I don’t think a day goes by when I think, “I need to update my blog.” There’re just not enough hours in the day, though. Today’s my day off, though, and I am determined to catch up on book reviews. I’m behind by 4…
I received The Swan Thieves from Library Thing Early Reviewers. I was very much looking forward to this book, as I really enjoyed The Historians. There were some similarities between the two books, but for the most part they were very different. The main similarities were the inclusion of letters as a form of storytelling and the jump from the present to the past.
It’s been a month since I finished the book, and I am having a hard time remembering what I wanted to say. More than anything, The Swan Thieves is a character study of Robert Oliver, an artist who tried to attack a painting in the National Gallery in Washington, DC, who has been institutionalized and will not speak. It is narrated by Robert’s psychiatrist, who goes to great lengths to figure out Robert’s “story” and why he felt the need to attack a work of art. The book is not at all plot driven, and it can be a bit slow at times. It took me over 2 weeks to read and there were times when I wanted to abandon it.
Kostova’s writing is fantastic, and the characters really come to life. I felt bad for the women in Robert’s life and for Robert, as well.
Overall, I’m not really sure how I felt about this book. I wasn’t sorry I read it; in fact, I’m glad I read it. It just left me with kind of a “hmmm.”
I read Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead because it is on our short list of books to nominate for the Dublin Literary Award and was strongly recommended by a coworker.
While billed as a novel, Sag Harbor reads more like a series of essays about a middle class African American boy’s experiences during summers (particularly the summer of (I believe) 1985) in Sag Harbor, NY.
Whitehead’s characterization and ability create a sense of place is incredible. However, nothing ever really happens. Sure, there are incidents around which each chapter centers, but plot is non-existent. This kept me from thoroughly enjoying the book.
First of all, I am sad that I am just now writing a review of The Help, which I finished over a week and a half ago. It really deserves a post of its own, but I’m afraid I’ll never get to it. I may have to revisit it in a separate post at some point.
I was born in 1972, 55 miles away from Jackson, MS, where The Help is set. I KNOW these characters. I have read reviews that say they are caricatures. No they are not. That is not to say that everyone living in MS in the time period was like this (or was like this 10-15 years later, the time period I am familiar with), but the society from which these ladies (I specifically mean the white ladies) came was filled with people like this. I suspect it still is, to an extent. I’ve also read reviews that say the dialect was wrong or asked why the black women’s narratives were written in dialect while the white women’s weren’t. Maybe those people were prickled by it, or maybe they couldn’t make the words on the page do what Stockett had intended. For me, I could HEAR those women. I could hear the difference between Aibileen and Minny. And there absolutely was a dialect written for the white women. I could hear THOSE women, too. Especially the difference between Celia (who came from poor, white trash) and the society women.
This book swooped in and took me right back to my childhood. Our family didn’t have “help” (it wasn’t as common in the 70s/80s as it was a decade before) but my grandparents had had domestic help, for sure. There’s a story behind that one, my claim to “fame,” if you will. I used to be very proud of this link to a certain very famous woman who was born in my town in MS, but over the years I’ve realized that isn’t necessarily something to shout from the rooftops. My best friend’s family did have help. The book made me wonder about how she felt. How she was treated.
The Help ranks in the top 2 or 3 books I’ve ever read, and I have become an evangelist for it. If you haven’t read this one, do it. You won’t be sorry!
On to lighter things. Lights, Camera, Amalee is the 2nd book by singer-songwriter Dar Williams. This one picks up the year after the first book, Amalee. I didn’t like this one as well as the first one, but it was still enjoyable.
After inheriting a huge champagne bottle of coins from a grandmother Amalee only met once, on her deathbed, she decides to make a documentary film about endangered species. It’s one of those books that mixes science in with fiction, makes you learn things without being preachy. In the book, Amalee also deals with her feelings about having never known her mother (the daughter of the grandmother who left her the coins) and also her first crush. Cute book.