RidgewayGirl Reads in 2021, First Quarter

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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2021, First Quarter

Editado: Ayer, 10:20am

And after so many decades, 2020 is finally over. May it stay gone.

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Newly Acquired

Ene 1, 3:42pm

A bare bones beginning, but I'll decorate later. Welcome in.

Ene 1, 6:45pm

Happy New Year, Kay. I look forward to another year of following your reading.

Ene 1, 8:38pm

Happy New Year, look forward to following along with your reading this year!

Ene 1, 9:08pm

Happy New Year, Kay, and here's to some good reading and conversation.

Ene 1, 9:46pm

Happy 2021 Kay!

Ene 2, 6:01am

Happy New Year, Kay! Good riddance to 2020 — and the Great Orange Toddler — and fingers crossed for an in person Decatur Book Festival this year.

Ene 2, 2:23pm

Hi everyone! Happy New Year and hooray, 2020 is over at last!

Darryl, I am planning on the Decatur Book Festival with every ounce of hope in me.

Ene 2, 2:23pm

As a nurse working in a busy Dublin hospital during the influenza epidemic, Julia is used to hard work and figuring things out on the fly, but for three days, when too many nurses are out sick, she's the only nurse for a small fever ward for pregnant women and her only help is an untrained, but willing girl from a Catholic orphanage.

Emma Donoghue does such a good job with historical fiction and her novels are always so well-researched. The Pull of the Stars is no exception, digging into what hospitals in Dublin looked like a century ago, the impact the First World War had on the men who were lucky enough to return, the Irish struggle for independence, how Catholic charities treated both unwed mothers and their offspring, and what giving birth looked like, among other things. In the end, the history took precedence over the story, with the majority of the book simply following Julia as she tries to care for the women on her ward as best she can. The final section of the book segues abruptly into Julia's personal life and what might have been an integral part of the story was simply tacked on to the end and felt unlikely, largely because so many huge events happened on top of each other.

This novel is worthwhile for a well-written look at a specific time and place, but if you prefer more story and less detail, this one's not for you. I enjoyed it, but I prefer the novels where Donoghue allows her characters to exist fully as people, although I learned a ton about what a horror giving birth was in Ireland a hundred years ago and there's one particularly vile procedure, called a symphysiotomy, that was in use until the 1980s, because although it caused permanent pain and disability to the woman, it preserved her ability to have more children. If your reaction to that is, "oh, that sounds interesting," read this novel, but if you just want great historical fiction, choose Frog Music or Slammerkin instead.

Ene 2, 8:32pm

>12 RidgewayGirl: This is on my wishlist (I'm waiting for the smaller format) so I appreciate your review for setting my expectations.

I'm deciding whether to look up symphysiotomy now or wait until I read the book :-).

Ene 3, 4:46am

Happy new year Kay, although I mostly lurk these days I am always following and enjoying your reviews. Dropping my star!

Ene 3, 8:13am

>12 RidgewayGirl: Your comments are similar to mine for Pull of the Stars; I loved the first part, but then, as you comment, it seemed to take an unexpected turn at the end. I still haven't read either Slammerkin or Frog Music, but more Donoghue is in my future.

Ene 3, 12:08pm

>13 rhian_of_oz: I can't answer that for you. Looking up symphysiotomy sent me down a grim but fascinating rabbit hole.

>14 Simone2: Hi, Barbara, good to see you here. I'm hoping you'll have a thread of your own? You have provided me with so many great recommendations.

>15 BLBera: Beth, Donoghue is one of my favorite authors. Every single book she writes is so different than the others. In the author's acknowledgements at the end, she says the book was rushed into publication because of the actual pandemic and I wonder if that had an impact on the pacing.

Ene 3, 12:15pm

Happy New year!
Nice first review. I'll be mainly lurking and maybe sometimes comment, but I sure will follow your thread as it is always full of interesting books and reviews!

Ene 3, 12:17pm

Thanks for that great review of The Pull of the Stars, Kay. That's definitely one for the wish list.

