RidgewayGirl's Year of Whim and Inclination -- Fourth Quarter

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RidgewayGirl's Year of Whim and Inclination -- Fourth Quarter

Editado: Nov 29, 1:06 pm

Welcome to the last three months of 2023. The picture this time is Simpatía (La rabia del gato) by Spanish artist Remedios Varo. Her art is wild and imaginative and full of mysterious wonders. It has stuck in my mind since I saw the exhibition of her work at the Art Institute in August.

Here's a brief article about her: https://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/aia-reviews/science-fictions-remedios-var...

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Editado: Nov 24, 4:35 pm

Julia Bartz (The Writing Retreat)
Elif Batuman (The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them)
Jen Beagin (Big Swiss)
Lou Berney (Dark Ride)
Angeline Boulley (The Firekeeper's Daughter)
Delia Cai (Central Places)
Raymond Carver (The Big Sleep)
Elaine Hsieh Chou (Disorientation)
Emma Cline (The Guest)
Sean Doolittle (Device Free Weekend)
Kim Edwards (The Memory Keeper's Daughter)
Louise Erdrich (LaRose)
Daisy Alpert Florin (My Last Innocent Year)
Tess Gunty (The Rabbit Hutch)
Paul Harding (This Other Eden)
Nathan Hill (Wellness)
Jake Hinkson (Find Him)
Jenny Jackson (Pineapple Street)
Stephen Graham Jones (Don't Fear the Reaper)
Ken Kalfus (2 A.M. in Little America)
Mary Karr (Cherry)
Lydia Kiesling (Mobility)
Stephen King (Holly)
Dana Kollmann (Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI)
William Kent Krueger (The Devil's Bed)
R.F. Kuang (Yellowface)
Catherine Lacey (Biography of X)
Kelly Link (Black Dog White Cat: Stories)
Laura Lippman (Prom Mom)
Bojan Louis (Sinking Bell: Stories)
Rebecca Makkai (I Have Some Questions For You)
Anthony Marra (Mercury Pictures Presents)
Elizabeth McKenzie (The Dog of the North)
Clémence Michallon (The Quiet Tenant)
Madeline Miller (Circe)
Maggie Millner (Couplets)
Richard Mirabella (Brother & Sister Enter the Forest)
Lorrie Moore (I am Homeless if This is Not My Home)
Melinda Moustakis (Homestead)
Dwyer Murphy (An Honest Living)
Joyce Carol Oates (48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister, A Darker Shade of Noir (editor))
Ivy Pochoda (Sing Her Down)
Lori Rader-Day (Death at Greenway)
Shannon Sanders (Company: Stories)
Laura Sims (How Can I Help You)
Curtis Sittenfeld (Romantic Comedy)
Brendan Slocumb (The Violin Conspiracy)
Christine Sneed (Direct Sunlight: Stories)
Jade Song (Chlorine)
Lynne Steger Strong (Flight)
Neil Steinberg (You Were Never in Chicago)
Luis Alberto Urrea (Good Night, Irene)
Katie Williams (My Murder)
Gabrielle Zevin (Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow)

Out 2, 10:07 pm

Welcome. Come in and tell me what art has delighted you lately.

Out 4, 11:18 am

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is a sizable book, and by the time I finished it, I was reading more slowly, reluctant to say good-bye to this remarkable novel. I would have happily read a few hundred more pages about Om and Ishvar, Dina, and Maneck.

Set in India during the National Emergency of 1975, which imposed regulations and tight enforcement in ways that hit the poorest citizens the hardest, the story follows four people from three different economic and social classes as they come together in the apartment of Dina, a widow who takes in a university student as a lodger and hires two tailors to sew for her as a way of keeping her independence despite pressure from both her brother and her landlord to vacate her home. They are all very different people and the strictures of caste keep them wary of each other, but proximity, need and good natures prevail to make a community out of this odd group of people.

There's something to be said for a novel that takes its time and builds each relationship slowly. Mistry allows for both the callous brutality of the regime's actions as well as the intense poverty of so many of the characters to be laid bare, but also left room for small acts of grace and hope. This is an immersive read that left me feeling bereft at the end. An utterly remarkable story that I am sorry to have finished.

Out 4, 11:23 am

Great review! It captures the feel of the book. I liked it just as much on my reread as the first time I read it (though some of the coincidences stood out a bit more the second time around). The characters are so endearing, as they faced one adversity after another, but just kept going on.

Out 4, 1:04 pm

>11 arubabookwoman: The resilience and optimism of the characters really offsets the grimness of their circumstances. This is a remarkable book and certainly one worth rereading.

Out 4, 1:19 pm

>10 RidgewayGirl: sounds really good. I have a copy. It weighs a ridiculous amount of pounds.

Out 4, 1:24 pm

>13 dchaikin: Which is why it took me a few years to pull it off the shelf and finally read it. It's really good, Dan.

Out 4, 2:18 pm

A Fine Balance is a book to immerse yourself in. I enjoyed when I read it some ten years ago.

Out 4, 5:50 pm

>15 baswood: It really was an immersive experience. I spent so much time thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it. And the ending hit hard.

Out 5, 1:46 am

>10 RidgewayGirl: I read this book many years ago, at a time when I was starting to pick up books based on reviews read on the Web rather than based on whatever looked good in the bookstore, and it convinced me that I could find great books in this way that I would never have read otherwise. :)

Out 5, 1:50 am

>1 RidgewayGirl:

Remedios Varo is outstanding. I think I first heard of her reading about Benjamin Péret, and then with the last two decades or so of the revival of Leonora Carrington's work she became mentioned more and more. There is a book I meant to read about their friendship and that of a third woman refugee in Mexico, Kati Horna. You've probably seen this photo of Varo, by Horna, in a mask made by Carrington:


Out 5, 4:35 am

>10 RidgewayGirl: Ah, A Fine Balance. I read it 20 years ago when a friend lent it to me. I remember being put off by the length of it, but once I started I couldn’t put it down. I too felt bereft when I finished it, I remember that - I would have stayed in it for ever.

Out 5, 9:51 am

Wow, all the love for A Fine Balance is making me realize I need to move it closer to the TBR. It's been on my shelves forever.

Out 6, 2:33 pm

>17 chlorine: That would convince me! I'd heard of A Fine Balance, of course, and considered it one of the very large number of books I should read someday. I don't think I ever read a review though.

>18 LolaWalser: Lola, I read a novel based on Carrington's life a few years ago. The exhibition catalog was sold out when I was there, but it later was back in stock and I received it a few days ago. Flipping through it, I did see that picture. And the reproductions in it are superb. The show closes at the end of November, so I probably won't get up to Chicago to see it again.

>19 rachbxl: I'm often put off by length, too, but have found that the longer books are the ones I love the most.

>20 labfs39: Lisa, I'm glad I'm not the last person to read it. It is a tremendously engrossing book.

Out 7, 11:54 am

Thanks for the photo & link to the article of Remedios Varo. I hadn't heard of her, and like what I'm seeing on the web a lot.

Count me in as one who hasn't read A fine balance yet as well.

Out 7, 1:59 pm

I'm another who's had A Fine Balance for years. That looks like it would be a good off-the-shelf read... maybe 2024 is the year.

I love the Remedios Varo painting. I was in Chicago a month too early to catch that show—otherwise I would have—and won't be back before it closes. Maybe it'll come through NY... And yes, I definitely see the Leonora Carrington link. My book club just read The Hearing Trumpet in September and we all did dives into her work.

Out 7, 2:06 pm

If we had only all known we needed A Fine Balance group read. 🙂 Maybe 2024?

Out 7, 2:09 pm

>24 dchaikin: I'd do it. I'm thinking maybe 2024 is my year of long unread long books... my book club wants to do The Golden Notebook, which I'm absolutely all in for, and I've had my copy of Emily Wilson's The Odyssey on my bedside table for a year and a half now, and look at it longingly all the time.

Out 7, 4:24 pm

>25 lisapeet: I once checked out a copy of The Golden Notebook when she won the Nobel, another extra-gigantic book. I read a few pages and was both entertained and overwhelmed. Then I returned it to the library. I would be interested in trying again.

