Been a bit busy over here in Boston these last few weeks. I gave up on NaNoWriMo, and then I gave up on writing a post about why I gave up on NaNoWriMo, and then my mom visited, which made me feel validated on the first two counts, because I’d rather sit around with my mom and drink tea than write my (let’s face it) pretentious sophomore attempt a novel.
Anyway. One of the reasons I gave up on NaNoWriMo was that I missed reading too darn much. My non-toddler time is limited as it is, and when you’re churning out more than 1600 words a day, it’s difficult to squeeze in reading of any kind. I wasn’t blogging last year, and this year I found that I missed you, dear readers, and your delightful blogs.
So, in the interests of my sanity, I’m not going to write a separate post about each of the books I’ve sneaked in over the last couple weeks. Presenting, then, a round-up:
Inspired by Rick’s Novellas in November read-along, I picked up a book that’s been on my shelf for years: Gabriel García Márquez’s Memories of My Melancholy Whores. It’s a fast read, very Márquez, if you know what I mean. Sure, there’s the way-creepy nonagenarian crushing on the young, always naked teen virgin . . . but somehow we’re also in the realm of hope, aging, death, personal history, and acceptance of a life lived. I loved it.
Pierre Lemaitre’s acclaimed Alex, translated from French into English by Frank Wynne. Apparently it’s part of a trilogy focused on the detective in the story, Camille Verhoeven. Short in stature but long on insight, Verhoeven is brought in to investigate the nearly clue-less case of a missing woman, which flows outward into an increasingly complicated web of characters and events. I found it wholly unexpected and engrossing. However, there’s some very graphic violent content, so avoid if you don’t have a strong stomach.
I’m not sure who to blame for the fact that I didn’t know until this month that there are sequels to Nick Bantock’s gorgeous Griffin & Sabine. Once I found out, I promptly bought Sabine’s Notebook and The Golden Mean, and read them, along with the original, in one sitting. The first book is the best of the three, but the sequels feature art just as beautiful, and the story gets even weirder. Though written for adults, the trilogy would make an excellent gift for an artistically inclined teenager, or one who’s a devotee of comic books. My Uncle Neil sent me Griffin & Sabine for my fourteenth birthday, and it was the perfect fit. I loved the story and the inventive design of the book (envelopes with letters you pull out to read, and because the book features adult themes, I felt proud because it meant my uncle, who’s one of the readers I respect most, thought of me as a serious reader too.
Here’s an odd duck of a book: Charles Palliser’s Rustication. Published this year, it reads like a salacious nineteenth-century journal. It’s a cross between period fiction and crime fiction, with one of the most unreliable narrators I’ve encountered this year. I had parts of the plot figured out a bit too early (my area of study has left me with a weird assortment of herbal knowledge, which intruded at the mention of pennyroyal), but the novel still surprised me with its readability, especially considering the plethora of entirely unlikeable characters. There’s no one to cheer for, really, but the impulse to learn what’s true and what’s fiction in this tawdry little town is irresistible. A few words of caution: some ugly, violent language and imagery peppered throughout the novel.