The mail just arrived and it is all pretty exciting stuff!
Neal Stephenson’sReamde has been languishing on my Nook for ages. His new book, Some Remarks, is a collection of his essays and some short pieces of fiction. A prefect way to get me feet wet. I loved the first essay I’ve read, “Arsebestos”.
Lucinda Riley’s The Orchid House has a historical bent, featuring old diaries, lost loves, and a couple seeking to discover the hidden history of a grand old estate. I’m positive I’ll be curling up with this at some point. In the video below Lucinda Riley chats about her inspiration for the novel. I like how says that people look to read about the past in comfort reads because all the problems encountered in the book have already been solved. I think there is something to that.
The Crime of Julian Wells by Thomas H. Cook, Julian Wells rows himself to the middle of the pond on his family’s estate and carefully slits both his wrists. He has looked over his possessions to make sure there are “no disturbances”, no clues leading to his crime. He leaves no note. Julian’s sister Loretta and his best friend Phillip are partly surprised, but can’t deny that Julian walked a dark path in life – he made a career of researching and writing about the world’s most notoriously violent and gruesome serial murderers. Philip is particularly concerned that he was unable to help his friend, and fixates on a reference Julian makes in one of his books. He claims that Phillip was the sole witness to his only crime. Phillip becomes obsessed with figuring out the hidden meaning of the single line.
The Crime of Julian Wells is an absorbing read and I truly enjoyed this introduction to Cook’s work. Cook masterfully weaves elements of Julian’s past, his fervent belief that a father is the most important element in a child’s life into a compelling and tense narrative that makes you consider the many angles from which Julian made such a spectacular misstep as the one that would cause him to take his own life. The novel is smartly written, and is a clever mixing of the history of infamous serial killers, the enigmatic nature of friendship and the fragile balance in maintaining dearly held beliefs. Phillip’s examination into his friend’s whereabouts and deeds also cause him to examine his own belief about friendship and hindsight cruelly illuminates his failures, far more than his successes.
The Crime of Julian Wells is both a meditation on the relationships we take for granted as well as a cautionary tale against assuming complete knowledge of those we hold dear. Recommended.
The trailer for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 is as mysterious as the book itself. I about 100 or so pages in and slowly making my way through this tome (925+ pages depending on the edition you choose). True to Murakami’s style, the things that happen are very strange, and sometimes pretty far-fetched, but his lyrical writing has a way of hooking you into wanting to know what will happen next. There is a meditative quality in reading his work that is very odd. Sort of like being lulled into accepting his alternate version of the world.
I am about halfway through Megan Abbott’sDare Me. The novel takes a look into the lives of cheerleaders, high school seniors and best friends Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy. Beth has always been the top cheerleader and her friend, Addy, her lieutenant. The girls relationship has been strained in recent months and undergoes further changes when they get a young, new coach at the beginning of their senior year. A suicide draws attention to the squad and amps already tense emotions. Reading about the girls’ trouble relationships, fierce competitions, cliquish ways, body issues and ostracism really go me thinking about the routines they perform and how they can move forward to still trust each other. I don’t think I would want a frenemy flipping me through the air, but these girls go through this and more. The routine that Columbus High School put together in ’08 is just one of the many routines you can find for high school cheerleaders on YouTube. I am in awe of their perseverance, precision and athleticism.
It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will–from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.
If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page, and check back throughout the day as more questions are added to the post.
I am going to go light on the questions initially because I am really curious to see what arises naturally out of the discussion.
What were your general impressions of the book, and how did your thoughts and opinions evolve as the story unfolded?
Did you think about the title of the book at all? Did it shape your experience and thoughts while reading? How? Did anyone know from the beginning what it meant to be an “absolutist”?
Julie Klassen’s The Maid of Fairbourne Hall is ostensibly a Regency Romance, but one I enjoyed quite a bit – mainly because the romance took a backseat to the story of the heroine, Margaret Macy. Margaret is a young woman of privilege who flees her home and finds work as a housemaid rather enter a marriage with an unscrupulous man. It’s a marriage that engineered by her greedy stepfather – he wants Margaret’s inheritance to come under his and his nephew’s control.
Klassen is admittedly a fan of Jane Austen and there were gentle shades of Persuasion here. Two years before Margaret refused to marry Nathaniel Upchurch- in the wake of meeting his dashing brother Lewis (recently returned from Barbados) who quickly works his charm on her without ever proposing marriage. As it happens, when Margaret changes her name to Nora Garret and finally finds a position as housemaid, it is in the country home of the Upchurch brothers and their sister Helen, who seems to have her suspicions about “Nora’s” identity.
Klassen takes the time to develop her heroine, and Margaret is refreshing in that her behavior is in keeping with her time and her station- entitled, with little care or notice of the feelings of others. I was initially surprised by how callous and dismissive she is with her own maid and at how selfish she is. Margaret thinks very little of letting someone else hang out to dry for something she’s done. It was fun to see her on equal with those she has treated so shabbily. I like that her journey as a housemaid was thoroughly considered. Klassen also explores Nathaniel’s life- the two years that he has spent managing his father’s plantation in Barbados, his objections to slavery, and his family’s deteriorating finances. When he returns home he also has to deal with his brother Lewis, and the effect that Lewis’s great charm with women, and his license in using it has impacts the family. The lovers’ path is slowly woven among their personal growth and the resolution to their individual dilemmas. Fans of historical fiction and romance will find much to enjoy in this engaging and well- researched love story. Recommended.