Tuesday, 10 April 2007

A Variety of Fiction

Finished April 9
Everyman by Philip Roth
I can't believe I've never read a Philip Roth book before. This book is wonderfully written and just flowed. The main character tells the story of his lifelong battle with mortality. From his hernia operation at the age of nine, through to his multiple arterial surgeries, he has had issues with his health. He discusses his life from the beaches of his childhood, through his three marriages and sexual affairs. He talks about his relationship with his older brother, Howie, who was his first hero, an athelete and successful businessman. He talks of his childhood helping out in his father's jewelry store. He has an unhappy relationship with his two sons from his first marriage, and a very good one with his daughter from his second marriage. He looks back at what he had in life that he did not value until it was too late and the loneliness he deals with now. This is a moving book.

Finished April 6
A Good Death by Gil Courtemanche, translated by Wayne Grady
The story begins on Christmas Eve, with the gathering of a large family. The father, who has always been a tyrant to his children, is 86 and is ill with Parkinson's. He has difficulty talking and takes comfort in food. The narrator, Andre, is the oldest child and while he has always had issues with his father, finds himself able to take a step back and look at his father's decline and his mother's situation and to think about their deaths. Various family members try to either control their father's diet, in the interests of his long-term health, or let him do what he likes in the interests of his short-term happiness. But how do their decisions affect their mother? Andre finds himself aligned with one of his nephews, teenage William, also known as Sam, in helping his father find a good death.
This is an amazing book and I could barely put it down. I highly recommend it, especially to those with a loved one who is dying.

Finished April 5
Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg
This is chicklit set in the publishing world. The main character, Angel Robinson, loves to read books. The bookstore she works in is closing and her boyfriend, a writer, urges her to find work in the office of a literary agent. He has his own agenda in wanting her to get them to accept his work. Angel gets a job with the famous agent Lucy Fiamma, and finds Lucy to be a difficult boss. She also has issues with the other employees, who are not especially helpful to her. Kelly, whom everyone calls Nora against her wishes, is unhappy and ignores Angel for the most part. Anna appears helpful at times and undermines Angel at other times.
Angel finds she has a talent for spotting winning writing and Lucy acknowledges this skill while further undermining her relationship with others in the office. There is also a mystery character who is sending Angel chapters by email that correspond uncannily to what is happening in her life. Is someone stalking her?

Finished April 4
You Don't Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem
I listened to the audio version of this which was read by the author. Lucinda Hoekke has quit her job in a coffee shop to work in a performance art gallery answering a complaint line for an old boyfriend. Lucinda has also broken up, again, with her boyfriend Matthew. They remain good friends, and still play together in a band. Matthew is the singer and Lucinda plays bass. The real genius of the band is Bedwin who plays guitar and writes the songs.
Matthew works at the zoo, where is has a special relationship with one of the kangaroos.
Lucinda grows interested in one of the callers to the complaint line, who she refers to as The Complainer. His musings interest her and when the band gets invited to perform an actual gig, and needs more songs, she suggests some of The Complainer's words as lyrics. Bedwin is inspired and writes several more brilliant songs using the words as inspiration for lyrics.
The band is a hit and gets several offers including a spot on a live radio show. When The Complainer finds out, he insists that he should be part of the band since his words have been used, and the disaster begins.
I don't know whether this book would have held my interest as well in text form. I definitely got a bit tired of Lucinda and her lack of direction in life.

Finished April 3
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
This psychological thriller features Camille Preaker, a reporter for a newspaper in Chicago. Her editor asks her to investigate a case back in her home town of Windy Gap, Missouri, where two young girls have gone missing. The body of one has been found, and there is much worry over the other. Camille has to gear herself up to return to Windy Gap, as she has bad memories of her childhood there. She does not get along well with her mother, and has practically no interaction with her stepfather. The last time she saw her stepsister, Amma, who is 13, Amma was just a baby. She also has difficult memories of her other stepsister, Marion, who died at the age of 9, when Camille was just 13.
As we move through the book, we discover Camille's way of dealing with her mother, and the lack of maternal attention she received. She forms a relationship with a special investigator from Kansas City partly as an attempt to discover more information for her story. This is a dark story with lots of heartbreak.

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