Saturday, September 10, 2022

August, 2022: Pendulum Swings

 What a month for reading! I made so many happy discoveries. 

But first, a Val story:

I had a complete Little House set. Val borrowed it. One day, she came to my door looking like a thundercloud.

"I'm reading The Long Winter now," she said. "And I'm really mad at Pa." Was she seething?

"Almanzo and his brother invited Pa for pancakes, and he sat down and ate with them. THEN he went home and ate that wee bit of food Ma fixed. And he never let on about eating those pancakes! What was it? Two stacks? Really shit behaviour."

I decided to try and defend Pa. "Well, he was getting out there every day in the blizzards and such, tending to the livestock --"

"I'm sorry," said Val. "It's just shit that he did that. Never said a word."

"My mom noticed it, too," I said. "She criticized him."

"And she's right," Val said.


Okay, so where was I? Reading in August. July was decidedly non-fictiony, and last month, the pendulum swung back the other way. I really love how my reading sorts itself out now, without my help.

1. A View of the Harbour - Elizabeth Taylor. Novel. Many thanks to my book blogging buddy Care for sending me this novel. I've wanted to read Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress) for years, and she was definitely worth the wait. First published in 1947, A View of the Harbour takes place in a coastal village called Newby where nothing goes completely unnoticed. Taylor seems to have had a lot of fun with this book. One of the characters, Beth, is writing a novel that spans the length of this novel. Also like Taylor, she is sharp and observant, but seems oblivious that her husband and her best friend are carrying on an affair. The novel is witty, wry and so meta. Although the book is more than 70 years old, it feels very fresh. Elizabeth Taylor is one of my favorites now.

2. Lady Cop Makes Trouble - Amy Stewart. Novel. Audiobook. Many thanks to my book enabler Teri for recommending the Kopp Sisters series to me. I've been dancing around it for a long time. I saw the audiobook for this one, the second in the series and thought I'd plunge right in. What a delight! The lady cop of the title is Constance Kopp who is based on a real person -- the first female deputy sheriff in the United States. The stylish and retro book covers would dress up any bookshelf, but even better, author Amy Stewart has striven to write in a manner that convinces readers they are indeed back in the 1910s. Also, in Constance Kopp, I get a Mattie Ross (True Grit) kind of vibe.

3. My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh. Novel. Reread. I had such an urge to reread this book about a young woman who decides to sleep a year of her life away. The outrageousness of the plot and the characters (especially the shrink!) stayed with me, but this time I picked up on how it's really a novel about grief when you strip away the designer labels.

4. Bluebird, Bluebird - Attica Locke. Novel. Book group book. I liked the juxtaposition of the main character being a Texas Ranger and also being Black. These identities added some much-needed uneasy tension to a novel that creaked under the weight of constant information dumps that seemed the only way to advance the plot. I appreciated that Attica Locke didn't resort to predictable tropes. This is the first in a series, and I'm invested enough in Darren Matthews, who is very human and very flawed to come back and read another. Besides solving more crimes, he's got a hell of a lot of baggage to unpack, and I'm rooting for him.

5. Who Was Nelson Mandela? - Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso. Nonfiction. As usual, the writing team of Pollack and Belviso do not disappoint. Very well done.

6. Girl Waits With Gun - Amy Stewart. Novel. Audiobook. I doubled back and listened to the first book in the Kopp Sisters series. I cannot recommend these novels strongly enough. Cool and sturdy writing, much like Constance herself.

7. The Wicked Boy - Kate Summerscale. Nonfiction/True Crime. Book group book. In 1895, 13-year-old Robert Coombes stabbed his mother to death in East London, then calmly went off with his younger brother to a cricket match. Although the boys continued to live in the house with her corpse upstairs, it was not discovered until many days later, in a grisly state. Using contemporary sources, Kate Summerscale follows the tumult leading up to the trial, and explores the public's fascination and bewilderment about what could have led this "wicked boy" to commit matricide. Summerscale goes down plenty of rabbit holes in her research, but doesn't dwell there. She shares these side trips briefly, and efficiently ties them to the subject at hand. After the trial, Robert Coombes' story would seem as if it were at an end, but improbably, it's just beginning. It gets even better and more interesting. This is my favorite of all the book group books so far, and I've been after my bookwormish friends to check it out.

No comments: