Sunday 23 February 2020

Some favourite authors and Freedom to Read Week on a mild mid-winter morning...

It’s sunny and mild on this mid-winter day, and I’ve got a cup of chai tea and a date bar to keep me company this morning while I enjoy some down-time to write this after a long and busy week.
I had two new-to-me books by a couple of favourite authors I was struggling to decide between last week, Invisible by American author Paul Auster and Nutshell by British author Ian McEwan.  Both are favourites, and both write literary novels that are usually immediately compelling, featuring interesting, complex characters and settings, and focusing on plots that are part mystery, part character study, where all is not what it seems.  I have read numerous books by both authors, but not for a very long time, and I decided on Invisible because it was due back to the library sooner.  It was classic Auster, but this novel also had certain elements of the plot that reminded me of early McEwan novels, in particular The Cement Garden and The Comfort of Strangers.  Set in New York and Paris, this novel centres around Adam Walker, a shy but handsome college student of literature who aspires to become a poet.  At a party one night, he meets older, enigmatic Rudolf Born, who befriends him and takes him under his wing, offering him a job managing a literary magazine.  Adam is stunned, but Born convinces him that he is serious about this, so he accepts the offer, but after being seduced by Born’s girlfriend Margot while Born is away, he feels a bit strange about their relationship.  Born says he’s fine with it, but when an incident occurs late one night while they are out, Adam begins to suspect that there is a dark side to Born, a very dark side.  Born returns to Paris, and Adam and his sister Gwyn live together for the rest of the summer of 1967 until Adam also leaves for Paris on a Student-Abroad Program in order to become more fluent in French.  When he runs into both Born and Margot, as well as other individuals with whom they are involved, the situation gets more complicated, and even more complicated still when accusations about past events are made.  This is all relayed to Jim, a former college friend, via letter and manuscript nearly forty years later, and he must decide what to do with this information. This novel is made up of layer upon layer of narrative from various points of view, and in different narrative formats.  At first I was put off by the story, as it seemed to focus solely on a young man away from home for the first time, with all the usual college-age issues and worries, and this no longer interests me that much, since I am so much older than that, but then I realized that this was recollected by our main character many years later, and I was sure it would become more interesting.  And it didn’t disappoint. This short novel may seem fairly predictable at first, but if you choose to stick with it to the end, it will all come together with subtle plot twists in classic Auster fashion.
And just a reminder that this week is Freedom to Read Week ( I hope you all take this opportunity to read a banned or challenged book. I've put up an elaborate display in my school library, and will be encouraging my students to do the same!
That’s all for today.   
Bye for now…

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