Sunday 18 June 2023

Last post for Spring…

Wednesday is the first day of summer, and while it has been cool and rainy recently, this coming week is forecast to actually feel like the start of the season.  I’ve got the windows and doors open, and I’m being treated to a faint breeze and the sound of birdsong to accompany my steaming cup of chai and bowl of fresh local strawberries.  I can’t imagine a better way to start the day.

I finished a "WOW" of a book last night, The Anomaly by French author Hervé Le Tellier, translated by Adriana Hunter.  I was a fan of the tv series “Manifest”, about a flight that got caught up in a storm and disappeared for five years, only to return miraculously with all of the passengers both exactly the same yet slightly altered, while the world has aged and moved on, presuming them all dead. I haven’t watched the last season of this show, as I’ve now lost interest, but the premise of this book reminded me of that show.  In early March 2021, two hundred and forty three passengers board Air France Flight 006 from Paris to New York.  They each have their own issues and life’s difficulties, but none expects that, after hitting severe, unexpected turbulence, they would arrive to a reality that is both “perfectly familiar and utterly strange” (from the back of the book jacket).  These passengers include an American female lawyer, a mostly-obscure French writer and philosopher, a gay Nigerian pop singer, and a couple whose relationship is in its last stages of decline.  Can this unexpected event, this “anomaly”, offer them the opportunity to make different choices?  I can’t tell you anything further about this novel, because the plot twists and genre-defying concepts are what give this book the “WOW” factor.  Le Tellier manages to do so much, and to do it all well.  This novel addressed serious issues such as racism, homophobia, sexism and domestic abuse, while also being literary, and funny, and heartwrenching, with a bit of romance thrown in.  It was sci-fi-ish, but was also a thriller, a political and social commentary, and a philosophical exploration into what it means to “be”, asking us to think about who we are and what gives our lives meaning.  I would highly recommend this to just about anyone, and I will definitely seek out more books by this author.

That’s all for today.  Get outside and enjoy the lovely weather!

Bye for now…

Sunday 11 June 2023

No post this week...

There will be no post this week, as I spent the week reading Silver Birch contenders and cannot reveal these titles.  I've read quite a few, though, some of them really good books, and these may end up on my "Best of..." list at the end of the year, so stay tuned!

Enjoy what's left of the weekend, and don't forget to find time to read!

Bye for now...

Sunday 4 June 2023

Post on a lovely spring afternoon...

It’s late afternoon, and I’m beginning to think that my posts will have to change as the shape of my available time is changing.  I seem to now be writing later and later in the day, and sometimes not for a few days later than usual, so I think what I can reasonably expect for myself is to write a much briefer post, less ponderous and in-depth than I’ve done in the past.  That’s unfortunate, as I really enjoy delving deep into each book and reading experience, but it’s just not possible for now, and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, my Volunteer Book Club met yesterday to discuss The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz.  Here’s what I said from June 6, 2021:

“I also read a page-turner last week, The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz.  Jacob (Jake) Finch Bonner is a middle-aged writer with one successful novel to his name.  After failing to produce anything else of worth, he’s been reduced to teaching a Creative Writing workshop in a low-residency MFA program in the less-than-noteworthy Ripley College.  Trudging through his third year of this workshop he meets Evan Parker/Parker Evan, an arrogant, over-confident student who is convinced he needs nothing from this program because he is going to write a bestselling novel with the kind of plot that will make him famous:  everyone will be reading it; Oprah will want to interview him; book clubs will discuss it; it will be optioned for a film with an A-list director.  He is very private about his writing, but one day during a one-on-one session, he reveals his plot to Jake, who is shocked into finally believing that Parker may indeed have the makings of a bestseller.  The workshop ends, and three years later, Jake is working at a hotel that has been repurposed as a writers’ retreat, still with no new work worthy of publication.  He is reminded of Parker one day by a brash, cocky resident, and he goes online to find out if this amazing book was ever written.  What he finds instead is that Parker died shortly after his time at Ripley.  Jake ponders this new information, and wonders (briefly) what to do now that he alone is in possession of this amazing plot.  Well, write the book, of course!  After all, as any writer knows, stories are meant to be told, even if they belong to someone else.  Fast-forward another three years, and Crib is published to great acclaim.  Everyone is reading it, it is optioned for a film being directed by someone who could certainly be classified as “A-list”, he’s met a wonderful woman, and life is good… until he receives that first message accusing him of being a thief, and his life begins to spiral out of control.  I would love to tell you more, but that would spoil the fun.  I wish I knew someone else who has read this book, as the plot was so complex and detailed, with so many twists and turns, that it would make for a really interesting discussion.  Alas, I will settle for telling you that it was a roller-coaster read that kept me wishing for more free time.  According to the “Kirkus” review, this isn’t even Koreltz’ best book, so I will definitely seek out her other books.  I will agree with most reviews that it was easy to guess in which direction the novel was going well before it was revealed, but I was still shocked by the "BIG" reveal.  It began as a study of the writing process and the struggles writers go through to put together a new book, a great example of metafiction, but from the point where he receives his first threatening message, it becomes a mystery-thriller that, while very compelling, somehow felt a bit flat.  Having said that, it was totally worth the time spent to read it, if only because it has introduced me to a writer I'd never read before, which is much like opening a door I’d never realized was there!”  

I’m not sure why I thought it was “a bit flat” two years ago, but I found it just as interesting and roller-coaster-y this time around.  My book club members seemed to enjoy it, too, some making connections earlier than others, but no one guessing the whole truth.  And I finally got people to talk about this plot with!  Hurray!  It was so twisty and turny that I almost needed a chart, even as a re-read, and I was not alone in feeling this way.  It was definitely a good choice for a book club read, and lead to very interesting discussions that went wildly off in all directions.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys literary mystery-thrillers.

That’s all for today.  Happy first weekend of June!

Bye for now…