It’s chilly and overcast right now as I sip my steaming chai tea and enjoy a slice of freshly baked Date Bread, but the forecast is promising some sun later in the day, which is always a great way to begin a new week.
Last week I had a meeting with my “Friends” Book Group, where we discussed The Woman Upstairs. Of the seven people who came out, only two had finished it - one of those people was me and the other was our newest member, who was just trying us out. Of the five others, one skimmed it to the end, two ran out of time, and two just gave up on it. The consensus was that the book was too self-indulgent, that it moved too slowly, and that it lacked any real plot. I get that, and I would totally agree, except that the ending made it all so worthwhile that it was a shame some members gave up partway through. For those of us who finished, we couldn’t really discuss the ending without giving too much away for those who intended to finish reading it when they had time. But on the way home from the meeting, I got thinking more about the ending, and wondered who really betrayed whom, and why Sirena really did what she did. I’ve read this book twice, and it wasn’t until I was headed home that I had these insights, and would have loved to discuss them with the others - I did end up having a conversation about this the next day with our newest member, who is a teacher at one of my schools, and we found the author’s treatment of this situation very intriguing and skillful. If you think you might want to try this book out, please stick with it until the end, and then give some real thought to the questions above regarding betrayal, guilt and blame (that’s all I can say for fear of spoiling it for anyone!).
A book that, in my opinion, you could certainly stop reading before reaching the end is The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. I really enjoyed her first book, In a Dark, Dark Wood, but did not enjoy her second book, The Woman in Cabin 10, at all, despite the rave reviews. This one started out more promisingly, and I was quite excited to sit down with it. This novel focuses on four women, Thea, Fatima, Isa and Kate, who live in and around London. One night, Isa, Thea and Fatima receive a text from Kate saying “I need you”, and they know something serious has happened. They all leave their lives and responsibilities and head to Salten Island, where fifteen years earlier these girls attended a boarding school together and where Kate still lives at Tide Mills, her childhood home that, over the years, has been literally sinking into the marsh. These women have a secret that threatens to become unearthed, and they need to figure out how to handle this. Fifteen years earlier, Kate’s father disappeared and they covered up any knowledge they had about this disappearance, along with Kate’s step-brother Luc. Now it seems the truth is about to come to light and these women need to face up to the choices they made so long ago, choices that threaten to destroy their current lives as well as their futures. It started off really well, with an interesting narrator, Isa, and an intriguing plotline - I always enjoy suspense stories that involve long-hidden secrets and groups of people being drawn together again after many years because of these secrets. But at some point I found the story to be too farfetched and totally lacking in credibility, particularly since Isa hauls her six-month-old daughter Freya along with her into potentially dangerous situations again and again, fretting over Freya’s safety in one sentence, then endangering her in the next. I felt that Ware used alot of repetition as padding, possibly to give the book the heft that she may have hoped would pass for depth. I found the characters to be shallow and the conclusion unsatisfying. Strangely enough, Kirkus, which criticizes nearly every book and gives negative reviews of just about everything, gave this books a rave review - when reading it, I felt like we were talking about two different novels! This just demonstrates how reading experiences are so very personal, and reflect individual reading histories, personal histories, and present reading moods or situations.
That’s all for today. I’m going to get outside and enjoy the brisk fresh air and still-clear sidewalks.
Bye for now…