Books in August:
With the exception of My Life in Middlemarch, this was harshly violent, often disturbing month. Taken in context with the real world, I’ve been in a strange place.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: Kelsey attended a webinar that identified this book as the next big YA title, which put it on my radar. The inside flap instructs readers to lie about the ending. I won’t give anything away, except to say that if you go into it (like me) knowing absolutely nothing about the plot and the premise, you will not be disappointed. Given how GOOD it is, though, you’re likely to start hearing about it. Read it before anything is spoiled for you.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt: A Silvia-Conor book club title. Throughout the book, I constantly felt cheated by having Richard the Wet Blanket as our narrator. As the least interesting member of the murderous group (not a spoiler; it’s on the book jacket), I mostly wanted to smack him and say, “Hey! Dude! Can you PLEASE go follow Henry? Don’t let Camilla off the hook! GET SOME ANSWERS. If you’re going to visit Francis, then how about you ASK HIM WHAT HAPPENED.” Groan. Very enjoyable, though, and left me feeling creeped out and unsettled for days after (in the best way).
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead: Middlemarch is THE novel of my heart and mind. In the big pile of books that mean something to me, it sits high and heavy. It is the novel about which I’ve written well over a hundred pages, and could write hundreds more. I never tire of its themes, complexity, or ambiguity. I never tire of Dorothea Brooke. The memoir element in My Life in Middlemarch was interesting without being disruptive; the connections made between Middlemarch and Eliot’s writing life / family life were well-researched and enriching. Mead’s book was a present from Elena, and I’m grateful that it came from her. Good books are all the more wonderful coming from someone you love.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: Holy cow. This book is a straight up WALLOP to your heart. Another Silvia-Conor book club title, and the stand out from this month. I am embarrassed to admit how ignorant I was about the First and Second Chechen Wars, but Marra gently builds in historical context. Though A Constellation of Vital Phenomena describes torture and the horrors of war in unflinching detail, it is filled with scenes of surprising beauty, hope, and joy. About fifty pages in, I asked Conor, “is this one of those books that creates real people in lyrical prose so that it will hurt more when terrible things happen to them?” He declined to comment.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn: Having read and enjoyed Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, I went for completion here. It feels very much like Flynn’s middle book (just like Sharp Objects felt like her first book). Flynn’s Jenga tower narrative structure continues to be exciting, and I am all about her shifty lady narrators.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith: Whether on the train, bus, couch, or bed, I was always falling asleep while reading The Cuckoo’s Calling. It took me a while to recover from Pacific Standard Time, but there is also an awful lot of quietly described quiet conversation going on in this book. After all, most of the first few hundred pages was, “there was no murder” and “maybe it was murder,” “unless it wasn’t,” “fair point, let’s have a beer.” Still, Cormoran and Robin are a great team, the mystery was solid, and I’m a sucker for a procedural. The Silkworm, I’ll be seeing you, soon.