Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee: I loved this family saga about Korean immigrants in twentieth-century Japan. You can read my full review here.
The Lion in Winter, by James Goldman: I grew up watching the film adaptation (starring Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, and Timothy Dalton) of this 1966 play, and I was delighted to find that the screenplay matches the script almost exactly. It’s a firecracker of a play about Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their scheming sons, brought to life with some of the wittiest, cruelest banter you’ve ever read. My copy, which I found at Loganberry Books in Cleveland, is a first edition, and it includes stills from the first production–imagine my surprise at seeing a very, very young Christopher Walken in these pages! Perfect escapist reading.
Thrall, by Natasha Trethewey: This 2012 collection by former Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey is brilliant. Thrall takes as its focus the poet’s interracial background, interrogating classic paintings that depict mixed-race people and themes and exploring the poet’s relationship with her white father. Two of my favorites from this beautiful, necessary, American collection: “Rotation” and “Enlightenment.”
Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman: I’ve been looking forward to this book for months, and Neil Gaiman did not disappoint. In these tales, he brings the Norse gods to life—wise but fallible Odin, hulking Thor, dangerous Loki (and he points out that much of what must have been passed down about goddesses and other female figures has been, alas, lost—hence the disproportionate number of myths about male figures). A gifted storyteller and fascinating legends makes for a classic combination. Gorgeous cover, too.
A Pale View of Hills, by Kazuo Ishiguro: A subtle, unnerving novel about a woman, Etsuko, who recalls one hot, eventful summer in post-war Nagasaki decades later, after she’s moved to England. Her older daughter has recently committed suicide, and her younger daughter comes to visit Etsuko at her country home. The writing is atmospheric and outwardly serene, but malaise creeps beneath the surface. I’m amazed at Mr. Ishiguro’s skill in showing how characters mean exactly the opposite of what they say. Even more amazing is that A Pale View of Hills was his first novel. Recommended.
17 thoughts on “Last Week’s Reading: February 5 – February 11”
I’m amazed that you managed to read anything beyond Pachinko — such a chunky book!
It is long, but it reads really fast!
You already know I’m interested in Pachinko, but A Pale View of Hills also sounds good…
So many books, so little time!
Ooo wow. Enlightenment is so good. There’s a lot to think about in one small poem.
I am in the very long library holds queue for Norse Gods. So glad to hear it is good, I am very much looking forward to it!
It’s a great way to spend an afternoon!
I usually like Ishiguro, and this one sounds good. I also love the movie Lion in Winter. Such a good one with great dialogue.
Couldn’t agree more.
I am so jealous of how much reading you cram into a week! Pachinko is coming up soon for me.
This has been an unusually good streak of reading–most weeks I only read one or two books!
Yay! I bought Norse Mythology for the Chaos and am delighted you liked it. Gaiman usually delivers.
Hahahaha, oh man, I read Pale View of Hills when I was in England a while ago, and I did not understand one word of it. Very validatingly, I later read an interview with Ishiguro where he makes a joke about how un-understandable he was in his youth.
I have to agree: it was by far the least enjoyable of the five books I’ve read by him.
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Lion in Winter seems to this reader to have been substantially based on Alfred Duggan’s 1957 non-fiction account of Henry II’s disfunctional family “Devil’s Brood.” This is history that reads like fiction, and no novelist could make up anything more sad and strange than the historic reality of this family. It’s all there- love, hate, reversals of fortune, intrigue, betrayals, war and murder. Catnip for history readers.