January 23, 2017

Recent Reads

1. My Name Is Lucy Barton
This is my first DNF of 2017, and I barely got to the first weekend. Sigh.

There are some authors that simply do not work for me, and I've decided to add this one to that list. This is the fourth book I've read by the author, and I feel the same way about all of them. There are wonderful nuggets of insight about the human experience, and some really lovely writing, but these peaks are surrounded by vast amounts of wasteland. And these are not long books.

I bailed about a third of the way through this one. I've read glowing reviews, but did not feel the same way. As stated above, those little nuggets keep me hoping, but alas, I found the writing and the dialogue awkward and pedestrian. This is a daughter/mother relationship, but I felt as though I was looking in on this relationship from behind bullet proof glass, and they were speaking in a different language. I was bored, so gave up.

Lots of people love it, so don't take my word for it, but I don't plan on reading any of her other works. Rating: 1 star.

2. The Motherless Oven
This is a graphic novel that I just didn't understand. It's a sort of coming of age story in a bizarre setting. In this world, children make their parents, there are no birthdays but deathdays, I can't even continue. I liked the art, but the story itself didn't work for me, probably because those off-the-wall parents. There were some plot points that I enjoyed, but overall, this one left me scratching my head wondering what it is that I missed. This might actually end up with 1 star upon further consideration. Rating: 2 stars.

3. Bleak House
At 1%: This is the second year of my Dickens in December project.
At 10%: Dickens is simply brilliant, and the names of his characters are so fun.
At 25.0%: What a page turner of a read this one is turning out to be.
At 32.0%: Such wit and on point critiques of people and society. Too bad Dickens isn't alive to write about our times.
At 46.0%: Almost at the halfway mark, and it just keeps getting better.
At 55.0%: Distracted by holiday travels, but back in the swing of things, only to find myself delighted by an incidence of spontaneous combustion.
At 75.0%: And now we have a murder mystery thrown into the mix? Oh, Dickens, how I adore thee.

I read some Dickens in school, and while I recall liking them, I think I was more impressed with myself for reading him than his actual writing. So to rectify that, and to get to the rest of his oeuvre, I decided in 2015 to start an annual tradition of 'Dickens in December'. 2016 was year two of the new tradition, and I decided to go with what is widely considered his masterpiece. What with holiday travel, etc. I didn't end up completely the book until early January, but I'm not complaining.

I listened to the audiobook, and was enthralled for the entire 33 hours or so it took to get through this masterpiece. I loved everything about it. The wit, the social and judicial critiques, the character development and their individual voices, the plot, the numerous tangents, the wonderful names of people and places, oh, I could go on and on. This is a classic for a reason, and I don't think I need to summarize the story, for indeed how could I? The wonder of this master craftsman is that whenever he took me on a tangent, I waited with delight to see where we'd end up. In the end you realize that there is a reason for each and every sentence, each scene, and each item that we are shown. There is not a wasted sentence in my opinion, and all those nay-sayers who say he wrote such wordy tomes because he got paid by the word can go suck on a lemon. I wanted more, and would happily have read a book twice this size. I had a severe book hangover when I was done, for who on earth could even hope to keep my interest after Dickens?

A note on the audiobook production. The book was narrated by the wonderful Simon Vance, and his ability to keep the numerous character voices straight is incredible. The narration is superb and only added to my delightful experience. I'd highly recommend the audio version of this one.

I could not put this book down, and when I had to, I found myself thinking about the characters and saying things they would say. It surely is an East Wind I feel now that I have to wait until December to read my next Dickens. Which one will it be? Rating: 5 stars.

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