Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Book Club Report, Part II

Here's the wrap-up of Old Book Club books that I promised you a few weeks ago. It's kind of sad--in looking over these seven books, I don't see a single one that I loved. Most of them were at least worth reading, though. Except maybe . . .

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. This is one of those stories told from multiple points of view. The main character is a deep-thinking young boy who seems out of place--Oskar doesn't fit in with any kids his age, but adults can't see him as a peer. His father died in the 9/11 attacks, and Oskar is obsessively searching for the lock that will be opened by a key that belonged to his father. I vaguely remember this book was somewhat disappointing, and I didn't care at all about some of the narrators. I also feel like it was sold to me under false pretenses--the idea of the mysterious key seemed much more intriguing than the reality of it. This book was more about Oskar's grief and the ways he dealt with it than it was about the mystery of the key.

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson. This book was probably my favorite of those I'm posting about today, but I still didn't love it. It's the story of a woman who suffers from amnesia. Every morning when she wakes up she has no idea who she is, where she is, or why she is in bed with a man. The man, of course, is her husband, and every day he has the task of reminding her of their history. She has begun keeping a journal (probably either in hopes of recovering some of her memory, or as a way to cope with its loss--I can't remember for sure . . . ha ha) and is starting to realize Something is Not Right. Here are the vague perceptions I recall about the book: it seemed like a really clever premise, but I was slightly disappointed; reading it was oddly like walking through a dense fog; and it had elements of the movie Groundhog Day (which seriously annoyed me with its repetitiveness). But I think it was also somewhat suspenseful and intriguing.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. This is the story of a tribal leader in Africa whose life (as you might guess from the title) takes a bad turn. I must admit I was not looking forward to reading this book (not least because of its awful cover art-- not the same as the cover shown here, but I couldn't find a photo of the copy I read, and I was kind of glad about that) and I actually ended up pleasantly surprised. Not because this is a particularly pleasant read--it's actually a bit depressing and frustrating--but it is a strong story and it definitely held my attention. And I know as I read I had some interesting thoughts about the effect of missionaries on native cultures and their ingrained belief systems and traditions, but unfortunately I can't share those interesting thoughts with you, because I can't remember them.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Here's a curious tidbit: this novel had its beginnings as a short story. And that may be the best thing I can come up with to say about this book because it's been too long since I read it. My hazy memory tells me it's a sort of character study of a fat Dominican teenager and his assorted friends and family members, all of which is overshadowed by a faint sense of impending doom.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. This is a medieval monastic murder mystery, which sounds pretty good until you apply the adjectives "dense" and "glacial". I remember appreciating it more than my other book club members, and it was worth reading once, but I doubt I would wade through it again.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. A futuristic novel about a society that selects children for military training at a young age. Also started as a short story. Good sci-fi, though I have no interest in continuing with the series. My strongest memory of this one isn't even about the book itself--it's how disappointing the movie was.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This book is peppered with a double handful of weird old photos which are worked into a story about an orphanage for kids with strange powers. I loved the creepy photos, but the ones I was most curious about were merely glossed over, and some of the ones described in great detail seemed to be unnecessarily stretched to fit the story. I enjoyed the read but it didn't meet my expectations.

And now I am seven books closer to being caught up!

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