The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
“Started” is a dishonest descriptor. “Started…again” is probably better. I’ve had this book on my reading queue since I picked it up at the Tattered Cover in March. It was one of the biggest books of 2013, and it felt like once a week someone eagerly asked me if I had read it yet.
Almost 8 months later my answer is…Well, no. Not yet. But I’m giving it another go. I’m intrigued by all of the buzz around it: winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, named one of the New York Times Book Review’s best books of 2013, and it was wildly praised by pretty much every person that I know and several other major trade publications. I’m trying to read more ‘literary fiction’ and up my reading game. Here’s hoping.
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley ♦
This one is a retelling of King Lear– one of the most tragic and complicated Shakespearean plays, in my opinion. I’m not entirely sure what to expect. It takes place on a farm and revolves around the division of a father’s land among his three daughters. But in my attempt to read more literary fiction (see The Goldfinch) I thought I’d stretch myself within another Pulitzer Prize winner. The author’s newest book series sounds great as well, so this one has great repeat author potential.
In the End…
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
So I’ll be honest. I bought this to read on my Nook because I saw this trailer while I was watching the latest episode of Project Runway All Stars.
Just trying to be real here.
It wasn’t quite what I expected. It plays fast and loose with the account of Jacob, told from the perspective of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob listed by name in Genesis. Dinah only appears briefly in Genesis in a scene where she is raped and her brothers get revenge by murdering an entire city. I loved the flip on the standard biblical narrative. We hear so rarely from women in the Bible that it was wonderful to re-imagine the story from a fresh, female perspective. However, I quickly grew tired of the characters in this interpretation. Few characters are sympathetic or likable. While I liked the new look at a familiar story, I wasn’t in love with this book like I hoped. But let’s be honest…I’m still going to watch the miniseries.
The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker
Book club read! I plan to do a lengthier book club recap after we discuss it in December, so I don’t want to go too far in talking about this book. I’d never heard of it until my friend Gretchen convinced us to make it our November/December read. But after reading it, I’m really glad we chose it. The title alone should’ve won my vote. It raised so many questions: What is a Mormon Singles Halloween Dance? Are they allowed to dance? Can they celebrate Halloween? Are Mormons less restrictive on these things than Baptists? Is that possible? Without even reading the book, I was already questioning everything I thought I knew about moralality and Mormons. Were my questions answered? Did I come to terms with the discrepancies between my line of thinking and reality? Stay tuned.
The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger ♦
When I was growing up, I could not get enough of books like Regarding the Fountain and the Royal Diaries series. I loved diving into something I felt I wasn’t supposed to be reading. I’m still thrilled when I come across an epistolary novel for adults, so it isn’t surprising this one grabbed my attention. The angle on this book is clever. I’ve never seen anyone tell an entire story through the memos and documents of a divorce. But in the end…
Eh. I just don’t have much to say about this book. It was fine. I’m not angry I read it but I’ve also already forgotten the names of the main characters. I think I skimmed over about 25% of the book’s legal documents. My english major eyes tend to glaze over whenever pages consist of columns of numbers.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Another book club selection (this time for my work book club. Does it speak to some deep issue within me that I am a member of two book clubs?) and Pulitzer Prize winner. I usually shy away from literary prize winners. Again, see Goldfinch and A Thousand Acres. But Gilead was, simply put, stunning. I’m so glad my coworker Amy suggested that we read it. Gilead is the name of a small town in the Midwest where the story takes place. The novel is framed as the writings of an elderly pastor to his very young son. He’s taking time to write down things he wishes he could tell his son as he grows up, but won’t be able to because he knows he is dying.
This book broke my heart in a hundred different ways. It is an honest, respectful reflection on life and faith paired with a compelling story of redemption. It’s truly one of the most powerful pieces of literary fiction I’ve ever read and goes straight onto my favorite books list. I picked up the second book in the series, Home, today at the DPL book sale and I can’t wait to tear into it.
Metaphorically, of course. I’m pretty sure tearing into a book is a crime in the Lamb household.
Have you read any of these titles? What did you think? Did I nail it on the head or horribly misrepresent your favorite book?