Here’s a round up of what I’ve been reading lately:
- When Women Were Birds – Terry Tempest Williams
This memoir (composed of 54 vignettes) leaves me with a real appreciation for Terry Tempest Williams and a desire to read more from her. I was hooked from the beginning when Williams inherits her mother’s journals – three shelves full of meticulously ordered, beautiful, cloth bound journals – only to discover blank pages. Williams writes about the voice passed down from mother to daughter, the path to finding one’s own voice and the “violence of silence”. A few of the vignettes are a little abstract and mystical, but Williams’ writing has a lyrical and philosophical quality. I’m still thinking about it days later.
- Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl initially feels like a “literary beach read” about a marriage gone wrong on the fifth anniversary. It has a “he said, she said” element with the spouses alternating the narration. Flynn’s writing is incisive and witty and the characters are very sharply drawn. But then, the second part of the novel takes a dark turn and veers off into what I’m tempted to call “psycho chick lit”. From that point on, there is inconsistent character development and an unexpected, anti-climatic ending that will either disappoint or anger you. If you are the type that likes to read the book before the movie, start reading now because a movie is in the works with Ben Affleck as the husband and Rosamund Pike as the wife.
- Absurdistan – Gary Shteyngart
I picked up this book intrigued by its name and its critical acclaim as supposedly one of the best books of 2007. I put it down halfway through because the relentless political and cultural satire wore thin and, at times, vulgar. (Note: this book inspired this post.) I love satire, but here it overshadows the plot and the clichéd characters. I never connected with Shteyngart’s protagonist, Misha Vainberg, the cluelessly repulsive and morbidly obese son of a Russian oligarch/gangster. Yes, I smiled and laughed a little while reading it, but Shteyngart’s writing feels too self-consciously witty and clever. He even inserts himself into the story as a minor character named “Jerry Shteynfarb.” Yet I’m still tempted to read his first novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, so I’m probably doomed to repeat this mistake.
If you’re interested in more short & casual book reviews from other bloggers, head over here.
P.S. After a long, hot summer, I’m on the prowl for good Fall books. Any suggestions?