Where's the book?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

#10 and more

So little time lately, to read, or to write. Been very busy with theater- going and -reviewing and -writing on (such excellent linguistic skills!) and a million other things. So quickly, quickly, the last several, trying to catch up.

#10. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. I had read about Huguette Clark's life and the two books recently written about her in the paper and wanted to read more, wanted to understand how one of the richest women in the world ended up living the last twenty years of her life in a small hospital room, estranged from her family, when there was really nothing wrong with her. It's a fascinating story, and not just her own tale. Her father was one of the richest, if not the richest man in America, richer than Rockefellers and Carnegies. He was a U.S. Senator who had to resign in disgrace. And he's certainly the richest man that no one ever heard of. His story and Huguette's were both little known and incredibly interesting, and the book is well written by journalist Dedman, with a few remembrances from her cousin Newell, who has little to say except that he talked to her on the phone occasionally for several years. Six transit gloria, I guess. 

#11. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte. I think this was the only Bronte book I had never read, and now my work is complete. An incredibly long book, and not very interesting. It meanders around the story of wealthy Shirley and poor orphan Caroline Helstone and mill owner Robert Moore. Much of the focus is on the nascent Luddite movement, which is interesting, but lengthy and repetitive descriptions of the countryside and long diversions into storms, festivals, local dances, etc., make it a slog. I usually have no trouble with 19th century classics, even the lengthiest and most long-winded, but this one was a challenge. A challenge I am proud to say I met!

#12. The Lost Estate by Henri Alain-Fournier. The only novel by Alain-Fournier, who died in World War I, The Lost Estate tells the story of a captivating young man who stumbles about a wedding in a mysterious house, falls in love, and spends years trying to find the house and the girl again. It reads like fairy tale, filled with mystery and a sense of something vanishing just as it's reached. A wonderful look at the longing and confusion of adolescence, the book has the reputation of being the Catcher in the Rye of France.

#13. The Whites by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt. Strange author attribution, no? Price started out thinking he was going to write a potboiler and didn't want to do it under his real name, so he invented Harry Brandt. But the book ended up being more of a typical Price novel than he expected, and he was outed anyway, so both names appear on the cover, which seems pretty strange. It tells the story of a group of former "wild geese" -- enthusiastic young cops, and "the whites" are the ones that got away, their own Moby Dicks. It's a twisty story with too many turns and too many characters for my taste. I continually had to look back to remember which white went with which goose, and what had happened to them all over the years. And while I was looking back and figuring out, my attention just wandered away. Lush Life a much better Price, imho.

#14. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The reviews are right: it ain't no Gone Girl, despite how hard it's trying. I didn't gasp, I didn't startle. I did get bored. The narrator, a woman in her thirties who has lost everything--her husband, her job, her home--and spends most of her time riding the train and drinking, witnesses something out the window of said train that, she thinks, affects the investigation into a missing woman. But she is drunk or on her way there for most of the book, so the cops don't believe her, the husband of the missing woman doesn't believe her, and, frankly, I didn't care.

#15. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Pulitzer Prize-winner, and deserving of it. A beautifully written story set in Germany and France during the second world way, Light is the story of a young German soldier and a blind French girl. There's also a diamond, much machinery (the boy is something of a mechanical genius), a miniature city, a museum, a Nazi officer in search of said diamond, French resistance members, and more. A hard-to-put-down tale. 

Yeah, all caught up!

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