Out 7, 4:55 pm

It's good to see all the love for my new favorite novel. I was in my local bookstore when I was halfway through A Fine Balance and I found a used copy of Such a Long Journey. I'm eager to read his other work.

Out 7, 7:22 pm

Some mornings, she woke and felt that she might be on the cusp of something great. Other mornings, she was simply hungover and in a stranger's bed.

Kate Atkinson has written a collection of short stories called Normal Rules Don't Apply and it is a delightful romp with a decidedly fairy tale feel. A few stories feature fairy tales explicitly but most use elements sparingly; an occasional talking animal or fortune teller used in unexpected ways. While each story stands on its own, the characters often appear in other stories, or see their earlier narratives turned upside down in another. Atkinson is a talented writer who knows how to spin an intricate plot and to create complex characters. Here, the format of the short story frees her to unleash her imagination in wild and wonderful ways. This collection will please anyone who loves Kelly Link's short stories.

Out 7, 8:02 pm

I just started that! enjoying it as well

Out 8, 3:24 am

>28 RidgewayGirl: I keep seeing Atkinson's name pop up but have never read anything by her. I didn't know she had written short stories and this collection seems quite interesting. I also have her Life after life on my wishlist.

Out 8, 12:24 pm

>29 cindydavid4: It's fun watching her play with ideas and use fantastical elements.

>30 chlorine: Life After Life is her greatest novel. It took me a while to get into it, but it really packs a punch.

Out 8, 12:40 pm

>31 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for your feedback on Life After Life! This made me move it a my wishlist a bit. :)

Out 8, 1:15 pm

I'm another who has had A Fine Balance on my shelf for years. Maybe next year?

I love Atkinson and am happy to see this collection from her.

Out 8, 5:35 pm

Almost two years ago, I moved to the middle of Illinois, making Chicago my nearest big city (unless you want to count Indianapolis and, friends, I do not). I've managed three trips there, of various lengths, and I've enjoyed it immensely, from the way different neighborhoods feel, to the easy public transportation to the way there's this giant city populated by midwesterners. So I grabbed this memoir and story of one man's life in Chicago, You Were Never in Chicago by Neil Steinberg, a longtime reporter and columnist with the Chicago Sun Times, as a way of learning more about this city.

This book does a good job of covering a vast swath of topics, from Chicago's founding, to how the political machine works, to ordinary stories of how people ended up here. Steinberg has spent his professional life covering human interest stories for his column and breaking news as a reporter. He's witnessed the way the city has changed over the years, with small manufacturers closing down to the slow contraction of the news industry.

Whether this book appeals to you depends on how much you prefer storytelling and learning about one guy's experience to a more methodical approach. I enjoyed his stories, although the strongest part of the book were the opening chapters explaining Chicago's history. Steinberg is adept at explaining why Chicago boomed how and when it did. He also had some insights into current issues, despite this book having been first published a decade ago.

Editado: Out 9, 12:16 pm

>30 chlorine: id start from the beginning with her behing the scenes at the museum I read every one since then. Im not a big fan of mysteries, but I liked her. She reminds me a lot of Maggie OFarrell.I had trouble with Life after Life, possibly because it sounded like a copy of another book ursula under but I ultimately read and liked it

Out 9, 1:36 am

>35 cindydavid4: Thanks for the advice! :)

Out 9, 1:06 pm

>34 RidgewayGirl: sounds terrific. I’m intrigued by the Indianapolis comment. I don’t know anything about (except that I think it’s politically pretty red for a city. But actually i don’t that that’s true.)

Out 9, 5:46 pm

>34 RidgewayGirl: >37 dchaikin: I lived in Bloomington, Indiana for almost eight years back in the 90s, and found trips outside of that southern enclave sometimes unpleasant. I only went to Indianapolis to get to the airport.

Out 9, 6:23 pm

>37 dchaikin: My crack at Indianapolis is based entirely on a few drives through on the freeway and a bit of resentment for Indiana having given us the gift of Mike Pence. But, as with all cities, I'm sure it has some delightful neighborhoods and lots of wonderful people. I do think Chicago is a far more important and interesting city than Indianapolis, even as I do want to go see the Kurt Vonnegut museum and library there.


>38 labfs39: Have you read People from Bloomington by Budi Darma?

Out 9, 8:55 pm

"Think of those horror films where a group of kids goes on a retreat for a weekend in a house at the edge of the forest, and at a certain point, at night, while they're all sleeping, monsters arrive?" said the other writer. "Except that in this case the monsters arrive not from the outside but from within, they come from the obscure depths of those kids."

The City of the Living is work of non-fiction by Italian author Nicola Lagioia, who is known for his crime novels, using the brutal 2016 murder of a young man named Luca Varani by two other young men to explore Roman society more broadly, but also diving deeply into the lives of all three men and their families, as well as his own experiences as he investigates this crime that fascinated all of Italy.

Lagioia is doing something more substantial here than just writing true crime, although that is the easiest description of what this is. It is similar to Emmanuel Carrère's The Adversary, although Lagioia makes this not about his interactions with the two murderers but about their motivations, or more exactly, their attempts to explain their motivations even to themselves. As an American reader, it was startling to see how easily members of the press got access to confidential information like police interviews. While a lot of space is given to the timeline of the crime, the description of the actual murder isn't graphic.

Another focus is the city of Rome, a city that Lagioia portrays as a decaying and corrupt corpse, yet when he and his wife make the decision to leave, they recognize quickly that they made a mistake and for all its faults, they don't want to live anywhere else.

This is a fascinating look at something we are used to over here (true crime narratives) from a different angle, as well as being a glimpse into what life is like in Rome. I will note that this book is often described as fiction, or in one case as "true crime fiction," but whether that is due to the author's reputation as a novelist or the publisher being well known for literary fiction, this book is non-fiction.

Out 9, 9:05 pm

>39 RidgewayGirl: yeah, Pence. Blech. That about sums up my knowledge of the city.

>40 RidgewayGirl: you made this sound very interesting.

Out 11, 7:54 am

>39 RidgewayGirl: No, I have not read People from Bloomington, is it good? From what I read about it, I think my experience was very different from his. I found it a friendly, vibrant oasis in the middle of a rather alien landscape (for this liberal Northeasterner).

Out 11, 2:45 pm

>42 labfs39: I haven't read it yet, but I recently picked up a copy, entirely because of the title. And I'm in a Bloomington one state over, another university town, and am finding it likewise friendly and vibrant.

Out 11, 6:34 pm

>34 RidgewayGirl: I wonder if Steinberg's book is anything like nelson Algren's Chicago; City on the make Chicago isn't so much a city as it is a drafty hustlers junction in which to hustle awhile and move on out of the draft.

Out 11, 8:01 pm

>44 baswood: Steinberg is in love with Chicago and it shows. But I've added another book to my list of Chicago books to look for.

Out 13, 11:35 am

>34 RidgewayGirl: That looks interesting. Chicago is at the top of cities I feel like I could live in if I ever left New York, based on a handful of visits over the years and the people I know there. I was also born there, but left too soon to have any impression of it from that time.

>40 RidgewayGirl: I like the city theme here. I have a galley of this one, which I picked up for the same factors you liked about it.

Out 13, 5:27 pm

Paul Harding's Booker Prize-nominated novel, This Other Eden, tells the story of the residents of a small island who have lived for generations, keeping to themselves, until it was decided on the mainland that something had to be done. The islanders are a diverse group, which further awakens the concerns of the mainlanders. Set in 1917, when eugenics was the new, exciting science that would result in a healthier population, when people deemed to be substandard were quietly sent to live in asylums where the could be prevented from procreating, the denizens of Apple Island subsist on foraging and taking in laundry or small jobs on the mainland. They live in poverty, but what that means for each household is different. Various municipal groups visit and decisions are made, utterly without any input from the islanders themselves, who view the visitors as an intrusion to be borne.

The story eventually focuses on one teenage boy with a skill for drawing. When the plans are being discussed to clear the island, the teacher manages to find a place for Ethan Honey on the mainland, where he can prepare to enter art school. His experiences away from home include meeting an Irish housemaid.

