You know when you have a blog and an Instagram account and a Twitter account and also, real life conversations with real humans and you can’t actually keep track of who you’ve told what and on which platform? This is me in 2019.
I do try to give little book updates on the blog though, so even though I had to look back and make sure I hadn’t already talked about all of these, it’s worth it. Lo and behold, I found five books I had not written about! Here we go.
The Kites by Romain Gary
I read this right after finishing a book I loved dearly with all my heart (it’s the last one on this list!) so it had big shoes to fill and it did such a good job! There is no shortage of books about World War II but I’d never read one from the French perspective and it felt so new and interesting plus you just get so attached to the characters. I don’t want to spoil anything but the main character’s uncle is a kite maker and though that sounds trivial, those kites come to symbolize so much in the midst of the war. Also, if you don’t know what Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is, prepare to have all the feels. My heart! I was surprised to discover this book was actually published in 1980 but has just been translated into English. There was a note from translator Miranda Richmond Mouillot at the end and it blew me away! I had never given much thought to the intimate art of translation and how much you need to understand about language, meaning, intent and the original author to pull it off. She does so beautifully.
A Curve in the Road by Julianne MacLean
This book was okay. I will say the events of the very beginning are totally wild and enthralling and I couldn’t put it down but then you get the twist pretty early on and I had this feeling of “so now what?” through the rest of it. The main character goes through an EXTREMELY TRAUMATIC event and despite that, the book felt a bit too tidy. She kept TELLING me she was sad or explaining, with perfect clarity, what she was feeling and why. Maybe I’m off base, but I don’t know that I’d be thinking all that clearly after what she went through. Still it was an entirely unpleasant read and elicited some interesting talk of narcolepsy at our book club.
The Dog of the South by Charles Portis
What a book! Toward the end, I was CONVINCED that the narrator had lost his mind and none of what he was experiencing was actually happening, but I was wrong which made this book all the more amusing. It’s narrated by Ray Midge as he travels to British Honduras to track down his runaway wife and, more importantly, his Ford Turino, but he meets all sorts of characters on his way and he is a character himself! I told Joey he came across as a cranky old man, except he’s only 26. I didn’t love this one but man, did I appreciate it.
Radium Girls by Kate Moore
What a letdown! Reading the description, my hype was a ten, but something like 20 pages in, I realized this was going to be a STRUGGLE to get through. It was billed as the story of all the young girls who worked in the radium factory during the first world war, painting the dials on watches and ultimately dying of radium poisoning but it was SO bogged down by facts and quotations that the author had obviously pulled from her exhaustive research. It was definitely interesting, but I did not need 400 pages of basically no real character development just to understand the horrific tale of these women. The Wikipedia page will suffice. I seriously only made it through 88 pages. Womp, womp.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
I’ve known about this book since it came out, but discounted it because it seemed to be on every “summer beach read” list and that made me think it’d be some silly hollow read. I was so wrong! Also, why didn’t anyone tell me the bulk of the story is told by email?? I love a good story told through correspondence. It gives you such an intimate yet patchy account of the characters that just totally works for me. I think, if you can get written account of a character’s deepest feelings and see how they speak to others, you don’t really need to know every detail of their actions outside of the correspondence. It’s one of the few instances where I actually enjoy filling in my own blanks, plus it just feels like the definition of show, don’t tell. In the end, despite all her flaws, I really loved Bernadette and maybe all the Beatles references too ♥
I’ve saved the best for last!
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Wow, wow, wow, I LOVED this book! Above is the first page of the book and it gives me chills. I was hooked from there. I am a stalwart read-before-bed person, but I was so enthralled in this one that I found myself reading on the couch right after work. Even Joey noticed how into it I was. It was dark and mysterious, but also a love story and a story about the power of books and reading. I felt this writing and this story deep in my heart. At the end, there was a bittersweet passage that hit me so hard, I had to write it down. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here.
“Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”
Whew! It simultaneously scares me and captures exactly what reading means to me. Do you think it’s too long for a tattoo, though 😛
I just picked up The House of Broken Angels and I’m not sure about it yet, but please share what you’re reading with me!