I was shocked when I saw the word symphysiotomy in your review, as my medical training told me what it was, although I did consult Dr Google to see if I was right...which I was. According to Wikipedia, "It is estimated that 1,500 women unknowingly and without consent underwent symphysiotomies during childbirth in the Republic of Ireland between 1944 and 1987." OMFG...I'm absolutely stunned by this, as anyone with a knowledge of anatomy or physiology would have known that this would likely have caused serious and permanent damage to the poor women subjected to this barbaric surgery. I'll have to read more about this, and find out if this operation was performed on women in the United States.

Ene 3, 12:27pm

>17 raton-liseur: Happy New Year to you! I look forward to reading your reviews in French again this year.

>18 kidzdoc: Darryl, the reasoning was both shocking and predictable -- it doesn't impact a woman's ability to produce children. I was surprised at how late the procedure continued to be used. Barbaric is the right term for this.

Ene 3, 12:46pm

Happy New Year! Interesting first read. That title keeps going on and off my wish list as there's quite a spectrum of thoughts on it. You've got me intrigued again.

Ene 3, 3:55pm

I'll pass on The Pull based on your review, a new title to me, but cringing over the lesson I'm learning on symphysiotomy.

Ene 4, 1:00am

>12 RidgewayGirl:

I had been eyeing Emma Donoghue's books for ages - she is on that very weird corner between mainstream and historical novels that can go either way for me and I am almost afraid to read her novels. That one does sound fascinating though...

Ene 4, 11:18am

>20 AlisonY: Alison, I found it worthwhile for the history alone. It's not particularly kind to the Catholic church in Ireland, however.

>21 dchaikin: Dan, Donoghue does not gloss over what childbirth is like at all.

>22 AnnieMod: Annie, Donoghue's historical novels are exhaustively researched but never feel as though they are.

Ene 4, 11:37am

>23 RidgewayGirl: Any recommendations where to start with her novels - writing order, start somewhere else and backtrack? My library seems to have quite a lot of them...

Ene 4, 11:53am

I didn't want to read Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart's Booker Award-winning novel about growing up poor in and around Glasgow in the eighties, being raised by a single alcoholic mother. I thought it might end up being too much of a misery memoir, like Angela's Ashes, which it almost was. And I was wary of reading something that was emotionally manipulative, like A Little Life, which it wasn't.

Shuggie Bain is the youngest child of an alcoholic mother who constantly sought excitement and conflict. By the time he's in school, his mother has lost her second husband and her oldest daughter and is living in the housing adjacent to a closed coal mine. It's not a great environment, even less so for a boy who doesn't know how to blend in with the rough, active boys in his community. Shuggie clings desperately to his mother, his one bit of stability, even as she does her best to drink herself to death.

This isn't a cheerful book, although there were enough points of hope; the promise in the opening chapter that Shuggie survives, a tentative friendship with another child of an alcoholic, his brother's attempts to care for him, for the book to not sink under the weight of the unhappiness and desperation.

This was a safe and solid choice for the Booker Prize being a traditionally-structured and told story about a specific time and place in British history. It will be interesting to see where Stuart goes from here as a writer.

Ene 4, 12:40pm

>25 RidgewayGirl: I don't mind a bit of misery lit, depending on how it's done. I'm looking forward to reading this at some point (although I'll probably be 10 or 20 years behind everyone else as normal!).

Ene 4, 3:17pm

Hi, Kay, reporting to lurking duty! My reading doesn't often intersect with yours but I feel you add a whole dimension to my perception of the book world--like, the 21st century. :)

Ene 4, 4:20pm

>26 AlisonY: My wariness of anything too miserable stems from feeling manipulated by A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which was just all the miseries in the world dumped on one guy for 600 pages. Shuggie was such a resilient and hopeful character and the novel is very well-written.

>27 LolaWalser: Good to see you here, Lola! I'd very much like to read more from centuries past, but the new novels are so shiny.

Ene 4, 5:44pm

>28 RidgewayGirl: Big old ditto on A Little Life, so I'm gonna take your word for it on Shuggie Bain, too. I've been looking forward to that one for a while (and wondering if he would do a Bloom interview now that he's a big literary success).