The characters in this book are certainly colorful and Harding juxtaposes the good and bad parts of this community. His narrative covers a relatively short span of time and is told in a straightforward style, and the writing is lovely. I liked this quiet novel, but it's inclusion on the Booker shortlist puzzles me.

Out 13, 6:04 pm

>46 lisapeet: Unfortunately, my city theme ends there. I have recently picked up several novels by midwestern writers, so that might be a theme later. And I also think that I could live happily in Chicago, although Berlin and Munich are higher on that list. I am, however, married to a guy who likes the idea of living miles from any sort of civilization, so compromise I must and live in a small city.

Out 16, 5:01 pm

I go back inside. I need to locate someone, immediately, who is suited to handle this situation. Because I am definitely not someone suited to handle this situation. I have no special skills or talents, and nobody, ever, has put me in charge of anything.

Hardy "Hardly" Reed is a pretty happy guy. He's still paying off the few semesters of college he managed, but he's living comfortably in his landlord's garage and spends his free time, when he's not out earning minimum wage working at a failing amusement park, getting stoned with his two best friends. Then, one day when he's getting a postponement on a traffic ticket, he sees two little kids sitting alone and, approaching them, he sees signs that they are being abused. Hardly has no idea what he should do, he just knows that something has to be done.

Lou Berney writes excellent noir-style crime novels and his protagonists are what one would expect; world-weary private eyes or hit men with a conscience. Hardly is barely an adult and has never been someone anyone has ever depended on. And he has no idea of what to do. But Hardly knows he may be the only person interested in helping the two children and so he starts to figure out what he can do, and along the way he finds some help from a former private detective turned realtor, a goth girl working at the dmv, and a loud and awkward teenage co-worker.

With Dark Ride, Berney has written the kind of thriller that usually features someone like Jack Reacher as the main character, someone enormously competent and able to knock heads and use a weapon. Hardly's last claim to bravery was years earlier, when he saw his older foster brother being beat up and so went over and joined him in getting beat up. Hardly what anyone would call help. Now, up against a dangerous and violent criminal with employees who are willing to kill, Hardly may be facing daunting odds, but the thing is, for the first time in his life, he is thinking things through, making plans and doing his best. That doesn't mean that he will succeed.

Out 17, 8:53 am

>47 RidgewayGirl: That sounds like a novel I would like a lot, thanks!

Re: Chicago/Indanapolis: I know nothing of the latter, but it doesn't sound like much fun. I have been to Chicago three or four times and had a good time on each visit. I'm aware that, like any American city, it's had (and has) its share of racial inequities. But on the other hand, it is, from what I've seen, a beautiful, vibrant city.

Out 17, 11:17 am

>50 rocketjk: Jerry, I've heard that Tinkers is also excellent.

Regarding This Other Eden -- the actions of the local authorities in this book were familiar to me because of a children's book I read as a teenager, the sequel to Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs, called Dear Enemy. In it, the ideas of that time regarding disabilities, which they called "feeblemindedness," and were thought to be inherited, leading all these high-minded reformers quickly into eugenics, are laid out. There's a book that was heavily relied on at the time, about a family known as the Kallikaks, that is quite obviously nonsense to us now, especially the obviously retouched photographs of the "bad" line of the family. It's quite a rabbit hole to wander down.


Out 17, 11:20 am

>49 RidgewayGirl: Interesting take. I don’t read thrillers because I hate being scared, but I’m intrigued.

Out 18, 8:27 am

>49 RidgewayGirl: Intriguing review. Like Florence, I rarely read thrillers, but you've made me want to know what happens to Hardy and the kids.

>51 RidgewayGirl: I too really enjoyed This Other Eden. I was unfamiliar with the Kallikak family study, but clearly Harding wasn't. Not surprisingly the study starts with the assumption that the married woman's descendants form the good line and the unmarried mother the bad one. Thanks for sharing the article.

Out 18, 8:35 am

>51 RidgewayGirl: Oof, rabbit hole indeed. No matter how many accounts I read of how intellectual disability used to be viewed, I'm still always stunned by that casual lack of humanity on the clinical side.

And yes, Tinkers is a wonderful book.

Out 18, 3:58 pm

>52 FlorenceArt: Are you allowed to be French and not like crime novels? I'm joking, of course. Berney's novels are set in Oklahoma City and give a real feel for that part of the US, which is another point in their favor. However, the idea that the children are in danger and are currently being abused is one that runs through this novel, so be warned.

>53 labfs39: Our predecessors were nothing if not predictable. Of course the "good" family was the one with the marriage certificate.

>54 lisapeet: Yes, sorry about that. It's quite the sinkhole.

Out 19, 5:43 am

>55 RidgewayGirl: :-)

I don’t have anything against crime novels, although I don’t read them very often. It’s being scared I object to. And most of all that dreadful feeling that something horrible is going to happen and everything the characters do is leading to that. It’s what made me not finish several books, including all of Donna Tartt’s except the first one.

Out 19, 1:04 pm

>56 FlorenceArt: Then Dark Ride is not for you as from the midpoint to the end, it's entirely watching people walking into something bound to go very badly wrong.

Out 19, 1:09 pm

>56 FlorenceArt: I used to like crime novels though not horror. Back in the day I liked Ruth Rendell. I still like Patricia High. I became aa serious reader in my teens with Agatha Christie though her books though they no longer appeal.

Out 19, 1:15 pm

>58 kjuliff: Kathleen, I have a similar experience with Agatha Christie, reading a bunch of her novels when I was a teenager, but they hold no appeal now. I'm part of a mystery book club where we alternate between current mystery novels and novels from the Golden Age of mysteries and the month we read a Christie was not much fun. For me, they don't hold up, although this month's book, PD James's first novel, was so full of classism and victim-blaming that I constantly had to remind myself that it was a product of its time and to read it as such.

Out 19, 4:07 pm

>59 RidgewayGirl: Yes, the world has changed so much. Imagine how we’d view Miss Marples now. But I thrived on her once. Couldn’t get enough of it.
I haven’t read PD James for a while.

Out 19, 11:43 pm

>58 kjuliff: ruth rendell (and her barbara vine books) are among the few authors who writ the kind of crime novels I like. You know who did it, but what leads up to it is always fascinating under her pen.

Out 20, 12:00 am

>61 cindydavid4: Yes that’s the sort I like too. But who is writing such novels now?

Out 21, 3:28 pm

Baxter is a complex man. He's a Black man living in Canada in 1929, he's also a gay man living when homosexuality was illegal. He's a man with a dream of becoming a dentist, and his job as The Sleeping Car Porter for the railroad provides him a way to save up for dentistry school. It's a hard job, though, from dealing with the routine racism without losing himself or the tips he receives in lieu of a paycheck, to the long hours required of him. Sleeping car porters are available to travelers for the entire journey, which means long, sleepless nights. The novel concerns itself primarily with one trip from Montreal to Vancouver, a trip made more difficult because Baxter didn't sleep well the night before he started his multiple-day shift.

Suzette Mayr won Canada's prestigious Giller Prize for this book and it is well-deserved. This novel is well-researched and beautifully written. Mayr's portrayal of Baxter's increasing sleep deprivation is especially well done, and she here has created a character who feels entirely like a real person. The other people traveling on that train, from the other porters to the wide variety of passengers are likewise fully realized, even as Baxter, from whose point-of-view we witness this trip, thinks of them more as stereotypes. Who would have thought that the story of a man whose great aspiration is dentistry school and whose main goal is to keep his head down as he does his job in the hopes of not amassing an demerits or in giving anyone a reason not to tip him would be such a wonderful character to spend time with?

Out 21, 3:35 pm

Ooh, that sounds interesting!

Out 21, 4:02 pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: I read this novel last year-it is indeed very good!

Out 21, 4:18 pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: a very good and motivating review. I looked it up on audible. It’s not very long.

Out 21, 5:02 pm

>64 KeithChaffee: I'll admit that I was not at all excited to read this when it was one of the books chosen for my book club. I thought it looked kind of straightforward and dull. I realized I was wrong halfway through the first page, though. The writing is so good.

