Where's the book?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Starting off the new year with a bang (and a resolution)

I resolved in 2014 to read a book a week, 52 books in total for the year. And I did it, with one book to spare: 53 books in all. Some were quick reads (any of Liane Moriarty's) and some took a while (any of Trollope's, particularly The Way We Live Now). But given my pace, I was a bit hesitant to go in for the really deep dives. So this year my resolution is somewhat different: instead of going wide, I'm going long.

I resolve to read those big, heavy, hard-to-hold-in-your-lap books that I've put off reading (or in one case, re-reading). In 2015 I will read War and Peace (doesn't everyone say that? but I mean it!) and The Power Broker and several more big Victorians (there are many of Dickens and Trollope that I've never cracked) and George Elliot's Daniel Deronda. And I will re-read A Suitable Boy, because it's been a long time and I loved it so much.

Onward! And read-ward!

Herewith the first book of 2015. And it was a good one:

#1 The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Absolutely brilliant. I completely agree with all the critics who put it on the Best Books of 2014 lists. Set in London in 1922, it's total immersion in post-WWI England. 26-year-old Frances Wray and her widowed mother have lost nearly everything in the war -- Frances's father, her two brothers, and almost all their money. All they have is their home, into which they are forced to welcome lodgers -- the paying guests of the title -- a young, lower-class married couple. Dozens and dozens of pages go by with very little happening, but it doesn't matter in the least. Frances scrubs the floors, makes lunch, her mother reads the parish newsletter, they go to the cinema to see the latest American crime thriller. The detail is anything but dull -- you are completely absorbed into this world. And unlike so many writers of period novels, Waters isn't showing off how much research she did -- she's pulling you so far in that you start to feel like you've time traveled to another era.

But just when you're wondering where it's all going, it goes places with a bang. A forbidden love story, lust, sex, murder, an investigation, an accusation...so much happens and it's all absolutely gripping. Alfred Hitchcock would have loved to make this book into a movie -- it reminded me very much of the quiet tension and particularly British Rebecca or Dial M For Murder. 
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Nearly 600 pages in three days -- that's an un-put-downable book. What a great way to start the year.

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