Ene 5, 7:21am

>28 RidgewayGirl:, >29 lisapeet: I remember being in the minority when I said I loved A Little Life!

Ene 5, 8:17am

>25 RidgewayGirl: i really appreciate your last paragraph. A safe choice. Personally I had some issues with the length and speed (slow), but not much else (ok, I wasn’t a fan of some of the gross visuals either...but they weren’t gratuitous)

Ene 5, 8:41am

Greetings and a somewhat belated Happy New Year. I always enjoy following along with your reading. The only Donoghue I've read is Room, which I thought amazingly skillful but very hard to read. Here's to a safe and sound year in 2021. Cheers!

Ene 5, 2:18pm

I'll resume reading Shuggie Bain soon, either this weekend or early next week, especially since my partner who I share an office space with is reading it now.

Ene 5, 3:44pm

>29 lisapeet: & >30 AlisonY: A Little Life was THE polarizing novel of 2015. In related news, American Dirt is back for more, because we didn't talk about enough the first time around.


>31 dchaikin: If any year deserved a safe choice, it was certainly 2020. Hoping next year's Booker goes to something that pushes boundaries.

>32 rocketjk: Jerry, Room is the book I haven't been able to pick up yet, despite having owned a copy for years. Maybe this year.

Also, although I know you're in California, every time I see your name I have to take a second to remember that you aren't Dutch. For some reason, my mind takes that "jk" at the end and expects canals and bicycles.

>33 kidzdoc: I'll be interesting in finding out what you make of it.

Ene 5, 5:58pm

>34 RidgewayGirl: "Also, although I know you're in California, every time I see your name I have to take a second to remember that you aren't Dutch. For some reason, my mind takes that "jk" at the end and expects canals and bicycles."

Shhhhhh . . . Actually, I'm hiding in plain sight from the CIA. They think I'm in Amsterdam! Nah, obviously, I'm just kidding. But that's not what jk stands for. Them's my initials. And "rocket" is an old nickname.

Good luck with Room if you decide to read it. The first two thirds are very hard to digest. I'm mean, great writing, but a very tough subject to experience, even through reading.

Ene 5, 6:14pm

>18 kidzdoc: As an OB nurse for 30 years, I knew about the symphysiotomy, and I didn't have nearly the bad feelings about it, although I understand why it came across that way. It did produce some instability in walking, and sometimes chronic pain, and I don't have any personal experience seeing it or experiencing it. I was under the impression it was done as a safer alternative to obstructed childbirth--a way to decrease death rates, where some more modern methods were not yet safe, or not even available. And Darryl, it was done in the US, and not all that long ago, I don't think.

Thank god for safer medicine. Childbirth can be brutal enough without adding to the brutality. And the social consequences of attitudes about women/birth/illegitimacy were awful. I don't think this is as bad as some of the things that were done to women of color. *shudder*

Ene 5, 6:21pm

I didn't even stop to wish you Happy New Year! So, I'm doing that now, and looking forward to your reading. I read Room starting Christmas Day, because it was a gift. I found the last part more unpleasant, really. Search me why? I guess the lack of restraint led to so much discomfort. Too much choice.

Ene 5, 6:27pm

>16 RidgewayGirl: That makes a lot of sense, Kay. It did seem rushed.

I think I need to be in a happier place before I read Shuggie Bain.

Editado: Ene 6, 10:18am

>37 sallypursell: Happy New Year to you, Sally. Let's get reading.

>38 BLBera: I entirely understand, Beth.

And because it's a beautiful morning:

Ene 7, 10:55am

Sarah Weinman's latest project has been to gather together a collection of long-form journalism articles about crime. Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession assembles some of the best non-fiction crime writing published today, from well-known crimes like the story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blancharde, and the two girls who stabbed their friend to please Slenderman, to the story of the first woman shot by the sniper in the tower of the University of Texas in 1967, long before mass shootings became ordinary, and how an untested forensic procedure became accepted in criminal trials. Each article is fascinating and different from the others.

If you have any interest in long-form journalism, I highly recommend this book.

Ene 7, 11:43am

>40 RidgewayGirl: Last year I read her book The Real Lolita. Fascinating, and very illuminating about Nabokov's great (but nauseating) work Lolita.

Ene 7, 12:58pm

>39 RidgewayGirl: A very nice poem, thanks for this comforting read.

Ene 7, 1:17pm

I like long form journalism a lot, even if I have drifted away for a while. Title doesn’t appeal, but your description of the selections does.

Ene 7, 3:08pm

>43 dchaikin: I love long-form journalism and how it gives a deeper picture without the padding that is inevitable when it's expanded to book form. I really liked that each article was so well-done and that I could read them comfortably in book form instead of peering at my laptop screen.

Ene 7, 7:53pm

>39 RidgewayGirl: Lovely poem, Katy. Thanks.

Ene 8, 5:01am

>39 RidgewayGirl: That is lovely.

Ene 8, 1:18pm

>39 RidgewayGirl: Ah, what a nice poem, thank you. I miss ice skating too.

Ene 8, 2:32pm

>39 RidgewayGirl: Wow, that's wonderful. Hope it's OK for me to post another poem, one my friend put up on Facebook the other day:

The New Decade
Hieu Minh Nguyen

I keep thinking there’s a piano nearby.
I keep thinking it’s my favorite song. It’s my favorite song!

Below the marquee, I arrange the marquee:
Happy New Year, buddy. Happy ‘nother one, sweetheart.

Out of ways to call you dead, I decide to call you busy,
call you at midnight from West Oakland.

These days I raise a glass to make sure it’s empty.
Even when I was a drunk, I thought champagne was pointless.

In my two-story civility, I stick my head out
each window & scream. S’cuse me, s’cuse me,

I’m trying to remember a story about gold,
about a giant falling from the sky.

Someone once asked who I prayed to.
I said a boy with a missing front tooth.

In this order, I ask, first, for water,
which might mean mercy,

which might mean swing by in an hour
& I’ll tell you the rest.

If you were here we’d dance, I think.
If you were here, you’d know what to do

what to do with all this time

Ene 8, 4:45pm

>25 RidgewayGirl: I haven’t read Shuggie Bain for exactly the reasons you mention and I’m even less sure after reading your review. But it’s a ToB book so I guess at some point I will pick it up. And I did love A Little Life but hated (okay that’s too strong but I had a hard time finishing) Angela’s Ashes. I thought of this last one immediately too when reading the blurb of this book.

Unspeakable Acts does sound great!

Ene 8, 5:06pm

>48 rocketjk: Oh, that's lovely! Champagne, however, is never pointless!

Ene 8, 7:37pm

Ene 9, 12:34am

>50 RidgewayGirl: Actually, while I don't mind champagne, I've never really been that big a fan.

Ene 9, 8:31am

>48 rocketjk: That's a fantastic poem—thanks for posting it.

Not a champagne fan here—anything other than the really good stuff I can't afford gives me indigestion.

Ene 9, 11:28am

two good poems

Champagne benefits from occasion, for me, need more of them

I am missing the tools and dresses, having just had to do a little bit of home maintenance in the cold

Ene 10, 7:33pm

>39 RidgewayGirl: & >48 rocketjk: Thanks for the poetry.

Ene 11, 11:27am

Late getting here, but wishing you a happy new year of reading, Kay. I think I saw that Tsitsi Dangarembga has a relatively recent book out (checked, it was 2018, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker no less). Also glad to see more poetry posted around the group!

Ene 12, 10:56am

As she turned the first page, a single tear fell onto the still paper, washing the words beneath it into gentle oblivion, lost forever to her sorrow.

Set in 1927, The Paris Hours by Alex George follows four characters as they live their romantically tragic lives walking around Paris and interacting with famous people. Each feels their emotions deeply and is able to get advice and insight from everyone from Josephine Baker to Marcel Proust. There's Souren, a young man who escaped the Armenian genocide and now puts on a puppet show in the Luxembourg Gardens. Camille was Marcel Proust's maid and she deeply misses her former employer, even as she harbors a terrible secret. Jean-Paul lost his wife and infant daughter to a bomb, and because his daughter's body was never found, he continues to search for her. And
Guillaume is an artist who is still struggling after years of work. He fell in love with an acrobat he watched perform and is deeply in debt to a violent loan shark.

Over the course of a single day, the four characters walk around Paris, frequently noting where they are and what they can see from their vantage point, as they think their tragic thoughts and slowly circle each other, until they finally all converge at a single nightclub where tragedy is about to strike.

Yeah, I didn't like this one at all. I have a high tolerance for anything set in Paris, but the market seems to be dictating that novels set there indulge in an exaggerated sentimentality and an emphasis in mentioning locations as though the reader is on a bus tour of Paris. There are some fantastic recent novels set in Paris, like Paris, 7 A.M. by Liza Wieland or Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks, but for the large majority, referring to the city in the title is a message about not just the setting, but also the kind of book it will be, unabashedly treacly and filled with heightened emotion. Will I stop jumping on novels with Paris in the title? Probably not. But the likelihood of finding a well-written novel where Paris is something other than a sparkling stage set is becoming rarer by the day. Still, the cover on this novel is lovely.

Ene 12, 11:00am

>56 avaland: Lois, I was all set to order her shortlisted novel when I saw a review of Nervous Conditions, which precedes This Mournable Body. I'm not usually a start-from-the-beginning kind of reader, but the plot synopsis grabbed me.

Ene 12, 1:57pm

>57 RidgewayGirl: Giovanni’s Room? 🙂 (Also I have A Moveable Feast sitting home, unread). I like the mix of characters in theory, but don’t need treacle, so hard pass. Thanks for saving us. !

>48 rocketjk: wow. Thanks for sharing JK.

Ene 12, 2:29pm

>59 dchaikin: I was sticking to recently published books, but Giovanni's Room is wonderful and I should reread it. A Moveable Feast is a book I adore. See, there's so many great books about Paris and I don't know why I keep grabbing the bad ones (actually, I do. The cover on this one demanded I read it.)

Ene 12, 3:48pm

It is an elegant attractive cover.

Ene 12, 3:56pm

>57 RidgewayGirl: "the likelihood of finding a well-written novel where Paris is something other than a sparkling stage set"

It is not just Paris - way too often lately the popular and/or exotic locales are used as a stage set and not as a part of the story... Annoys me to no end usually - to the point where I am generally staying away from these novels, even if they sound interesting otherwise... Nice review though :)

Ene 12, 4:36pm

>62 AnnieMod: Certainly a reason to take a moment to look at the author's bio. In this case, I only noticed the cover, so it was definitely my fault. And proof once more that I do very badly when impulsively choosing a book knowing nothing about it.

While none of the four main characters was an American, there were a quantity of them wandering around in the book. At one point, a French character admired them for coming to Paris and I rolled my eyes so hard. Although my year in Paris happened several decades later than the events of The Paris Hours, I can say for certain that the French never stood around admiring the slow, badly dressed people who spoke French so poorly.

Ene 13, 12:41pm

>57 RidgewayGirl: Great comments. I am especially grateful because I don't have to add a book to my WL.

Ene 15, 1:10pm

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi is a complex look at the many ways one can be an outsider; by being an immigrant, by being Black in white spaces, by religion, by education, by income, by having mental health issues, by addiction. Transcendent Kingdom is the story of Gifty, her girlhood in Alabama through her work to complete her Ph.D in neuroscience at Stanford University.

I don't want to give anything away, although the plot is very much not the point of Gyasi's second novel. There's a lot of heart and honesty here, without a single wasted word. Parts of this novel made me uncomfortable, teaching me about lives far removed from my own, while other parts felt so familiar. Gushing in a review is tiresome, so I'll stop here.

Ene 15, 4:08pm

Happy New Year, Kay. I’m a little late to the party. I saw the word champagne above and was disappointed to learn it wasn’t a call to action.... I love good champagne.. :-)

You’ve done some interesting reading so far. I’ll be checking in once in a while.

Ene 15, 4:28pm

>66 NanaCC: Hi, Colleen! I'm partial to prosecco myself. It's all the fun with none of the importance and cheap as well, so it doesn't sit in the fridge, waiting for a suitable occasion.

Ene 15, 6:09pm

>65 RidgewayGirl: I loved this one as well, Kay. Great comments.

Ene 15, 6:32pm

>68 BLBera: I'm looking forward to the conversation about it during the ToB. There's so much to discuss.

Ene 15, 7:58pm

Have the books for the ToB been chosen? I'll have to check them out although I never follow it as closely as you do.

Ene 16, 8:28am

>70 BLBera: Ha! That's fair -- my interest in the Tournament of Books has grown from mild interest to the sort of involvement characteristic of a Southern man's love of college football when his alma mater is having a good season.

Here's the line-up: https://themorningnews.org/article/the-2021-tournament-of-books-shortlist-and-ju...

Ene 16, 8:38am

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Ene 16, 10:06am

Thanks, Kay. I've read a few of them. Others I'm not so sure about.

>71 RidgewayGirl: A southern's love of football? Love it.

Ene 16, 10:31am

Great analogy about ToB! I'm excited for it this year because a friend of mine is a judge. I don't know why that should make it better than other years, but I'm interested to hear what her experience is like.

Ene 16, 2:07pm

>74 lisapeet: That would definitely make it more exciting for me -- I'm already thrilled when a writer I like is a judge.

The downside of my attention being on newly published books is that I have yet to read a book this year that wasn't published in 2020.

Ene 16, 7:11pm

Oh, I just realised you have the new Brosh up there--I knew I saw it somewhere here.

I have yet to read a book this year that wasn't published in 2020.

Funnily enough, I've been reading newly published books (for once!) because the bookshoplessness has reduced me to nervous monitoring of the new additions to the library, and I keep smacking "request! request! request!..."

They are not charging us fines and they seem to have done with the limits for now so I have something like 120 items in the pipeline.

I know, I need help.

Ene 17, 3:14am

I am late this year, so i’m only getting around to wishing you a happy new year, and there you are, already 76 posts and 8 books in! My library hold on Transcendent Kingdom came through yesterday, but I had to refuse it as i’m drowning in books at the moment (the best way to drown). I hope it comes through again soon.

Ene 17, 12:56pm

>76 LolaWalser: Yes, it's her new book and it is marvelous. I'm deliberately making myself only read a chapter at a time, just to get more time with it.

Lola, I'm either jealous or aghast at your ability to place holds. My library system reduced the number from ten to seven and has only recently gone back to allowing ten holds at a time. I'm wary of even asking myself what would happen with unlimited holds!

>77 rachbxl: Rachel, it turns out that reading is my refuge when the world goes nuts, and so there has been a lot of reading going on. I hope Transcendent Kingdom comes back up for you, but I do know the pain of looking at the library stack with both joy and fear.

Ene 17, 1:04pm

I can place up to 30 holds, Kay. :)

Ene 17, 1:20pm

>79 BLBera: My local library system certainly is stricter on the number of holds, but it does keep the holds lists smaller, I guess? There may be a benefit to me in that I don't have to rely on my own restraint. I go through the most anticipated lists from The Millions and Lit Hub with my library account open and this at least prevents me from putting a hold on every single interesting looking book coming out.

Ene 17, 3:27pm

>78 RidgewayGirl:

I read it recently and am eager to see your review. I got choked with the feels, some really terrible stuff in her life.

>79 BLBera:

We get 50, normally. Generous!

>80 RidgewayGirl:

Well my lot includes DVDs and CDs; all books, now THAT would be mad. :)

Ene 17, 4:15pm

I was about to post in outrage that I am only allowed three holds, but I realised that is for ebooks. Are your enviable allowances for physical books?

Ene 17, 4:21pm

>82 wandering_star: Yes, physical books. My ebook holds are restricted to three, although I can check out five books at a time.

Ene 17, 4:25pm

>79 BLBera: >81 LolaWalser: My library changed the hold maximums from 12 to 15 (for paper) some time last year (plus we have 8 for ebooks/e-audio (over Overdrive), 6 for ILL (combined between holds and checkouts on this one) and I am not sure how many for physical audio and DVDs).

30? 50? That IS generous... That makes me wonder how many books you can checkout at the same time (we are capped at 30 per type except for ILL which are capped at 6 (holds+checked out). My other library (Phoenix) allows only 6 paper holds...

>80 RidgewayGirl: I keep creating lists in my library account with the idea to work through them and request them when I have positions open in my holds schedule -- and as with books acquisition, I seem to create lists a lot faster than I can request them...

Ene 17, 5:18pm

I would just like to point out how knowledgeable we all are about library policies.

Ene 17, 5:18pm

Lucy's life is full of raising her two small sons. She's taken a lower pressure job, but she and her husband are secure and building a future together. Then she receives a message from an acquaintance; her husband and his wife are having an affair.

Her husband promises to end the affair and as they struggle to repair things, Lucy is left with her overwhelming anger. The Harpy by Megan Hunter is a novel about a woman's anger, about her learning to embrace her anger and how unsettled that makes the people around her. This isn't a comfortable book to read, but it is a fascinating one about the expectations we have for women and for mothers.

Ene 17, 5:30pm

Harpy sounds interesting and uncomfortable at the same time.

I also had to turn away a hold on transcendent kingdom, but hope to get to it sometime this year. (My library allows 15 holds hardcopy, + went up to15 on ebooks & downloadable audiobooks during COVID.) That's a lot, and I have to work very hard to manage my hold que.

Ene 18, 9:31am

I can place 20 e-book holds. Holds on physical books I don't know, as my library is in New York and I am in Belgium. (I don't even know what my library looks like!) The wonderful little work libraries I usually use (physical books only) are closed for the foreseeable future, but they don't do holds at all.

I am at my holds limit (as usual) so this one (>86 RidgewayGirl:) has gone on my library wishlist instead. Every few weeks I go through my (long, long...) wishlist and see what to promote to a hold next. Unless something I want to read even more catches my eye first, in which case that gets to jump the queue.

Ene 18, 10:04am

You'd think I might know what my hold limit is, but I don't. As soon as I have more than three or four going, I'm asking for trouble, since they invariably come in at the same time. Plus I'm really trying to read what I have already, with varying success—there's something so satisfying about seeing that the library has a copy of something new and shiny that catches my attention. I have three holds I'm waiting for at the moment, so I guess I'm not doing great on that count.

Ene 18, 11:26am

Hi Kay - I've never reached the check-out limit at my library, so I don't know about that. I think the limit for e-books is 10. And Lisa is right, they always come in at the same time. I tend to use the reserve list as a WL, which does get long.

The Harpy sounds like one I would like. Off to check to see if my library has a copy. :)

Editado: Ene 18, 11:38am

It is fascinating how, no matter what, the holds all come in at once. I've put on hold a book available at another branch, a book the library has on order and another book with hundreds of holds and had them all appear at once.

(only light hyperbole.)

Editado: Ene 18, 12:06pm

For some months now (in fact I've just checked and it's since October) one of my three holds has been occupied with a book that's coming out next month. It's been very difficult to prioritise my holds with only two to play with!

>85 RidgewayGirl: heh, good point!

Editado: Ene 18, 2:02pm

>88 rachbxl: I don't know if you have a Brooklyn Library Card or an NY Public Library card, but both allow 50 physical items to be checked out at a time (with a max of 10 dvds). (That took some searching to find!)

What I find curious is BPL only allows me 10 eBook/eAudio holds and since the pandemic started, NYPL only allows me three!

ETA: Hi, Kay!

