With a steaming cup of chai tea and a slice of freshly baked Banana Bread on the table in front of me, it’s difficult to think about books when all I want to think about on this chilly, snowy morning is warm comfort foods and beverages.
As one often does with the start of the New Year, I recently took stock of my reading situation. Last week I gave you a list of my top 10 favourite books and audiobooks of 2013. When I was deciding on the audiobook selections, I was finding it harder to choose than with the books. Yesterday I figured out how many books I read and listened to last year, which of course explains why this was more difficult. I read 55 books and listened to 23 audiobooks. If I can remember next year, I will limit my favourite audiobooks to 5, since I have less to choose from. But I am surprised at the number of audiobooks I finished, as I always thought I got through about one book per month. Of course it depends on the length of the book and how much time I devote to listening, but that is nearly twice the selections I thought I could get through. That’s great! (or maybe it’s sad… if you can believe it, I have a list of every book I’ve read since 1992 in chronological reading order, which is either amazing or pathetic, I’m not sure which! Who needs to know what they read more than 20 years ago?)
Anyway, I reread The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison last week, as my “friends” book group is discussing it on Thursday evening. It has been about 6 months since I first read and review this novel for the local paper, and it was just as good the second time around, maybe even better, since I knew what was going to happen at the end and so the significance of everything that was said and done by the main characters was clear to me as it was happening, rather than recalling things and figuring it out at the end. There were also parts I had forgotten about that almost took me by surprise as I reread them, which was a treat. In case you are unfamiliar with this title, this novel tells the story of the breakdown of a 20-year marriage between Jodi and Todd, told in alternating Her and Him chapters. Jodi is a psychologist whose world is controlled and managed. Todd is a real estate developer and a perpetual cheat. When things spiral out of control and threaten to dismantle their affluent Chicago lifestyle, the situation will make one person a killer and the other a victim. This dissection of the history of the main characters’ childhoods, how they became who they are, and how their marriage has lasted for 20 years based on significant compromise on both sides makes for a fascinating read. While the novel offers both sides of the story and develops both characters equally well, in my opinion it is really Jodi’s story, although I believe it could be read and appreciated by both male and female readers. Although these parts have been criticized by other reviewers, I particularly enjoyed the sections which offer a peek into Jodi’s psychotherapy sessions when she was a graduate student. And what is left unsaid throughout the novel is at least as important as what is said. It is absolutely the best book I’ve read in a long time, and my favourite book of 2013. I’ve recommended it to so many people, I’ve lost count, and so far, the feedback has been very positive.
On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I went to see the film adaptation of The Book Thief, a teen novel by Markus Zusak, about a young girl, Liesl, who is taken to a small town in Germany to live with a family shortly before the start of WWII, and her experiences over the next few years. The novel is narrated by Death, who has taken Liesl’s younger brother while they were on the train with their mother going to the small town. The mother is a Communist, so the children are being relocated to save them, but only one child survives the journey. When Liesl arrives, it is discovered that she is unable to read, but with the patience of her new father and her own persistence, she becomes a voracious reader. She befriends Rudy, the boy who lives down the street, but she must keep secret from him the arrival of Max, the young Jewish man her new family takes in and hides. We read about the effects of war on the townspeople and the town itself, but it is also a coming-of-age story for Liesl and Rudy during a difficult period in history. The most significant thing about the book, as I recall (we discussed it for my book group about 18 months ago, so I don’t remember it very well), was that it was told from the point of view of Death. This, in my opinion, did not translate well onto the screen, and I think it may have been a stronger film if that part was left out, but of course I understand why it was included. My husband, who has not read the book, thought it was a moving and interesting film. I thought it was just OK, not brilliant, but worth seeing.
And I’m skimming my way through Annabell by Kathleen Winter for my next book club meeting on Friday morning. I’ll write more about that after the meeting.
That’s all for today! Happy 2014!
Bye for now…