I also got to see the author speak at a book festival over the summer and she was a delight. She talked about how at that time photographs didn't give much insight into how people lived as people dressed up and posed formally. She finally found the closest she could get to the modern snapshot in old crime scene photographs, which show ordinary working class rooms as people used them.

>65 torontoc: It has received far less attention than one would think, but maybe it was a big deal in Canada?

>66 dchaikin: I look forward to finding out what you think of it, if you do get to it. The motivation with audible for me is to find the most bang for my points, and so I tend to lean toward the longer offerings.

Out 21, 5:55 pm

>67 RidgewayGirl: yes. I prefer at least 8 hours. 🙂 So i’ll hunt down a print copy (or ebook)

Out 21, 10:49 pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: I've heard good things about this book. I'll keep an eye out for it as well.

Out 22, 5:05 pm

>69 labfs39: It's worth reading. I'm always trying to increase the number of books I read by Canadian authors.

Out 22, 5:06 pm

Everything green is something that's survived.

Back in 1995, Bodie was a student at an expensive boarding school in New Hampshire, when one of her classmates is murdered. A man was quickly convicted of the crime. Now, decades later, Bodie is back teaching a short class on podcasting and one of her students decides to look into this "historic" crime. What follows is Bodie remembering and reexamining her past, especially her music teacher. The man convicted of the crime may not be the murderer and in digging into the past quickly stirs up a lot of people and creates a lot of mess.

The waitress saw what I was reading. She said, "You'd think if she was all that troubled, she'd have told the producer."

Rebecca Makkai's new novel, I Have Some Questions For You, compares how we looked at sexual harassment a few decades ago with how we now see those same actions. It also looks at how we view allegations has a lot to do with what we think about the person being accused. Makkai is good at diving into fraught issues and leading the reader into uncomfortable spaces. This is a messy book, with a protagonist whose motives and actions are often less than ideal, but Makkai knows how to tell a story and I enjoyed every page of this slightly bloated novel.

Out 24, 6:31 am

>71 RidgewayGirl: The first half of you commentary had me thinking that it was yet another crime novel, but the second half shows that it is much more than that. This seems quite interesting. The way we look at sexual harrassment has indeed changed a lot over the years (though it did not change uniformly across countries and social groups) and at 46 yo I can clearly see that already and I'm looking forward to see how this evolves in the rest of my lifetime.

Out 24, 10:46 am

>72 chlorine: Yes, while there is still a long way to go, the improvements have been noticeable, especially in how we think about power dynamics and consent. This is the second book I've read this year in which a woman looks back at something that happened when she was a teenager/young adult and realized that it wasn't what she had thought at the time. It's interesting unpacking that that societal change and how it impacts memory. (The other was My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Alpert Florin)

Out 24, 10:54 am

I enjoyed that one—she took on a lot, but I thought it was a good story, well told, and I'm always a sucker for a boarding school story (having lived through New England boarding school in the 80s—way more dysfunctional than the 90s but there are definite overlaps).

Out 24, 11:07 am

>74 lisapeet: Lisa, I am always going to pick up a campus novel. And I really like Makkai's writing style.

Out 24, 2:43 pm

Wellness by Nathan Hill tells the story of a relationship, from its heady beginnings between two very young people who felt out of place and lonely until they found each other, and afterwards were able to enter into the world of art students and college students who were part of a slowly gentrifying Wicker Park in Chicago. They were entirely wrapped up in each other, but in the present day, after marriage and a child and having put a sizable down payment on a condo in a renovated factory in a prestigious neighborhood, things begin to fall apart. Elizabeth, the scientist, points out that they are just at a natural low point in their relationship and she's happy to put space between them, insisting that the new place have separate master bedrooms. Jack, an artist and adjunct professor, is much less sanguine about the distancing. As they veer apart and then come together to try to refresh their marriage, it's not clear if they can stay together or if their relationship was ever on solid ground.

There's very little that author Nathan Hill isn't interested in and this novel digresses all over the place. Luckily, when he wanders off into, say, the history of artists depicting the American prairies or even how the Facebook algorithms work (something I have negative interest in) it is all worth reading and well-incorporated into the novel. Yes, this novel is longer than it *needs* to be, but cutting everything unnecessary out would make for a far less rich and entertaining book. He occasionally sends up people and situations in ridiculous ways, but always pulls the story back into its grounded center. And by taking the time to fully draw both Jack and Elizabeth's childhoods, as well as how their relationship and daily lives function, Hill makes this portrait of a marriage feel very real.

Out 24, 10:05 pm

>76 RidgewayGirl: nice review. Sounds like he had fun writing maybe a not so happy book. (Guess it could workout happier)

Editado: Out 24, 10:15 pm

>77 dchaikin: There were some melancholy parts, but this isn't, on the whole, an unhappy book. The bibliography was impressive.

Out 24, 10:21 pm

Even better, had fun writing a not unhappy book. Bibliography? Whoa

Out 25, 3:19 am

>76 RidgewayGirl: I am definitely intrigued. And a bibliography too!

Out 26, 1:47 pm

79 & 80 Yeah, Hill goes off on some digressions and every element of his characters's lives are very well researched. Fortunately, that research only shows itself in the bibliography, the novel never feels like the author is doing an info dump.

Out 26, 4:41 pm

Your review of I Have Some Questions For You nails it. I’ve been wondering a lot about the Jerome storyline and what to think of the accusations.

Also I loved A Fine Balance and am now, after reading your review, very excited to read Wellness.

Out 27, 12:25 pm

>82 Simone2: I'm curious to find out what you think of Wellness. I was asked what I was reading (my mind always goes blank at this question) and I started talking about Wellness. It's sticking in my mind.

Out 27, 12:44 pm

In Between Us, a group of friends gets together for a weekend in a country home. A decade ago, they all worked together at a bookstore and they have remained close friends, although the cracks are beginning to show. Some of them have high-powered and high-paying jobs, others are just making ends meet. Roisin and Joe, who have been together since those bookstore days, are at the end of their relationship. As Roisin makes decisions about where to go from there, she's drawn in several directions, from returning to help out her problematic mother back at the family pub, as well as seeing an old friend in a new light, although maybe Joe will figure out what to say to fix their relationship.

Mhairi McFarlane writes fun Chick Lit novels, except in hers the secondary characters have their own full lives and don't just exist to showcase the main character. This is normally one of the best things about her novels, but here there were so many secondary characters, with so much going on in their lives, that the book felt simultaneously over-packed and thin. It was still fun, and all the individual elements were very interesting, but the whole did not add up to the sum of its parts here.

Out 27, 5:39 pm

After university, Sophie moves to Toronto from the town of Corner Brook, Newfoundland, ready to start her adult life, move on from her mother's death, to dive into the life of the artist and to become part of the community. She feels uncertain and out of place, but she has her childhood best friend with her, a guy who is unceasingly supportive. She ends up with a job at a bar, where she meets and quickly falls for Maggie. But inevitable complications arise between Sophie and her two lovers, and Sophie is uncertain of her feelings about the things she can't control.

Mudflowers by Aley Waterman is a novel about a self-absorbed young woman figuring out what she feels about the people in her life. Coming from a complicated upbringing -- within a few pages she veers from describing how her mother would pour shots for her and her best friend when they were twelve, to reflecting on what a great mother she had -- Sophie constantly assesses her feelings, rewriting her narrative to reflect how she feels about a given person as circumstances change. Waterman almost makes this work and her writing is lovely. Her depictions of both Corner Brook and St. Johns, Newfoundland were vivid and memorable. This novel will certainly appeal to those who enjoy watching a character have big feelings and then think about those feelings.

Editado: Out 28, 9:54 am

>85 RidgewayGirl: That book sounds interesting. My wife and I had a very good time visiting Newfoundland about 15 years ago (yikes!). St. Johns was a neat city (we were there for several days) and we drove around all over the place and had some fun adventures. We spent a couple of days in Twillingate as well. The characterizations in Mudflowers sound worth reading about as well.

