Monday, July 17, 2017

What I'm reading this week (7/17/17)

Last week I finished:

I bought Everyone Brave is Forgiven the moment it came out. I felt that it would be one of those "it" books that I'd want to read. I was mostly proved right. But, it sat on my shelves for months waiting for its turn. Finally, I decided if I was going to read another thick World War II novel, it would have to be on audio, so that way I finally got around to reading it. This is the story of four friends, Mary, Tom, Alistair, and Hilda, who take up war work--and war attitudes--in different ways. Tom gets an exemption from fighting. Alistair enlists. Mary and Hilda volunteer. The book is split into three (I think) parts, and I have to tell you, I contemplated putting it down until I got to the second part--roughly halfway through the book (200 pages in). It wasn't until this point that I started to really care about the characters and that the plot really seemed to take off. This book does get grisly, and Cleave is not afraid of killing off his characters, which is shocking, but also shows war at its most real. It takes you to the front and to the London home front and examines the ways war changes lives, people, and culture. It is a well-written, well-imagined book based on Cleave's grandparents' lives during the war. At the halfway point, I think Cleave really hits his groove and shows you who his characters are, and he's a master at allowing them to change, subtly and not subtly. It was really very good. I've heard rumors that there is a follow-up book in the works, though I have no confirmation of that. I'd recommend this one, with the caveat that you might need to hang in there longer than you want to. The book does pay off. My rating: 4 stars.

Between Them is one of those books that I love to curl up with but know I'll probably never convince others of. It's unfortunate, but that's the way of some books. I have a collection of books like this: small, short books that are more stream-of-conscience books, full of insight and contemplation over life's details. They're a pleasure through-and-through, even tactilely, being just the right size in your hands. This is the memoir-ish reflection of Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Ford's parents in the second half of the last century. He tells how the three of them (Richard was an only child born later in his parents' lives) got along, how his father's death affected the dynamic, and who they were individually and collectively. You could tell that Ford, now in his 70s, was trying to get to the heart of something, and his readers were invited along for the ride. This one won't appeal to everyone, I know, but I really enjoyed it. I felt a connection to it. I love books about fathers, for one thing. And the story of Ford's life bore some resemblance to my husband's life with his folks. Both had over-the-road salesmen fathers who came home on weekends; both were raised as only children (my husband has a brother, but he's much older); both lost a parent in their teens. I liked this one for its thoughtful, reflective tone. My rating: 4 stars.

Ah, Jane Austen. The love affair continues. Having finished all of her major novels last year, I decided to begin re-reading them one per year in the order I'd originally read them. I read Sense and Sensibility in about 1998, I'd say. But I've seen the movie version with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant many, many times. It's one of my absolute favorite movies. Having spent so much time with the movie, though, I find the characters in the book somewhat different than I remember them being. Mostly, I didn't remember Elinor being so judgmental. I think the movie casts her as being exceedingly prudent and selfless, but the book definitely makes the reader know that she's always weighing a person's character and deciding how much of her affections or attentions they're worthy of. It seemed much more pronounced this time through. The plot (I find it very difficult distilling an Austen plot effectively) revolves around the elder Dashwood sisters, Elinor (prudent and right) and Marianne (passionate), their love interests, romantic disappointments, and the various family and friends who make their lives difficult. I enjoyed re-reading this one. My rating: 4 stars.

I'm still reading:

Still enjoying the varied mix of poems in Poems to Read.

I've managed to sneak in:

I can't explain how, but I've thrown The Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of his famous solo transatlantic flight, into the evening reading mix. I've already read 100 of its 500 pages, and I'm at the part where financing is in place and a plane is being built for him. Fascinating and very readable.

My audiobook:

I'm listening to the third No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book, Morality for Beautiful Girls, and I'm loving it. Truly loving it.
Next up:

My next main book will be Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. And my next audiobook will be West with the Night. That's a lot of books about Africa and flight all of a sudden!

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