learn much about themselves as events changed their lives. I think Mankell was looking for a sense of loss leading to redemption, but, for me, the plot never got that far. But, I did like the Scandinavian tone ~ very underplayed and dry but not morose. With a translated book, so much depends on the translator. This is the second in a two books about Fredrik Welin and Mankell’s last before he died. Mankell is best known for his crime-books Wallanar, which became a Swedish TV hit. Daniel, by Mankell, is in the Main Library collection. Read an excerpt of After the Fire here.
|Hagseed by Margaret Atwood
Lately, it seems that most of Atwood’s stories have been based on science fiction. Since I am not a science fiction fan but am an Atwood fan, when I saw this book at my library, I was excited. This story is a retelling of Shakepeare’s Tempest. While I am familiar with the plot, I never read the book. So I thought great; Atwood and Shakespeare together. How to create a contemporary novel from a work written four centuries ago for the stage? Atwood of all writers can do it.
The plot follows Felix Phillips (Prespero in The Tempest), an artistic director who is focused on his art, a production of Shakespear’s Tempest, and his dead daughter. This involvement causes him to overlook his power-hungry assistant Toni’s deviousness behavior. Soon, Felix sees Toni for the saboteur that he is. Being fired from the play, Felix starts another production at the local prison. Soon, he is using his prisoners as more than actors and plotting his revenge by staging a very unique version of the play with Toni in the audience. Read an excerpt here. And here is Atwood “talking” about her Hogarth interpretation. Pretty interesting!
I am ordering all the Hogarth Shakespeare Project reinterpretations for the HCCC collection. Looking forward to reading them all. Could never quite get through the originals.
|What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity
A “beach book”- easy to digest but with a bit more character than the usual summer reading froth. The plot focuses on Alice’s memory lapse of the past decade. She forgets she has three kids, is going through a divorce, and her best friend died in a tragic accident. But, going back to her former 29 year-old-self is not a bad lesson in learning to lighten up, give people a break (including herself), and remember what is important in life. Oh, and by the way, she now has an exercise regime and a skinny body. This is a funny book and the way the author describes her characters’ thoughts and expressions is spot on. Why does the English (and in this case Australian) humor seem more witty to me? They can be so amusingly cynical. While I don’t highly recommend this book, keep it in mind when headed to the shore this summer. Read an excerpt here. As of the beginning of 2018, Jennifer Aniston is contracted to play Alice in a film adaptation. You decide.