December 9, 2010

Recent Readings

Settle in, I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately.

In my last post, I mentioned that I recently finished Let the Great World Spin (by Colum McCann), winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction.  I had high expectations for this book, and while I'd rate this book a 4 out of 5 stars, I didn't like it as much as I wanted to.  The story centers on the intersecting lives of several residents of New York in the 1970s--an Irish immigrant monk and his brother, a heroine-addicted hooker and her daughter (and her daughter's daughters), two young artists playing fast and loose with life, and a group of women who meet each month to discuss the loss of their sons in the Vietnam War.  The novel is extremely well-written and showcases the New York of August of 1974, the same month that French tight-rope walker (funambulist) Philippe Petit danced across a wire strung between the Twin Towers.  While the novel ends on a hopeful note, it takes the reader through some difficult and desperate twists of fate to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.  I honestly believe if I had known less about the book before I began reading it, I would have enjoyed it more; I expected to read more about Petit, and he is merely a minor character in the novel, though his own story has been published as well.

Just prior to Let the Great World Spin, I read Still Alice, by Lisa Genova.  I thought this was such a moving story, told from the first-person perspective of Alice Howland, renowned professor of psychology at Harvard, who slowly succumbs to early-onset Alzheimer's disease.  Alzheimer's frightens the ever-living $@#! out of me, and it runs in my family, but I found this story moving, compelling, and somewhat haunting.  From the outside, the minds of those suffering from dementia seem like such a maze of thoughts and memories, and reading this book somewhat illuminated what that experience is like with the reader.  I appreciated the insight into how Alzheimer's can affect not only the family of the afflicted, but also the (albeit fictional) perspective of the person suffering from the disease, particularly when the sufferer has spent her life being praised and recognized for her brilliance and intellect.  Scary, enlightening, interesting, and a story of family sticking with one another through difficult times.

Before Still Alice, I finished Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy that begins with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and ends with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  If you've read my previous posts (here and here, respectively) about this trilogy, you know that I had mixed feelings about the first book.  Parts of it were extremely graphic and difficult for me to read, but I remained intrigued by the story of Lisbeth Salander.  I really, really enjoyed the second book, and the final chapter did not disappoint.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest picks up where The Girl Who Played with Fire ends, and the action doesn't stop until the final page.  The third book aims to tie up many loose ends, and there seem to be quite a few convenient occurences; however, the mystery surrounding Lisbeth's life keep the story's momentum going throughout.  Instead of merely confronting her enemies, Lisbeth must now either destroy them or face her own destruction; since she's lying in a hospital bed for the majority of novel, she's got a problem on her hands.  I'm glad that I finished the trilogy since I enjoyed the story much more than I initially thought I would, and I'd recommend it to you if you are a) still reading this blog post, and b) like stories that involve espionage, government conspiracies, and lots of action and suspense.

Between The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and Still Alice, I attemped to read The Corrections, by Joseph Franzen.  I'd read some great reviews and thought the story sounded amusing, smart, and possibly controversial, so I was ready to dig in.  Not even 200 pages in, I put it down and haven't picked it back up since.  This is significant, because I rarely don't finish a book that I begin.  In fact, the only other book that I can immediately recall not finishing was a Janet Evanovich book, and those things are just terrible (unless One for the Money was just a truly amateur effort).

Okay, done.  Still with me?  Bueller?  Bueller?

1 comment:

  1. Yea! I've been waiting for a book review from you and I got 4...exciting day! I'm glad to know that "Still Alice" is good, because that's (part of) what I got my mom for Christmas. Is it rude to borrow a xmas present from the person you give it to?

    Her mother had Alzheimer's, and yes, it scares the ever-living $@#! out of us too.