On this cool, rainy Easter Sunday, I have a couple of books/audio books to write about.
I finished reading Grave Concern by Judith Millar last week. This Canadian novel tells the story of a middle-aged woman, Kate Smithers, who returns to her hometown of Pine Rapids in rural Ontario after her elderly parents are killed in a car accident. She starts her own grave-tending business to make ends meet, and gets to know some of the quirky inhabitants of the town, some of whom are keeping secrets. This funny, moving, mysterious novel was delightful, and although the plot is often dark, the tone is always light and entertaining. I would certainly recommend it to just about anyone, I guess mainly female readers. The only complaint I had is that I didn’t quite understand the last page of the novel, part of the Epilogue and so the author clearly felt if was important to include. Maybe I will try to contact the author to ask about it. Otherwise, it was a fun, interesting read.
And I’m nearly finished listening to The Crime of Julian Wells by Thomas H Cook. It tells the story of a writer, Wells, who writes about serial killers throughout history who, in the opening scenes of the books, rows himself out to the middle of the pond at his parents’ country house and kills himself, and the search for the truth of his life by his sister, Loretta and his friend, Philip. I am not really enjoying it, but I’m so close to the end that I will finish it, hopefully later today. The story is not really that interesting, and I’m getting tired of hearing about how talented and adventurous Julian was, and what a relatively boring person Philip was in comparison. Having said that, if there was actually more information about Philip and his own life, or even of Loretta’s life experiences, perhaps it may have been more interesting for this listener. Being immersed in the life of a dead man is less interesting than it initially sounded in the description of the book. I think I will try reading some other novels by this author, as his writings have been well-reviewed - maybe it’s just this title that didn’t grab me.
And I’m half-way through The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and, while it was a challenge to get into, I’m now loving it. It is such an involved and ambitious novel, detailing the experiences of the Lambert family members and their responses to their mother’s wish to have one last Christmas at the family home. If I recall correctly, each of the three adult children have a section in which they detail their own experiences, including their mother’s experiences as her husband, Alfred, suffers more and more symptoms of dementia and Parkinson’s. I read this novel many years ago, and have little recollection of the story until I’m rereading a particular section. It is my book club selection for Friday’s discussion, and I have no idea how my members will respond to this; I’m sure some have already read this before, as I have done. I’ll let you know what they think after our meeting.
Because I knew I had The Corrections to read for next week, I resisted the urge to reread The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck, probably my all-time favourite novel. I always have the desire to read it around this time of year because it opens with the main character, Ethan Hawley, sweeping out the grocery shop where he works on Good Friday. He comments on the required closure of the shop at a particular hour to commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross, and he sermonizes in his own version of "latin" to the cans on the shelves while he prepares the shop. It is such a vivid image from this book for me, that I envision it every year at this time and feel the need to reread the book. I don't think I read it last year, for some reason, and it's always a most effective rereading if I can start it on Easter weekend, the time during which the story itself begins. Alas, I had to get to my bookclub book instead, so it'll have to wait until later.