Out 28, 5:42 pm

>86 rocketjk: The parts set in Newfoundland were vivid and interesting. The parts set in Toronto felt kind of generic -- I got the sense that the author felt that Newfoundland was foreign to most readers, but Toronto was a familiar place and so needed very little description.

Editado: Out 30, 7:26 pm

I've now read all but one of the Booker shortlist, but am having trouble finding a copy of Prophet Song. I put a purchase request in at my library and today received an email telling me they were ordering it, with a US release date of December 12, and they would hold it for me as soon as it arrived. This new library system I'm in is very small, but more responsive than any other I've had a card with.

Out 30, 8:57 pm

>88 RidgewayGirl: I’m halfway through my copy (but plan to finish in the next day or two). You’re welcome to it when I’m done. It was part of my final Book Depository order… sniff, sniff. PM your address if you would like it.

Editado: Nov 1, 2:07 pm

I read two spooky books to end the month and it strikes me that November is a better month, atmosphere-wise, for spooky books. October is all about the wonder of the leaves changing color. November is when the branches are bare and creepy.

Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein is shortlisted for this year's Booker Prize. It's also a novel full of a weird something-isn't-right foreboding from the very first sentence: It was the year the sow eradicated her piglets. What follows is told from one woman's point of view, a woman who comes to this northern land to be a housekeeper for her brother. She doesn't speak the language or understand the culture of this isolated village, she's worked hard to live a life of service, to be humble and unassuming, yet every effort she makes to fit into village life seems to cause the locals to be more wary of her. As the novel progresses, certain comments she makes, corrections or late additions to the record, suggest that she may not be the innocent she represents herself as, that her story of her own past might not be as simple as presented.

Nothing had happened, I told myself, no catastrophe, no untimely encounter. I was fine, I thought, pressing my face into the pillow, I was whole. All might still be well. Perhaps all manner of things might after all be well.

This is a subtle book and one that requires a slower reading. It's beautiful on a sentence level, with long, complex sentences in places that ask to be read carefully. The sense of menace is enhanced by the writing, the purposeful ambiguity as to the setting, and the way the sentences twist back upon themselves.

Out 31, 11:43 pm

>90 RidgewayGirl: first i’ve read about this book. Great review. I should get to it next year.

Nov 1, 5:43 am

>90 RidgewayGirl: This seems like something I would like, and that first sentence is indeed striking!

Nov 1, 8:30 am

>90 RidgewayGirl: That one looks good and grim. Definitely noted.

Nov 1, 2:11 pm

>91 dchaikin:, >92 chlorine: & >93 lisapeet: I had declared a freedom from all lists and reading obligations, but when the shortlist for this year's Booker was announced, I had already read half of them, so what else could I do? While I didn't love one of the books I dutifully read, Study for Obedience was a wonderful surprise. It and Western Lane are my favorites on the list.

Nov 1, 4:06 pm

>94 RidgewayGirl: I'm not very familiar with the Booker prize but it does seem interesting. Earlier this year I read Glory which was shortlisted and I thought it was really good.

Nov 1, 4:11 pm

>95 chlorine: The quality of the shortlist can vary depending who the judges are, but generally speaking it is a good way to get a selection of notable fiction from the anglophone world. The International Booker's shortlist is also worth looking at, mainly because so little is translated into English and it's fun to read outside of the anglophone world.

Nov 2, 1:27 am

>96 RidgewayGirl: I wasn't aware of the International Booker, it does seem interesting. However as my native language is French I prefer if possible to avoid to read books translated into English as I fear too many language barriers will ruin a book for me.

Nov 2, 1:37 pm

>97 chlorine: And more books are translated into French. I've come across a few novels that were translated into English from French from whatever the original language was. Is it still the same book? And different languages translate better into some languages than others. For example, the Nordic countries's books translate more naturally into German, while in English they often have a somewhat distanced feel to them.

Nov 2, 4:06 pm

>98 RidgewayGirl: Translating to English from a French translation is weird!

Nov 2, 4:09 pm

>99 chlorine: It's not uncommon, especially with rarer languages. It's easier to find a translator who can translate from French to English than one from a language with a relatively small number of speakers. And it is weirdly not uncommon for older books originally written in Russian.

Nov 2, 4:11 pm

This is the second anthology I've read that was edited by Joyce Carol Oates, and let me just say that she knows how to pick a good story. Or maybe, when JCO calls and asks an author to write a short story for a collection she's putting together, the author brings their A game instead of hammering out something the night before it's due. The second scenario is the more likely one, don't you agree?

A Darker Shade of Noir: New Stories of Body Horror by Women Writers collects works from a wide variety of women writers, from Margaret Atwood (a truly imaginative story called Metempsychosis, or The Journey of the Soul about a snail whose soul is transmogrified into the body of a young woman), to Tananarive Due (Dancing, in which a woman can no longer control her feet), to Elizabeth Hand (with a riff on the story of Bluebeard's wife called The Seventh Bride, or Female Curiosity). The quality of the stories is high, and the variety is impressive. I've discovered a few new authors to look for and I got to enjoy new work by favorites.

Nov 2, 4:26 pm

>101 RidgewayGirl: This seems really interesting!

Nov 2, 4:29 pm

>102 chlorine: An excellent collection. Even when I didn't love a story, I could see it was doing something interesting. And horror isn't really my genre -- I like noir and some creepiness (hence my love of JCO) but not monsters and gore so much, but those stories were still interesting.

Nov 4, 10:35 pm

I was ruining my life a little every day, and although I see now that these things were redeemable, I've always found starting on a clean page more inviting than amending an imperfect first attempt.

Daphne arrives in Berlin with no real goal outside of learning a little German. She's sure in a new place she'll make friends and create a life for herself that she really likes, where she is a better version of herself. But of course things proceed differently. For one thing, she's lonely in this new place where she doesn't know anyone and has no prospects for friendship outside of her German class or dating apps. For another, she has very little to occupy her time. She runs a lot, focuses to a frightening degree on her food issues and finds herself menaced, both by a stalker and by someone who throws a rock through her apartment window. She wasn't coping well before things became dangerous and she doesn't do well under duress.

Bea Setton's novel is set in one of my favorite places and begins like that kind of novel I enjoy in which a woman makes mistakes and either learns and grows or really embraces her tendency toward disaster. But Setton's doing something else here, giving a portrait of a young woman who is seriously unwell and far from anyone in a position to help her. People do try, but in the way of acquaintances, eager to not be too pulled into her life. As the novel progresses, small contradictions creep in, then more obvious ones; Daphne is not just presenting her side of the story, she's also lying in her internal monologue and there's are jarring discrepancies not only between how she sees herself and how others do, but between how she sees herself from one moment to another. I admire how well Setton managed to make this all work, even as it made me more and more uncomfortable being in the mind of a mentally ill woman who was not receiving the help she needed.

Nov 5, 5:52 am

>104 RidgewayGirl: This seems really interesting!
Is it written originally in French or English?

I've had reports that street harassment is almost non existant in Berlin compared to France, so it's tough luck for Daphne to end up being stalked there.

Nov 5, 9:45 am

>105 chlorine: The author is French, but is living in the US and wrote in English. I can't comment on the levels of street harassment between the two as I was in my early twenties when I lived in Paris and in my fifties by the time I reached Berlin, but that does sound likely. But not is all it seems in the novel, it's being told from the point of view of a woman lying to everyone, including herself.

Nov 5, 11:45 am

>106 RidgewayGirl: The lying to herself part is indeed what makes the book seem so interesting to me. I wonder how the author pulls off making the reader understand that (it is told in the first person right?)

Nov 5, 2:31 pm

>107 chlorine: Yes, she is narrating and explaining her life as she goes. At first, I wondered if something had been missed in the copy editing stage, but later saw that what was happening was deliberate. It's cleverly done.

Editado: Nov 8, 2:56 am

>90 RidgewayGirl: Thank you for this review. I’m only two hours (audio) into Study for Obedience and just had to check out the LT reviews. I think I’m going to be of similar opinion, and will write a review as soon as I finish it.

I was pleased to find I am not alone. It is an unusual book.

Nov 9, 12:01 pm

>109 kjuliff: I very much look forward to finding out what you make of it. This is a polarizing book, with people either falling for its weird subtlety or just finding it pointless.

Editado: Nov 9, 2:27 pm

>110 RidgewayGirl: I am in the weird subtlety camp, without the weird! It was a little hard to understand at first but once I got into it I saw the genius. See my thoughts in my post here .

Nov 9, 2:31 pm

>90 RidgewayGirl: I hadn’t read your review of Study for Obedience and only just read it now. I see we have similar opinions about the book but I am seeing a meaning where you I think are seeing mystery alone?

Nov 11, 4:01 pm

I'm lucky enough to have a close friend whose brother lives in Malaysia and Singapore, so she sends me the books she likes best from that region.

State of Emergency, Jeremy Tiang's sweeping novel about a family during the tumultuous period from the end of WWII through the end of colonialism and the founding of Malaysia and Singapore and the political ramifications that continued for decades. The novel begins simply, with a boy on his way home from school seeing a girl at a protest and talking to her. They begin a relationship that will eventually lead to marriage and two children, but his life as an English-speaking schoolboy on his way to a job in the civil service is a long way from hers as a Chinese-speaking communist who is detained for her views and never entirely safe in this new country. As she disappears and her children grow up without her, her absence affects them into adulthood, when her son decides to find out what happened.

I know very little about the history of that part of Asia and Tiang's novel does a fantastic job of informing the Western reader about the events and factors that formed Singapore and Malaysia, from the British treatment of suspected insurgents during the Malayan Emergency, to the methods used to repress dissent, especially from communist groups. And while the history was fascinating, Tiang also weaves a very human story about family and the connections between people. An impressive debut novel and I hope to see more by Tiang.

Nov 11, 4:25 pm

>113 RidgewayGirl: Ouch! That's a big old fat book bullet.

Nov 11, 8:07 pm

>113 RidgewayGirl: I read a little during last years Asian Challenge, and definitly want to know more abou thouse times. Sounds like a very interesting new writer

Nov 12, 1:11 am

>113 RidgewayGirl: nice to have a Malaysian reader source. Such a curious place. I never know with a plot like that whether i will like book. But it sounds good.

Nov 12, 2:58 am

>113 RidgewayGirl: I also know very little about the history of these countries. I read the first book in Singapore Story, the memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew who was the founding prime minister of Singapore, and it seems like State of Emergency would be a nice complement to it.

Editado: Nov 12, 3:07 pm

>117 chlorine: >115 cindydavid4: I am old enough to remember the immediate aftermath of Malaya being split into two different countries. I was at school and the number of ethic Chinese coming to Australia increased. I’ve been to both countries, and being Australian, I read a lot of what is Australian “local” news which includes SE Asia.

So I’m interested
in any good book about that area. I will have noted State of Emergency and will read it after The House of Doors.

Another novel to give an idea of the recent-ish history of that part of the world is Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthOne of my favorites .

Nov 12, 2:53 pm

>118 kjuliff: The Narrow Road to the Deep North does seem interesting (wrong touchstone btw).

Nov 12, 3:05 pm

>119 chlorine: Thanks. I fixed it. Australia POWs were forced to work on a road from Thailand to Myanmar (then Burma) by the Japanese in WW2. Though harrowing at times, it’s a worthwhile read expecially for anyone interested in SE Asia and Australian literature.

Nov 12, 3:22 pm

I read a published diary of a British surgeon POW which sounds like it could have been source material for Narrow Road to the Deep North. It's called The Burma-Siam railway : the secret diary of Dr Robert Hardie, 1942-45

Editado: Nov 12, 3:50 pm

>121 labfs39: Thanks. It certainly does, as the MC in The Narrow Road is a doctor. Flanagan is a very Australia writer and you may have come across a couple of film adaptations of his books. One is The Sound of One Hand Clapping. And I just saw on googling that The Narrow Road was made into a TV series. I’m trying to find if it’s available in the US.

Nov 13, 2:34 pm

>114 labfs39: I'm pretty sure you'll like this one, Lisa.

>115 cindydavid4: Tiang now lives in the US and works as a translator. This novel was published in 2017, and he hasn't published anything since. I'll remain hopeful, since he's still working in a related field.

>116 dchaikin: It worked for me. I have no way of knowing how I'd feel about it if I were familiar with the history of that part of the world, but a reviewer over on Goodreads mentioned that Tiang was skating close to what was not allowed to be openly discussed by the Singaporean government.

>117 chlorine: Given that a large part of this novel dealt with secret detentions and the control of dissent, reading a government leader's memoir would be an interesting counterpoint. I'll look for it.

>118 kjuliff: The Narrow Road to the Deep North is an extraordinary novel.

Nov 13, 2:58 pm

>123 RidgewayGirl: So you’ve read it. It’s quite remarkable. You really feel that you are part of that POW camp. Have you read any other Richard Flanagan?

Nov 13, 3:36 pm

>123 RidgewayGirl: I'm not sure I recommend Singapore Story as a book since I found it to be really long and a bit tedious in the enumeration of people he dealt with, but I still found it interesting.
Concerning detentions, I was very surprised by the fact that communists are put in jail just for being communists.

Nov 13, 3:43 pm

>124 kjuliff: Not yet, but I have since picked up a copy of The Sound of One Hand Clapping.

>125 chlorine: I'll probably wait for my friend to hand me my next book about Singapore, then. Thanks, I'm not a huge memoir reader anyway. The political setup there seems quite authoritarian, honestly.

Editado: Nov 13, 4:36 pm

Eliza Clark's novel Penance is written in the form of a true crime book, and so effectively does she inhabit this space that I read the first few pages and couldn't figure out why I had picked up true crime by a disgraced journalist unwittingly. Even after reassuring myself, I would find myself googling names, trying to find out what wikipedia had to say about the murder. It's an unsettling format and all the more because Clark does such a convincing job of it.

The story follows that of five girls; the dead girl, the three teenage girls who murdered her, and another girl who knew the girls involved. It is structured as a non-fiction account of a famous crime, with the addition that the author of this work of non-fiction is a disgraced journalist who is accused of having stolen personal writing belonging to some of the girls and used that to write novelistic chapters. The murder is brutal and that the killers were three teen-age girls meant that there would be media interest, although the early interest in this case was spearheaded by a few particularly lurid true crime podcasts.

Clark is covering a lot of ground with this novel, ranging from an examination of the appeal of true crime podcasts and media, the dark underbelly of which is the canonization of mass murderers as well as a sense that the public deserves entry into the lives of those involved in a crime; the fine line between non-fiction and fiction and how to maintain the divide (there is no situation in which I am willing to accept the term "true crime novel"); and, at the heart of all of this, a sensitive story about growing up in a dead-end seaside town on the east coast of England, and all the complexities involved in being a teenager.

Clark took on an ambitious project with this novel and that she pulled it off so convincingly is impressive.

Nov 14, 1:25 am

>126 RidgewayGirl: The regime in Singapore does seem authoritarian. If I remember correctly that aspect was not _that_ present in the first part of Lee's memoirs, though there were some very strong hint.
I remember in particular that he was kind of supportive of the policy of the Japanese during the occupation, who tended to execute anybody who committed any crime, because the population would not do crimes.

Nov 14, 1:44 pm

>128 chlorine: I am constantly amazed by my own ignorance. There is so much about the world I don't know, and you think by now I would have a basic grasp of more history than I do.

In good book news, I now have a copy of Prophet Song, courtesy of Danielle (Yells), who rushed it down from Canada so that would have plenty of time to read it before the winner is announced on the 26th. I may have done a little dance when it arrived.

In bad book news, I have abandoned my attempts to listen to Dinners with Ruth, which is my bookclub's November selection. I made it halfway through, but the chapter in which Totenberg explains that while Scalia may have been an extremist intent on stripping us of our rights, he was also a lovely man and good at jokes, and did you know that because of his extreme views, he often felt lonely, so maybe we should all feel sorry for him and love him now was the final straw. I'm hoping that everyone else also hated it. I will let you know.

