Words and pages, my blog, is supposed to be about books. I've digressed into personal matters the last two or three posts. To make up, I'm going to review several books I've read over the past few weeks. All come highly recommended.
1. The Paris Wife is an absolutely wonderful novel about Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife and mother of one of his children. I used to teach Hemingway, loved him, loved his books. I was a real fan. It was with great excitement when I found Paula McLain's book about the daughter of the Richardson Drug Store chain, who became Hemingway's first wife. I was so enamored of the story that I sought out on my shelves a Hemingway I had not read but which was described in the novel. Garden of Eden is Hemingway's novel about Hadley and one of his lovers during his marriage. His description of Hadley was repulsive and I threw the book aside. I had become attached to her. As a connoisseur of literature, I know that writers can shine light or darkness on a biographical character, depending upon their like or dislike. Ms McLain obviously liked Hadley. Hemingway seemingly had another view. This Eden book with its negative view of Hadley was written after she had accidentally lost his first important manuscript on a train (Psychologically, she must have purposefully left it because it took precedence over her every time he had to choose.) I don't think he ever forgave her. Also, after reading the carefully scripted wording of McLain's novel, Hemingway's prose seemed clumsy and awkward in contrast.
Bottom line: Whether you are a Hemingway fan or not, you will come to love Hadley Richardson, his first wife, and the exquisite writing that puts her on the pages.
2. Just finished Storm Prey by John Sanford (I've always thought he could not have invented a better writer's name than he has). This book presents a totally different reading experience from The Paris Wife, although both books center on wives. Lucas Davenport is the beloved and beleaguered detective in a Minnesota setting. This must be at least the 12th book in the series. Lucas's wife's name is Weather. Two people seek to kill her throughout the novel with a snow storm covering the last few chapters, but I prefer to look at Weather's name for the title: Storm Prey. Very clever, Mr. Sanford. If McLain's book is a study in well-crafted phrasing and word choice, then Sanford's book is a study in plot development. As a reader, I was there, in the story, clipping along with the characters, oblivious to words. It was a movie rolling in my head. Basically, the story is one of stupid mistakes. Five men stage a robbery of a hospital pharmacy. One of the men kicks a pharmacist to his ultimate death. From that point on the story becomes a comedy of errors and the police tracking them down.
Bottom line: This book is a great action thriller/ police procedural. Inside that is the story of Weather's surgical participation in the separation of twins joined at their heads with the fascinating inclusion of relevant details and general information.
3. Tenderness, by Robert Cormier, a writer of young adult fiction, is the troubling story of two teenagers, the boy 18, the girl 15. Eric has just been released from juvenile detention after three years for killing his parents. The detective believes he is also a killer of young girls. And he is. He kills them for "tenderness." Lori was 12 when she met Eric and 15 when he was released. When she saw him on television, she developed an obsession for him and became his stalker. Then they met again and all sorts of interesting things begin to happen.
Bottom line: A fascinating study of deeply troubled teenagers who find each other for "right" and "wrong" reasons. Cormier is one of a kind writer of young adult fiction. This is a good introduction to his body of work, although my favorite is We All Fall Down.
4. Room by Emma Donoghue is the story of Ma and Jack who live in this room. Since the story is narrated by five-year-old Jack, the reader accepts the premise of "Room" as their happy little environment. Until the reader settles in with this simple story telling, it is initially annoying. However, when Old Nick enters, the reader realizes the true premise: Jack and Ma are prisoners to Old Nick's brutal behavior. I don't want to give anything away, so let me say that the story is one of the most unsettling you will ever read, much like The Deep End of the Ocean, in which there is an ambiguous and haunting conclusion.
Bottom line: Be ready for an unusual and disturbing story.
Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)
- *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
- The Odd Women by George Gissing
- The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
- How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
- The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
- In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
- *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
- Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
- The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
- Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
- Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
- Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
- The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
- Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
- Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
- Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
- *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
- Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
- *Ruined by Paula Morris
- Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
- Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
- Silence by Shusaku Endo
- *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
- Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
- *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
- Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
- *The Giver by Lois Lowery
- *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski