Sunday, June 21, 2009

"[T]he reason they're there is so that we can reach the farther shore, it's the other side that matters."*

The summer reading begins.

I have no idea why I feel like I have so much more time to read in the summer; I probably have even less, what with all four boys home all day long, and keeping them busy and entertained (not to mention clean, clothed, and fed). But I often tackle bigger books, or books I have wanted to read for a while, or go on jags of, say, mystery novels featuring the same detective, or a bunch of different novels about one particular time in history or historical figure.

However, this first novel, Jean Heglund's Into the Forest, is a one-off, recommended by a school mom friend who used to be one of my closest friends; which is to say, while she may not spend lots of time with me now, we once not only worked together but socialized a lot and so she knows me rather well, even still. Because this book is right up my alley. Set in the near-ish future, modern civilization has deteriorated to a much more primitive society; there is no longer phone service, electricity or its attendant machinery, access to and/or practice of modern medicine, or much of anything that makes the 21st century what we expect. Two sisters, living rurally with their parents, are the heroines of the novel, if heroine is a word one can use in this context. Think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, only not quite so godawfully bleak. But close. Awfully damn close. There’s a lot more revealed about what’s happened to society in this novel, and there’s much more plot, but the feel is the same. It’s not as desolate and shattering as The Road, but it is ultimately as horrifying.

I am concurrently reading Philip Henshaw’s The Northern Clemency, [UPDATED: Hensher, NOT Henshaw; I apologize to Mr Hensher, but my criticism still stands.] which is this giant sprawling novel that meander sit sway through several families and their lives during several particular timeframes. So far, so good, but I find the proofreading errors maddening. I suppose it’s not Henshaw’s fault that his editor didn’t catch the homonym misspellings, or the mixing-up of similar character names, but it’s truly distracting, and takes away from the importance and prestige of being a Booker finalist.

I also just started Jose Saramago’s Blindness, am only about thirty pages in.

I thoroughly enjoyed Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl (I must see the movie now), and have several of her other novels waiting for me (on my pretty new bookshelves), probably The Boleyn Inheritance up next. I also have Emma Brown, Charlotte Bronte’s unfinished manuscript, used as the jumping off point for Clare Boylan’s own novel, sitting around, and also Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge.

Jennifer Weiner has a new novel coming out in July, a friend just sent me The Brothers K with a note simply saying, “Read this,” I have three books winging their way (or sailing and that’s what’s taking so long?) across the Atlantic from Persephone Press (more on those later), and I think I may send to the Land of the Frozen North for the newest AS Byatt instead of patiently waiting for it to emigrate to the States.

Ok, so, this summer, who’s reading what at the beach, or in your backyard, or at the pool? Big fat novels, long-planned-on classics, or celebrity gossip mags with delicious photos of RPatz? Do tell.

**************
*Jose Saramago

15 comments:

Julia said...

I just finished The Four Corners of the Sky, by Michael Malone. Malone writes funny, long, soap opera-y but very very good books and I really liked this one too. If you like the Phillipe Gregory novels, you may also like Annette Vallon. It's my current book and I'm trying to read it slowly as it is so well written. It does make me glad Jane Austen lived in England though, and not France. France in the 1790s was no place to be!

Badger said...

My two most recent reads were Tove Jansson's The Summer Book and Amanda Eyre Ward's Love Stories in this Town, both of which were excellent.

Not sure what I'll tackle next, but I'm leaning heavily toward Vernon God Little, Chelsea Handler's My Horizontal Life or Clane Hayward's The Hypocrisy of Disco.

Sinda said...

I read Into the Forest years and years ago, but I still think about it on occasion - great book.

I just finished Russell Brand's My Booky Wook, which was entertaining while poignant, and am now reading Michael Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows which is terrific so far. I also read Elinor Lipman's newest, The Family Man - I really like her writing style.

Janet said...

Loved "The Other B Girl", but then rented the movie and HATED it!