Nov 14, 1:46 pm

>129 RidgewayGirl: Ugh, that sounds dreadful.

Nov 14, 5:55 pm

>130 labfs39: Lisa, I think that Totenberg was a good journalist, but she lives in such an obliviously privileged way that I really couldn't enjoy reading about it. Before the Scalia chapter was one about how all her interns made great connections for their future careers and also, even though they all got their internships because they were related to some prominent friend of hers, it was fine because they were all qualified. Of course they were qualified, they were the expensively-educated offspring of wealthy and influential people! The point is that her cozy nepotism means people in less advantaged situations never get the same opportunities.

The part where she talked about breaking the Anita Hill story was solid and was covered in a few pages. Far too much about how lovely her life and her friends are and very little meat. Oh, well, at least I have enough to join in next week's discussion.

Nov 14, 9:19 pm

>129 RidgewayGirl: - I had Dinners with Ruth on a list to read, but I don't think it sounds like I'd like it either.

Nov 14, 9:56 pm

>128 chlorine: When Giuliani was mayor of New York he reminded me of the authorities in Singapore. He got rid of a lot of street vendors as well as street artists, and generally cleaned up the streets. The’ve reverted to pre-Giuliani times now.

He did not however go so far as his Singapore counterpart.

(Note discarding a cigarette is littering.)
First-time offenders face a fine of up to S$1,000. Repeat offenders will be fined up to S$2,000 and subject to Corrective Work Order

The sidewalks of Singapore are sparkly clean. Unfortunately though many of the street vendors and local”color” have gone.

Nov 15, 3:46 pm

>133 kjuliff: I had heard about Giuliani but would have never thought to make a connection with Lee Kuan Yew!

Editado: Nov 15, 4:48 pm

>134 chlorine: The connection has been made in regard to him cleaning up NYC.
See The Cost of Keeping Singapore Squeaky Clean for example.

Editado: Nov 16, 11:50 am

The List, Yomi Adegoke's highly anticipated novel about sexual harassment and cancel culture, is set in London, where Ola and Michael are the social media "It Couple" of Black Britain, set to be married in just a month's time. She is a journalist working for a feminist website, Michael is just starting a job at another website, boosted by his popular podcast, when an anonymous list of unsafe men, accused of everything from sexual harassment to rape, is released on-line and both of them are shocked to see Michael's name on this list. Ola, asked to write about the list, delays as she struggles with whether she believes the anonymous accusation, while Michael is hurt by her doubts, even as he suspects he knows who added his name to this list. As the wedding grows ever closer, it seems too late to call it off, but both are unsure of how to handle the situation they find themselves in.

The premise of this novel is a timely one, and that the protagonists are Black and British gives a different angle to the issue. A novel is a good way to wrestle with the various complex issues touched on in this book, like how we assess accusations differently when we know the person accused, how people on social media often behave differently than they do (or at least we hope they do) in real life, how the ability to remain anonymous both protects the vulnerable and leaves room for misuse and false accusations, or how women and men are affected differently by being accused or of knowing a person accused of sexual harassment. There's potential here.

It is, however, an unfulfilled potential, because of the writing, how the characters are written, and because of how the question of Michael's culpability resolves itself. This is a novel where jaws drop, chills run up spines and people feel like collapsing to the floor with shock, and who do actually collapse with shock. This is not a book interested in subtlety; the two protagonists have outsized reactions to every event they experience, while the supporting characters remain steadfastly true to the broad stereotypes to which they've been assigned. Each setback they face causes both of them to react in the same way; by taking to their beds and refusing to take action or talk to the person they most need to talk to, which in this case is each other. The climactic moment of this novel is one that would have been avoided if a single character had a teaspoon of common sense and the conclusion of the novel is one that made me sorry to have spent the time reading it. There were some moments of insight, but they were too few to make this novel worthwhile.

Nov 16, 9:32 am

>136 RidgewayGirl: Enjoyed your fun review. It sounds like the characters in the book deserved all the facile writing that was at Yomi Adegoke's disposal.

Nov 16, 11:57 am

>137 baswood: It was a frustrating book because there is a better novel inside of that one. But this has already been optioned for a mini series or a movie so clearly many people thought it was great.

Nov 16, 12:15 pm

Fun review. Makes me imagine the author could help but make good use of their fainting couch.

Nov 18, 9:40 am

>138 RidgewayGirl: Perhaps the film version will be able to flesh out the potentially interesting parts and make up for some of the writing?

Nov 18, 3:37 pm

>140 labfs39: Very much yes. It'll be a great soap opera, with lots of room for scenery-chewing.

Nov 20, 12:23 pm

Rachel's in her final year at university in Cork, Ireland when she takes a part-time job at a bookstore. It's 2009, and her parents are not weathering the economic crash well, which shakes her out of her comfortable middle-class existence. She and James get along beautifully, quickly developing the inside jokes and secret language of longtime friends. It's 2009, and James is reluctant to be openly gay, although he is in a relationship with an older, married man, a man he met through Rachel, who is taking a seminar with the professor. As they both enjoy life and struggle to figure out what they do next, what kinds of relationships they will have, what kind of career they can put together, the one constant is their friendship.

The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue is a straightforward coming-of-age story. While this novel is set in a very specific time and place, this story of a young woman trying to figure out how to be, trying on different identities while always seeing herself as larger and more inept than other see her, is a universal one. O'Donoghue has taken the ordinary and made it into something that shines. This is a very well-written and well-structured novel that allows Rachel to make some mistakes and bad decisions while never making her a mess. She's figuring out what adulthood entails, just like everyone has to. It's also refreshing to read a novel like this that isn't set at some elite university located in London or New York. Cork in 2009 is vividly described, that feeling of being in a place that holds your entire world while also being aware that it isn't a particularly large or important location. I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

Nov 20, 6:29 pm

>142 RidgewayGirl: Two new (for me) Irish books. A real find. I wonder why there a so many good Irish books. Even the mediocre one are good!

Nov 20, 7:58 pm

>143 kjuliff: I have no idea why, but there are a ton of new and exciting young Irish writers right now.

Editado: Nov 20, 10:17 pm

>144 RidgewayGirl: I almost subscribed to the Irish Times because of its reviews.
Some non-irish 1st writers are moving to Ireland because of the tax breaks they get there.

Income earned by writers, composers, visual artists and sculptors from the sale of their work is exempt from tax in Ireland in certain circumstances.

Artistic works can qualify if they are original and creative and are generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit. Earnings from these works are exempt from income tax, starting from the year in which the claim is made
- Googled

I always check the last name!

Nov 22, 3:06 pm

The Rachel Incident sounds like one I would enjoy, Kay. Great comments.

Nov 22, 9:16 pm

Dames! Gangsters! Banter! Crime! We all know what to expect from a hard-boiled detective novel and The Big Sleep is one of the novels that set the rules for the genre. Author Raymond Chandler began his career writing short stories for pulp magazines and then moved on to writing books, all about his private eye, Phillip Marlowe. Marlowe is a loner with a love of banter, a misogynist with white knight syndrome, a guy who doesn't carry a gun but knows how to throw a punch (and take one). The story is a little muddy, with lots of different criminal groups with complicated relationships, but the point of this book isn't the plot, but how fun it is to watch Marlowe do his thing. There are a few striking pictures of life in Los Angeles during the Depression, with some people living in luxury, others scrambling to find a few bucks and others living in back staircases or alleyways.

It's fun to think of a book written as a pulp novel, not intended to be more than a fun, escapist read, has endured and become a classic. Of course, it's still a fun read.

Nov 22, 9:18 pm

>145 kjuliff: Valuing artistic work is a fantastic thing. Well done, Ireland!

>146 BLBera: Beth, I loved this book.

Nov 22, 9:37 pm

>147 RidgewayGirl: Great review. You’ve captured and written what I’ve always understood this book’s essence to be. I haven’t read it but so often I’ve been tempted to pick it up. I’m adding it to my list.

Nov 23, 4:50 pm

Lots of fun catching up here.

