Do you think most bloggers are readers at heart? We've got to be, since we spend so much time reading other people's stories on the internet. Recently, two blogger friends have been talking about what they've been reading and I've decided to follow suit.
I have always been a reader. As a child, my mother would take us to the Williamsburg Public Library every Friday, where we were allowed to take out ten books. Those ten books were returned the next Friday, because well, I read 'em all. I used to be accused of just skimming the books, but if that's the case why do I still remember some of them? I went through all the series, including the Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children, Bobbsey Twins, Little House, the Eddie/Betsy books (Carolyn Haywood?), the Betsy and Tacy books. I also read non-series books. One of my favorite childhood books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Loved that one.
My beloved childhood library. How I loved this place.
I continued reading into adulthood. I could polish off one or two books a week, sometimes more before Blogger, Facebook and all the lists I belong to came into my life. Now I do read less, but still in surges. When I start a book, I have to finish it. I wake up in the middle of the night and read by the bathroom light. I read when I get home from work. I used to nurse my babies and read at the same time, which made for some interesting aches. And my favorite time to read, shabbat.
Here's what I've been reading lately and what I think about these books. Obviously, these are my own humble opinions. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves, or to comment. (Many thanks to my librarian friend, CK, for providing two out of the three books; I hope you come visit again soon!)
First up is Testimony by Anita Shreve. I find her to be a consistently good storyteller, although she has had some misses. In America, I often listened to the audio versions of her books. (Light on Snow is not to be missed for it's beautiful narration). Testimony, it seems to me, may have been inspired by the case of the Duke University students accused of raping a woman when things got out of hand at a party that involved alchohol. Shreve's novel takes place in a New England Boarding School. The novel opens with a bang, as the headmaster of the school is watching a video sent to him of three upper classman engaging in drunken sexual behavior with a younger (underage) student. The first chapter is necessarily graphic in its description. The rest of the novel is told through the eyes of many characters (about twenty!), including all the students involved, some of the parents, teachers, townspeople, media people and friends. The story that unfolds is suspenseful, disturbing and very, very sad. It ultimately tells the story of how one moment in time can have a devastingly ripple effect throughout an entire community. It deals with issues of alcohol and teenagers, as well as teenage sexuality. There is a a bit of a twist to the story and Ms. Shreve is masterful at weaving all the different voices together. I highly recommend this one.
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is a novel "loosely" based on the life of Laura Bush. Alice Lindgren was a democrat-leaning woman who had been involved in a car accident that killed a young man when she was 17. She was a former school teacher and a librarian when she met the "Dubya" character, Charles Blackwell. I always wonder about the words "loosely based". Sittenfeld treats the First Lady character very well, but her husband is treated as a funny, loveable buffoon, without a job whose main concern seems to be his legacy. (One of the more amusing lines in the book is the description of the president passing wind; the Commander-In-Chief loves it that his secret service agents crack up at the leader of the free world "tooting his own horn"). At the end of the novel, the author describes how tortured the First Lady is by her husband's policies. Maybe Alice felt that way, but I'm not so sure Laura Bush does. The story is an entertaining one, though it may annoy you a bit if you're a republican.
Finally, the third book is Rashi's Daughters Book II: Miriam by Maggie Anton. Talk about "loosely based". Look, I like to read. I like to feel what the past was like by someone who has done research into a particular era in history. I'm not even talking about the plot here, I'm talking about how people of that era ate, drank, cooked, interacted, worked, what they wore, how they socialized. And for all of that the book was interesting. But for the author to have me believe that Rashi's son-in-law was a homosexual and that all he ever thought about (but never acted upon) was his homosexuality is to me, appalling. The author's justification: while there is no evidence that he was, well, he could have been. And Moshe Rabbenu could have eaten pig's feet. I feel that when a book like this is written, it is done through the prism of our times: where anything and everything goes, where a novel has to have a "hook" that will help sell it. I did not find this aspect of the character believable, and since the entire novel was based on it,well, it was hard to finish the book. I wonder what's in store for the third daughter.
What have you been reading? What did you read as a kid? Enquiring minds want to know.
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