Currently reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Shaffer and Barrows and it may now be my favorite book of all time. So sweet, witty and smart. Also reading "Loving Frank" by Horan about Frank Lloyd Wright's affiar. Very good so far.

ssheers said...

I'm reading the 6th Harry Potter book for the third time so I know what's going on when I see the movie this summer.

I plan to get the paperback version of the last Harry Potter book when it comes out in July. I inhaled the hardcover in one day when it was first published. I would like to read it again, at a more leisurely pace, but I don't want to carry around that big, heavy hardcover.

I'm thinking of reading all of the Twilight books again.

Since you liked The Other Boleyn Girl, I'll bump it up higher on my pile of books to read.

I'm reading Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series and alternating that with Ian Rankin's John Rebus series.

Janet Evanovich's newest comes out tomorrow.

Kristin said...

This is a good question. I too feel that summer is the time to read a lot and tackle big books; it must come from being in school and having summer vacations. Because I sure don't have any more time now than I do in the winter.

I keep thinking that I'll have a ton of time to read after the baby is born in July, because I did read a lot when Will was born (all that nursing time--I got very good at reading with one hand), but that is clearly a delusion. Now there will be a baby and a 2.5 year old in the house...probably not conducive to chunks of time spent reading.

I'm ready for a new mystery series though...any suggestions? I'm almost through with Laura Lippman.

Beth said...

Just finished The Golden Compass and am trying to decide whether to finish the series or not.

To Serve Them All My Days by Delderfield will probably, deliciously, take me all summer.

As for The Brothers K, the original note said, "read this or I'll kill you", but it occurred to me that death threats by mail may be a felony, so I changed it. I hope you will read it because it's great.

Jess said...

I'm not reading enough. I was getting on an Andrea Barrett kick and reading some other grown up books, but I've only wanted to read books written for teenage girls recently - my version of chick lit. I'm going to try to switch back to grown up with Dorothy Canfield Fisher (The Home-Maker) but YA might call my name again.

Loretta said...

The Little Stranger - gothic horror as only the English can do

And completely a find new to me run across on a bookstore shelf - The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet about a 12 year old prodigy cartographer who lives in Montana and takes a hobo trip across the U.S. With oversized format filled with his illustrations! Wonderful!

Life Among the Savages - Shirley Jackson (author of the Haunting of Hill House_ - her pre-Erma Bombeck memoir of raising her 4 kids in the country - hysterical and I think you would love it.

Bearette24 said...

I'm reading the new Sarah Dessen now, and enjoying it. Also working my way through the Diane Mott Davidson culinary mysteries...

TLB said...

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is good stuff. Big book.

catsteevens said...

I've mentioned before how you inspire me to read more. Badger inspires too.

So I started reading Jodi Picoult's Harvesting the Heart. But I keep falling asleep and having to reread a lot. Bluh :P

I'm trying to pick books I think I'll really like so as to motivate myself and keep up the reading.
I finished Jennifer Weiner's Good In Bed, so maybe I'll try Certain Girls or her new one.

Definitely no big fat history novel.

Samantha said...

I am just coming out of a phase of reading BIG books - if it wasn't over 500 pages long I wasn't reading it. I think the two best BIG books have been The Hour I First Believed and Every Man Dies Alone.

I have The Children's Book on its way (very cheap hardcover version on Amazon.co.uk) so too Olive Kitteridge (whih I have read the first few chapters of and was intrigued by).

By the way - seeing you are in an "idling" summer mood - have you read any of Tom Hodgkinson's books (How To Be Idle, How To Be Free and his latest The Idle Parent)? I think they are a hoot and they may be of interest to you?

p.s. my Persephones arrived and I am going to read Miss Buncle's Book first - and yes, I am the biggest DORK in Australia :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can criticize Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency for proofreading errors if you haven't noticed what his name is. Don't think that really encourages anyone to think that you might notice mistakes, if there are any.

BabelBabe said...

Ooch. Good point. My bad.

However, *I* have not been, nor will I ever be, nominated for the Booker. There are multiple errors in his novel, all of which an editor should have caught.