>90 RidgewayGirl: Study for Obedience just won Canada's Giller Prize, the largest prize for fiction.

>87 RidgewayGirl: Newfoundland and Labrador is vivid and interesting, while Toronto is many ways is a generic city. St John's and Cornerbrook, on opposite sides of the island, are quite different, with St John's having perhaps a more in your face feel to it. Didn't know about this book, but will look for it. Thanks for the review.

>97 chlorine: >98 RidgewayGirl: Translating to English from a book translated into French, does seem weird at first, but as >100 RidgewayGirl: says It's easier to find a translator who can translate from French to English than one from a language with a relatively small number of speakers. Many of the early English editions of Ismail Kadare's books have been translated into English from the original translation into French from Albanian. He may not have become so well known had we had to wait for direct translations (now available).

>147 RidgewayGirl: I always mean to read this, but somehow it hasn't happened as yet. It will be interesting to see how his LA compares to that of James Ellroy. I suspect Chandler is far more circumspect!

Nov 26, 11:23 am

I've really enjoyed Stephen King's detective novels, even though he sometimes veers back into horror. He's set up a solid series with Holly Gibney, a socially awkward middle-aged woman, running the Finders Keepers agency, working with Pete, a retired cop, and with part-time assistance from Jerome and Barbara Robinson, teenage prodigies. This installment centers firmly on Holly, with Pete out of action with covid and the Robinson siblings helping out, but preoccupied with their own lives.

King lets readers know from the beginning who the bad guys are, yet keeps the suspense level high as Holly slowly pieces together the clues, missing a few, finding some red herrings along the way. This novel isn't horror, although there is plenty of horrible events along the path to solving this one. I enjoyed this novel and love King's foray into a genre I love and how he has set things up for this to be a solid series. At this point, King is guaranteed a bestseller slot for every book he writes and it's to his credit that he is continuing to write with such energy and imagination.

Nov 26, 11:38 am

>150 SassyLassy: It's cool that the initial translation from Albanian to French then English of Kadare's led the way to direct translation from Albanian to English!

Nov 26, 11:41 am

>152 chlorine: We in the English-speaking world are slow to publish works in translation, but this is improving, albeit at a glacial pace.

Editado: Nov 26, 11:56 am

Does Holly venture into horror (or others in the series)? I liked Mr. Mercedes but stopped reading the series when it veered into the supernatural/horror. And is it stand alone or do you have to read the series?

Editado: Nov 26, 1:00 pm

>151 RidgewayGirl: This novel isn't horror, although there is plenty of horrible events along the path .
But are there no graphic descriptions of the horror? Also as in the post from arubabookwoman - is it worth reading as a standalone?

Nov 26, 5:44 pm

>154 arubabookwoman: It's a slight spoiler, but no, this is just a solid detective novel. I vastly preferred the Bill Hodges books that didn't slide off into horror, too. I don't think you need to have read any others. There is mention of events and characters from past novels, but King is good at giving enough back story so that you would be well oriented without reading anything else from the series.

>155 kjuliff: Well, it's still Stephen King, so the violence and descriptions of gore are still vivid. This isn't a gentle book. Lots of descriptions of what specifically is done to various body parts.

Nov 26, 7:45 pm

>156 RidgewayGirl: Hmm. I haven’t read any Stephen King for a while but your review made me think I should read him again. I can skip over the really gory bits. I need to widen my scope.

Editado: Nov 27, 6:56 pm

>113 RidgewayGirl:, >142 RidgewayGirl:
State of emergency is going on my wish list, but it looks like it may be hard to find expensive in the US. Used paperback copies start at $75 on Amazon; I see one on ebay for $36-something, and it seems not to be available as an ebook any longer. For me, it will have to be a lucky find at a used bookstore.

The Rachel incident, however, is available at my local library.

Nov 27, 8:24 pm

>158 markon: I would be happy to forward the copy currently making the rounds (thanks, Kay!) once I'm finished. I think I'll read it next, so it won't be too long. Just PM me your address.

Nov 27, 9:39 pm

>157 kjuliff: You can be sure with Stephen King that his book will be easy to find in an audio version and that it will be well done.

>159 labfs39: I got my copy from a friend who bought it when she was in Singapore a few years ago. It did win a Singaporean book prize, so I hope it's at least still available there.

>159 labfs39: I love the idea of a book making the rounds so much.

Nov 28, 10:28 am

>160 RidgewayGirl: Thanks. I read The Other Side of Silence which was outside my normal genre preferences and really enjoyed it. I reviewed it on my post. So I’m looking forward to reading more crime/spy/mystery/.

Nov 29, 12:38 pm

>161 kjuliff: There are genre's I generally avoid, but I usually end up enjoying the books in those genres that I end up reading. I understand how convenient classifying fiction into genres (and subgenres) is, for both marketing and for readers, but I do wonder if we would all read a greater variety of books if it didn't exist.

Nov 29, 12:38 pm

The house felt alive around him, its walls and stairways exhaling their stealthy breaths. Why had he and Kathryn felt they needed this particular assemblage of plaster and wood and glass? It seemed a foolhardy move, hubristic and reckless, to buy such a large old house and believe they could bring it to heel.

Direct Sunlight, Christine Sneed's newest collection of short stories is wonderful. Each story takes a moment out of someone's life and give a glimpse into their wider life and concerns. Each story is different from the others and each ends at the right moment. Even the funniest story in this collection, The Monkey's Uncle Lewis, has a moment where a character's bizarre behavior is illuminated so perfectly.

There's no science fiction or flashy experiments, just well-told and beautifully written short stories. I wish there was a bigger market for this overlooked form, because the writers who excel at this should be encouraged to write more of it.

Nov 29, 4:38 pm

>162 RidgewayGirl: I agree. I’ve often not bothered with a book because it was “labeled” as “crime” or “horror” when this was far from there case, and even if it were it didn’t stop it being good fiction.

Editado: Ontem, 5:49 pm

Kay, I’ve been looking for your post on The Bee Sting, but can’t find it anywhere. I’m listening to it now and am interested in your thoughts. Can to post a link - as I’m sure I read it a while back.

Editado: Ontem, 9:26 pm

>165 kjuliff: Here it is, so you don't have to wade through previous threads:

This is the story of a family who falls apart in the aftermath of Ireland's 2008 economic crisis. The Barnes's are among the wealthiest families in a small town in the middle of Ireland, owning and running a car dealership there. When the crash comes, it seems for awhile like they can sail through, and then it seems like they might sail through with a little belt-tightening. And then it seems the sailing days are over.

Murry begins this story with Cass, who plans to attend university in Dublin and live with her best friend. When the financial pressures become evident, so does the disparity in the relationship with her best friend. Cut adrift, Cass has trouble concentrating on her exams, and as her normal teenage woes veer into more serious terrain, it's clear her parents aren't paying attention. Then there's PJ, a sweet child, who may spend his time playing truly frightening video games, but that hasn't affected his sensitive heart, which notices his parents's troubles and does his part to not bother them, no matter what. He's found an on-line friend who is supportive which his parents definitely don't notice.

Murray's skill as a writer is in full display as, having killed all sympathy for these negligent parents, he proceeds to tell their stories and to force the reader to care about them. Murray writes each character so well, each has a voice of their own and the mother's section was just fantastic -- written in a stream-of-consciousness that reflects who she is. The book opens with long sections for each of the four family members, then moving between them more rapidly as the novel builds to its conclusion. We've all read books that end pages, or even chapters, later than they should have. This is the first time I've encountered a book that deliberately ended too early. I'm not sure what to think of that.

I'm eager to find out what you make of it.

Ontem, 9:58 pm

>166 RidgewayGirl: Thanks so much for that. I’m eager now as to what to make of it and will let you know for sure!

Hoje, 5:38 am

>166 RidgewayGirl: >167 kjuliff: I loved it. One of the best books I've read this year. Wonderful building tension in the latter part of the book, and that ending--Wow!

Hoje, 10:05 am

>168 arubabookwoman: The end of The Bee Sring intrigues me as I have read so may conflicting views on it.