It’s been a great month for books around here! Often the summer is a slower reading time for me but this year I’ve been able to read more than ever. I even managed to read two books while on holiday at the beginning of the month – something I haven’t accomplished since before I had children!
Journey to the River Sea – Eva Ibbotson (MacMillan Children’s Books, 2014)
I was really pleasantly surprised by this children’s novel. While obviously an easy read (ideal age is probably 8-12) it was fascinating and very entertaining. I read it to see if it would make a good gift for a young person I know. While I think it’s a little young for my intended recipient, I will definitely keep it in mind for future birthdays.
Adjacentland – Rabindranath Maharaj (Buckrider Books, 2018)
I really, really struggled with this one and came close to giving up several times. I powered through in the end and now I’m struggling to write a full review about it. Stay tuned, I guess…
In the Midst of Winter – Isabel Allende (Atrai Paperback, 2017)
I read my first Allende earlier this year and liked her writing so brought this one along on holiday. While the book was fine as a vacation read, it seemed to go for cheap thrills rather than real plot development. The whole situation was so over the top that it detracted from the strong characters. Far more interesting to me were the backstories of the characters, particularly the story of one character who enters the US illegally from Guatemala. I read this novel as the news was full of horrible stories about children and parents being separated at the US border. Some people have asked the question of why parents would even try and enter the US in such a way and a book like this answers that question. No one takes such action unless they are truly desperate and there are many true stories reflected in this fictional one. I only wish the novel had focused more on that kind of story-telling.
The Inquisitor’s Tale – Adam Gidwitz (Puffin Books, 2016)
This was my second attempt to find the right book as a gift and this is the book I ended up gifting. I loved that it focused on the Middle Ages (an often overlooked time in historical fiction) and that it was an “illuminated manuscript”. Many pages had illustrations and embellishments that added to the story without making it seem childish or like a picture book. I also found it interesting as it explored several stories of saints. While the story itself is fictional, many of the characters were inspired by saints. The book and the story are not particularly Christian but I thought Gidwitz was respectful of his source material. (Though saints are something I don’t have much to do with as a Protestant.) I think the best reader age here would be about 12-16.
Be Frank With Me – Julia Claiborne Johnson (William Morrow, 2016)
You can read my full review here.
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You – David Chariandy (McClelland & Stewart, 2018)
David Chariandy will be one of the writers at our local festival this summer and I loved his most recent novel, Brother. So I was interested to read his latest work which is a short, non-fiction piece addressed to his daughter. As she turns thirteen, Chariandy talks to her about his own life, his upbringing, his place as the son of immigrants in Scarborough, and their lives as people of colour in Canada today. For me, as a Caucasian Canadian, it was a sometimes eye-opening look at what life is like for many Canadians. I did feel that while Chariandy is clearly trying to protect his own family’s privacy this resulted in the book feeling less intimate than it should have. As if Chariandy invites us into the entranceway of his family home and then tells us that’s far enough. Since the book is addressed to his daughter, this distance feels strange and seemed extra noticeable to me.
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute (Vintage International, 2010)
Read my full review here.
The Girls – Emma Cline (Random House, 2016)
I’d heard so much about this novel when it came out but I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. Based loosely on the story of the Manson Family, this book is everything you’re afraid could happen to your teenage daughter. At the same time, as I read, I kept thinking of myself as a teenage girl and how I absolutely would not have stayed on that farm one minute longer than I had to. The book is fairly compelling and creepy enough but I never fully bought into Evie’s motivations.
There There – Tommy Orange (Random House, 2018)
This is the thing: If you have the option to not think about or even consider history, whether you learned it right or not, or whether it even deserves consideration, that’s how you know you’re on board the ship that serves hors d’oeuvres and fluffs your pillows, while others are out at sea, swimming or drowning, or clinging to little inflatable rafts that they have to take turns keeping inflated, people short of breath, who’ve never even heard of the words hors d’oevres or fluff.
- Tommy Orange, There There
Such a powerful read. Currently working on a more complete review of this one.
Lila – Marilynne Robinson (Harper Collins, 2014)
Lila had borne a child into a world where a wind could rise that would take him from her arms as if there were no strength in them at all. Pity us, yes, but we are brave, she thought, and wild, more life in us than we can bear, the fireinfolding itself in us. That peace could only be amazement, too.
- Marilynne Robinson, Lila
I just love Robinson’s writing and this sequel to Gilead does not disappoint. Focusing on Lila, the unlikely wife of Reverend John Ames, it tells the story of her life before she met the Reverend. Lila is a mystery, likeable but unknowable and I really enjoyed the greater glimpse into her history.
Evangeline – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Herzog – Saul Bellow
Home – Marilynne Robinson