Thursday, June 02, 2016

May 2016 Reading

 May was a 6-book month. Much to my surprise, most of these are library books!

1. Let the Hurricane Roar - Rose Wilder Lane. (novel) Okay, I've read Laura and I've read Rose and of course Laura/Rose. When it comes to storytelling, Laura wins. Rose's writing feels a touch perfunctory. I imagine her fixated on word count. LTHR feels very light and frothy compared to Laura's look at difficult times early in a marriage, The First Four Years.

2. American Rust - Philipp Meyer. (novel) A gritty tale of two young men who want to make something of their lives and instead get in way over their heads. Meyer's honest, stark writing reminds me of Stewart O'Nan, one of my favorites. Meyer wrote another, longer novel. I think it's called The Lucky Son. I want to read it.

3. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain. (novel) Based on events in the lives of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. I ate this novel up with my English major spoon. I cooed with appreciation when literary giants and even literary medium-sized people popped up. I'd been shying away from this book because I hadn't cared for some other fiction I'd read in this genre (the books about Rose Wilder Lane, Shirley Jackson, and Zelda Fitzgerald). I was wrong to hesitate. The Paris Wife was so well done. McLain has a light touch.

4.  Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen - Mary Norris. (nonfiction, memoir) I rhapsodized about this book a couple of blog posts ago. I would like to add that I stand with Mary Norris in her support of the serial (Oxford) comma. I have an issue with commas, but I've got that particular rule down and don't appreciate those who would do away with it.

5. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? - Jeanette Winterson. (memoir) I've always been attracted to adoption stories because along with the writer, I find myself trying to tease out what makes us what we are. Nature? Nurture? Circumstances? Something in us that has nothing to do with parents, or does it have everything to do with parents because it's a trait or tendency that's shown up in a different form in another generation? Jeanette Winterson ponders her extremely strange upbringing by her religious zealot adoptive parents, especially the mother (always referred to as Mrs. Winterson after she threw Jeanette out at 16) but she can't repudiate them because she feels as if she wouldn't have acquired the tools she needed to be successful if she had been kept by her more conventional birth mother, who she finds after a long, maddening, circuitous search. The title comes from Mrs. Winterson's Parthian shot to Jeanette. Now I need to read some of Winterson's fiction.

6. The Cowboy and the Cossack - Clair Huffaker. (novel) This western is sort of an eastern, which makes it rather appealing, although Huffaker relied heavily on  stock types that readers could easily recognize. I can overlook that because the fish-out-of-water aspect is so much fun -- cowboys from Montana do the ultimate cattle drive all the way to Russia and pair up with a band of outlaw Cossacks rebelling against the Tsar. There are wolves and Tartars! So glad my best IRL bookworm buddy, Teri, discovered this obscure little oddity and brought it to my attention.

Not Finishing, But Reading:

Alexander Hamilton - Ron Chernow. (biography) I'm only 25% into this enjoyable, entertaining doorstop of a biography. Hamilton leaps off the page. I understand why Lin-Manuel Miranda was beguiled.

Villette - Charlotte Bronte.  (novel)  Another long read, but I'm audiobooking it and glad I made that choice. The only time it's a little awkward is when Charlotte/Lucy starts rattling off in French for pages. I muddle through listening for the occasional, familiar word, but I long to smack some jaws until English syllables start rolling out again. I'm 18% into this one, and determined to finish Villette. And oui! It's pronounced Vee-ette! I've been saying Vill-ette all these years! Ahem. Anyway.  After that, I'll work on Tenant of Wildfell Hall, then I'll feel good about ignoring the remaining gaps in my Bronte sisters reading.


Sam said...

The other Philipp Meyer book you're referring to is just called "The Son," and it's brilliant. I love "American Rust," but I think that "The Son" is even better. I may be a little prejudiced in its favor since it's a Texas family saga, but I'm pretty sure that you will really enjoy it.

Bybee said...

Thanks, Sam. How did lucky get stuck in there? Only my brain knows how and it won't say. How are you feeling???

Unruly Reader said...

Oh, my land. Vee-ette! I've been wrong all these years.

The way you describe the Winterson book -- Wow. Those are some fascinating issues. I'm intrigued by all that nuance.

Sue F. said...

I loved The Paris Wife and her next/newest book is sitting on my TBR shelf for book group next month! It's called Circling the Sun and is about Beryl Markham in Africa. BTW-I absolutely loved The Son! Happy reading!

Bybee said...

I saw her new book at Walmart. So tempted!