Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oh My Stars - Lorna Landvik

I was traveling last week and picked this up at the John C. Campbell folk school in their circulating box.

A young girl whose mother deserts her and whose father despises her for it, loses a part of herself and sets off to find an even better part.

Set in the 1930's and 40's Violet Mathers has no self confidence, understandably so.  She meets a guileless young man, Kjels, who gets her involved in his band as their manager with his friend Austin, a black guitar player and Austin's brother, Dallas.  their lives and story are introduced as reminisces by Violet and then told as they unfolded.

I liked the style of writing and the gentle, heartfelt story that dealt with life's sorrows and triumphs equally.  The contrast of Violet's dysfunctional family background and the loving, caring family of Kjels explores how people can become bitter or be loving.  Highly recommended.

Published: 2005   Read: April 2013  Genre: Fiction

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Twig - Elizabeth Orton Jones

Do you have some favorite books from when you were little?  I don't remember how old I was when I first read this book (or had it read to me).  I remember the pixie looking girl and that the story was magical.  Something had stuck with me all these years.  I ordered it on a whim and read it in a couple of nights.

Twig is a little girl who lives with her parents in an apartment in a 4-story building.  There's a barren backyard she plays in and where she meets Elf.  The story tells of her adventures of an afternoon with Elf and Mrs Sparrow and other inhabitants of this special world she imagines.

I enjoyed revisiting the story and the kinder, gentler world of a child.  I'll definitely have to read it to someone else soon.

Published: 1942  Read: April 2013  Genre: Children's Fiction

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell

I realized about halfway through the first chapter that this book was familiar and when I'd finished it on a recent road trip I check my archives and yes, in fact, I read it back in 2008.  It was worth another read.

A young woman is contacted by a hospital to pick up her great aunt that she didn't know existed.  Esme has been in a psychiatric hospital for "61 years, 5 months and 6 days".  It's a poignant story of a young girl who is different being shuttered away and forgotten at a time when your father or husband could send you away.

The story goes back and forth between Esme telling her story in memories and Iris, her great niece learning about her while trying to live her own life.  The contrast of a modern woman's freedom and the restrictive upbringing and expectations placed upon Esme are delicate counterpoints that draw you in.  Iris's mother and Esme's sister, Kitty/Katherine, is now in a nursing home with Alzheimer's and her partial memories add to the story's unfolding.

The author references a couple of books, The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980's by Elaine Showalter and Sanity, Madness and the Family by R.D. Laing that I think I'll pursue.

On another note, I'm going to start carrying my archived "reads" with me so I stop mistakenly buying books I've already read.  Sheesh.

Published:  2006  Read 2013 (and previously in 2008)  Genre: Fiction

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

I read "Handmaid's Tale" many years ago and since then have been tempted to read more by Margaret Atwood.  I tried "The Blind Assassin" and didn't like it.  But did I learn? No.
I heard a the Arizona Origins presentation that she was considered a science fiction writer so I thought, I'll try again.

This book teases throughout as to what has happened to civilization such that the main character is the only normal human left.  The "reveal" is a bust and not worth slogging through in my opinion.  The author extends the effect of many of today's technologies to predict a doom and gloom future that gets us back to where we started.

Maybe it would have had a bigger impact if I'd read it when it came out in 2003.  Or maybe, I just don't like her endless detail about nothing.  On to something better I hope.

Published: 2003   Read: April 2013  Genre: Fiction (with a futuristic spin)