The upside of being sick for nearly three months and being mostly stuck in bed is I’ve been reading a lot.
I thought this week I’d share some of the books I’ve read recently and what I thought about them.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
I adore Kate Atkinson. I’ve read all of her books, even her slightly obscure short story collection.
She is bright and funny and so so talented. Life After Life I think, will convert all people who read it to my point of view.
On the surface the concept sounds quite flippant- the same woman born over and over.
But a flippant concept in the hands of a master becomes something all together different.
Atkinson’s attention to detail and wild imagination makes a novel that you will not easily forget. It definitely gets 5/5 from me.
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
This is a story about two brothers, the volatile, successful, selfish, George and his mild mannered, academic brother Harry.
A series of tragic events leads Harry to taking over his brother’s life.
George is taken to a mental hospital and Harry moves into George’s house and takes care of George’s children.
Harry moves through his own life like a machine.
He has his routine. He is a scholar studying Richard Nixon but the subject has fallen out of favour and he has yet to finish his book about the former president he’s been working on for the bulk of his life.
He’s coasted through his life with his very confident, accomplished, though cold, wife.
But now he is thrust into situations he is ill suited for.
The children need him present and through all of the tragedy he begins to be present in his own life too.
The book recently won The Women’s Prize for Fiction. It is engaging and at times quite funny (particularly the parts in the surreal mental hospital George has been taken to). 4/5
The Supremes At Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey
The Supremes are three women: Odette, Barbara Jean and Clarice.
The three women have been hanging out at Earl’s since they were teenagers.
The book is the story of the three women’s lives.
There happy times and sad times through marriage and children, through deaths and loves.
Odette has inherited her late mother’s ability to see ghosts and is often accompanied by her mother, who only she can see, and her mother’s friend, the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt. It’s an uplifting, bittersweet read 3 out 4.
Open City by Teju Cole
The book is about a young Nigerian doctor doing a psychiatry fellowship in New York City. He’s lived in the United States since he began university and has few ties back to his homeland.
The book is really a series of loosely linked vignettes of him meeting people in New York City and for a short time in Brussels, where he goes in theory to look for a long lost grandmother who, once there, he makes very little effort to find.
He’s an extremely well read and widely knowledgeable fellow.
He knows in-depth information about music and art and architecture and is quite proud of that fact, to a fault.
He’s the narrator and pulls you along on his walks through the city. Only briefly do we get insight into his past, his growing up as an only child with a white mother from Europe and his black Nigerian father.
There is hurt there and this narrator tries his best to maintain his cold intellectual self.
He’s a pompous know-it-all who in the end you even wonder might border on psychopathic in his inability to really connect with the many people he meets. He seems to lack empathy.
I found the book fascinating. For me it was a long drawn out character study of nearly surgical precision. 5/5
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? By Lorrie Moore
Silsby (Sils) and Benoitre-Marie (Berie) are best friends.
The book starts when they’re 15 working at a theme park.
Berie, the narrator, works as a ticket taker and her beautiful friend Sils, is Cinderella who rides around on a float all day talking to children.
Berie loves Sils like a sister, more than the sister she has at home.
The book is about their friendship and that particular summer when things go wrong for both of them and they’re torn apart and can never quite find their way back to each other.
The book is an honest look at childhood friendships and growing up and apart and how painful that can be. 5/5.