Reading Roundup: December 2010

The Orchard: A Memoir by Adele Crockett Robertson

This is a beautiful little book; it is an incomplete manuscript discovered and published by the author's daughter after her death. I wish she had finished it during her lifetime because her writing is keenly observant and very beautiful. The author has the kind of voice that really sticks with you for long after reading the book and leaves you feeling like you really know her.

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

This book surprised me; it is a novel about the internment of Japanese-Americans, and yet takes such a unique approach that I found myself deeply touched in a way I had not been by other novels about the same subject. Each chapter focuses on a different member of a California family (that remains unnamed) and a different aspect of the journey to the camp and back. I think the spare prose and the focus on small details really made the story so much more poignant and vivid to me.

Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein

A review of this book led me to believe that it was literary fiction; after a short while of reading it I realized that it was a supernatural thriller. That's not really my favorite genre and I didn't like this book that much, but I went ahead and read it anyways. The story was interesting and a good mix of native legend with contemporary mystery, but I really disliked most of the main characters and had a very hard time feeling any sympathy for them. The writing is also pretty choppy and spends too much time telling us about people, generally in stereotypical prose.

Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece that Changed the World by Russell Martin

I already know quite a lot about the recent history of Spain, but not a lot about Guernica, so I thought this book would be an interesting read. It might be good as an introduction to both the painting and the history of Spain after the Civil War, but I found it very boring. The topic was interesting and I learned a lot of new things, but there was something about the writing that really lacked any kind of ability to keep the reader's interest.

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

Williams is a versatile author and I have loved everything I have read by her. She can be really funny sometimes, but she can also write so well about hard subjects that will just make you cry. This is one of her 'harder' books, but the fact that it is written in verse, with each page only offering a 'glimpse' of the story really makes it compelling. I especially liked the fact that she managed to build suspense both into the exterior story and the interior story of a girl learning and accepting the truth about her mother.

Every Man in this Village is a Liar: An Education in War by Megan Stack

I think this book will stick with me for a long time. Stack is a foreign correspondent for a major newspaper who spent a number of years living in countries in the Middle East. Her writing in this book is much more personal than any newspaper story; she puts in many little details that really drive home the impact of violence and terror on individuals, not only the violence of bombs but also the psychological violence of totalitarian regimes.

They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, 1967 by David Maraniss

This book is very dense and took me a long time to read, but it was worth it. It paints a broad picture of events that took place at the same time in different parts of the world: an Army operation in Vietnam and peace protest back home in America. I really liked the way he brought in many different people and profiled them and how the events of that time affected them both then and now. This book was fascinating in the way that it really brought together what seemed to be two widely different worlds and showed how really connected they were (and yet also showing how hard it was for one to understand the other at the time).

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

I really didn't want to read this book because I had strongly disliked Udall's first novel. It just felt too much like other contemporary fiction where every character is incredibly quirky, flawed, and a little seamy. I have to admit that the tone is fairly similar here, but for some reason I found myself really liking this book (despite my initial intention not to). Despite the fact that the protagonist is horribly quirky, flawed, and seamy, he is still deeply sympathetic and it is hard not to like him or at least sympathize with him. I still don't think this is the Great Mormon Novel, but I'm willing to give it status as a Great Utah Novel (I need to write another post about this; hopefully I will someday).



As Mr. Fob put it, we expected this movie to be perfect and it wasn't. I also felt like it reminded me too much of Shutter Island, in the music, the cinematography, and in the way the Leonardo Di Caprio portrayed his character (who was rather similar to his character in that movie). Perhaps I'll have watch it again some other day when I'm in a more charitable mood.


Gina said…
I'm glad you liked The Lonely Polygamist. I've been putting off reading it, I think for the opposite reason - I really want to like it and am worried I won't. But I requested it at the library yesterday and am going to take the plunge. Also, yikes; you read a lot of war books all in a bunch there.
Th. said…

I hope you do write your Great X Novel post someday.

FoxyJ said…
Gina--I tend to read a lot of books about war in general. I've long been fascinated with 20th century history, particularly WWII and Vietnam. When I was a teenager my brother used to tease me for 'only reading books about girls in Nazi Germany'.

Th--I will start working on it. I hope I have enough to readers to have a conversation. It's an idea Mr. Fob and I were discussing over lunch the other day and I'd love more input.

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