Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunday morning tea and booktalk...

I'm sitting in my cool house on this hot day (I love air conditioning!) with my cup of chai tea and thinking about what I will write today.  I have a couple of books to talk about, but I think this will be a short post.
I finished reading Saturday by Ian McEwan last night.  That is the book I selected for our book group to talk about on Thursday evening.  I mentioned last time that the main character is Henry, a successful neurosurgeon who, after witnessing a plane make an emergency landing early on a Saturday morning, contemplates the state of the world post-9/11.  It takes place during a 24-hour period on a Saturday, when a seemingly insignificant occurrance leads to a chain of more serious and unexpected events. I selected this title mainly becuase I have read many of his other books and really enjoy his writing.  This was a title I had not yet read, but I had recently picked up a copy from a flea market and was looking forward to reading it.  I have to admit that I don't think it's one of his best works.  That is not to say that it's not a good read, and maybe my opinion will change once I've had more time to think about it, as I finished it around 10pm last night.  I find that is the case with some of his books, that appreciation for them increases the more I think about them.  So, since I am the one who selected this book, I need to come to our meeting with some information about the author and/or the book, as well as a few questions, in case our discussion gets stalled.  I was thinking about this question last night, and actually throughout the reading of the book -  what is this book really about?  I think it is about many things.  Most obviously, it is about political responsibilities of idividuals and governments.  It is about individuals taking responsibility for their actions as they impact others, those close to them as well as those in society whom they may not know but who may be affected by their actions.  Conversely, it is also about the impossibility of knowing how your actions may impact others, especially, of course, those you do not know.  It is about the responsibilities those in the medical profession have towards their patients.  It is also about the generation gap, the contrast between the attitudes of the young and the not-so-young, the "mellowing", perhaps, that comes with age and experience.  It also highlights the the ways in which we can make a difference in people's lives directly as individuals through our personal choices, as opposed to taking part in a faceless demonstration to make a change on a larger scale, in this case the demonstration to stop the war in Iraq.  I think it is about the uncertainty of outcomes that exist in people's lives, and how, no matter what we do and how much we consider the outcomes of our actions, we can never know what will happen in any given situation.  We are all connected in society, and the outcome of one person's actions is related to the unknown responses of others to these actions.  I guess what I'm saying is that this book is about the human condition, which McEwan often explores in his novels, but in different ways and settings.  Other examples of this exploration in his works includes Atonement, about the outcomes a young girl's accusations have on the members of her household, both her family members and those in her family's employ.  On Chesil Beach is another book that deals with the outcomes of seemingly inconsequential actions by newlyweds on their honeymoon in the early 1960s.  Enduring Love explores the outcomes of a man's chance encounter with a stranger while witnessing a terrible accident.  He has written many other fabulous (in this reader's mind, anyways!) novels and I highly recommend just about anything he's written.  Be warned, though, that his later novels are a bit on the slow side but they are generally excellent and well worth the patience it may take to get past the slow beginnings.  I've been a fan of McEwan's since the 1990's when I read The Comfort of Strangers, a bizarre story of love and obsession that takes place in Venice - his early books, while generally much shorter than his later works, are also a bit strange, but very interesting.  I'm looking forward to our discussion on Thursday evening.

I also finished listening to Defending Jacob on Thursday.  It was fabulous!  I don't usually try to guess the outcome of mystery-dramas, don't usually try do guess whodunnit or whether the person in question is really guilty or innocent, and how this will be proven, but this one had me in suspense to the very end.  It was brilliantly written and compelling to the last... I was going to say "page", but since it was an audiobook, I guess I could say, compelling to the last "word".  I checked to see if there were any other books by William Landay available as audiobooks through the library, but there were no other titles available.  He does, however, have two other novels, The Strangler and Mission Flats - I may have to check to library catalogue for these titles in print.  I would definitely recommend Defending Jacob.

I was trying to decide on my next audiobook, and started listening to a few titles I had downloaded, but none of the titles I had available appealed to me, so I had to check out a few more titles and download them from the library.  I love the free access the library provides, as you really can't know about an audiobook until you download it and listen to it.  I'm sure I dislike and delete as many books as I listen to, so if I had to buy all of these titles, I'd probably be a very discouraged listener.  I now have a few Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie titles downloaded, as well as some random titles by authors I know nothing about but which sounded mildly interesting.  I started listening to Rendell's Babes in the Wood yesterday, but only had a chance to listen to the prologue so far. 

Summer really is busier than fall and winter, so I can understand why people often choose to read "light" or fast-paced books during this time, as it's difficult to find enough time to devote to a "serious" novel.  I have to choose something to read over the next few weeks, as it is far too early to start reading my next book club choice - we won't be meeting until August 11th.  I have a few books in mind (none of them light!), and will have to make a decision to start one today.  Hmmm... another Ian McEwan (I have an advanced reading copy of his newest book, Sweet Tooth, a novel of espionage and desire), or something by a new author (new to me, at least)?  I'll let you know next time.

Bye for now!
Julie

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