Ene 18, 2:23pm

>93 ELiz_M: Well now I know how many holds my library (NYPL) offers, thank you! And actually I remember about the downgrade to three e-holds too. I guess because the library serves such a huge area—Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island—and even though it has deep pockets, there is still a finite number of ebook licenses. I'm sure that ebook use has gone through the roof in the past 10 months.

Editado: Ene 18, 2:44pm

>65 RidgewayGirl: i have been curious about this. For me Homegoing was hit and miss. (Hit in that I learned a lot, miss in that I wasn’t entirely drawn in to all lives.) Glad you enjoyed!

(Entertained by all the library hold knowledge.)

Ene 18, 3:20pm

My library allows 25 holds and 25 items to be checked out. I only do ebooks, but as far as I know the limits apply in any combination of physical books/ebooks. I’m almost always at my limit for both holds and checkouts. When you place a hold, they give you an estimate of when the hold will be available. Also if a hold comes in and you’re overwhelmed, you can defer to the next person in line, but retain your place. I love that since I switched to ebooks I have no more overdue fines!

Ene 18, 4:29pm

>93 ELiz_M: Queens Public Library. I have just delved deeper and discovered that my library wishlist has a limit too - but as it’s 5000 I should be ok for now.

Ene 18, 5:38pm

>97 rachbxl: Oh, of course! I had forgotten that the BPL non-residents card is (I think) limited to the US and that a Queens Public Library non-resident card is open to all.

Ene 18, 7:21pm

I worked in libraries for about ten years when I was younger, several of them, and I didn't know there were any libraries that had limits. Our children's room didn't have limits either. I have taken out 25 books quite a number of times, maybe 30 at times.

Ene 19, 3:33am

Catching up (boy, there's a lot of activity on all the threads at the moment - I'm perpetually behind). Also noting The Harpy as one to add to my WL.

Editado: Ene 19, 10:33am

I'm intrigued by The Harpy but I'm not sure how ready/willing I am for an uncomfortable read. Adding it to the wishlist for a time when I'm up for a challenge.

Ene 21, 7:35pm

I'm amazed by the huge disparities between library systems when it comes to putting books on hold. And jealous of those of you with access to more than one library system.

Ene 21, 7:36pm

A Brooklyn family finds the perfect holiday rental on Long Island. It's not near the beach, but it's beautifully appointed, has a pool and they can afford it. They settle in for their summer holiday, playing in the pool, relaxing in the jacuzzi, taking a day trip to the beach and enjoying themselves. Then things begin to happen. Someone knocks on the door. The daughter sees something extraordinary in the woods.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam is the kind of novel that you don't want to know too much about before you read. It depends on atmosphere and the reader's imagination for it's effectiveness and it ends at exactly the right point. This is also a novel where the characters remain somewhat unnuanced. I can see this being easily adapted for the screen because the novel doesn't depend on the interior lives of the characters, or more precisely, the characters outward appearances perfectly coincide with their thoughts and reactions. I did enjoy this novel. It was well-paced and unsettling.

Ene 22, 9:51am

I'm not sure about this one, Kay. I've heard widely differing opinions on it. I guess it's one that I will add to the read one day pile.

Ene 22, 11:43am

>98 ELiz_M: Yes, I am hugely grateful to Queens Public Library. I couldn't find any libraries in the UK I could use (though there may be some, of course), and the other US libraries I found open to non-residents aren't open to overseas non-residents.

>103 RidgewayGirl: The second intriguing review of this I've read this week. It's gone on my wishlist.

Ene 22, 12:47pm

Beth, the Tournament of Books is why I read this one now. I do think that the atmosphere of the novel really corresponded to the National mood when I was reading it.

Rachel, It would be interesting to find out what someone not living in the US makes of it.

Ene 22, 3:37pm

There's an article in the latest New York Review of Books about it (not sure if the link will work for all, I think you may have to register at least--free, btw):


Ene 22, 4:36pm

>107 LolaWalser: Thank you, I agree with the author's statement that ...Alam concentrates on examining his characters’ surfaces rather than excavating their depths. He goes deeply into their surfaces, but his purpose is not to delve into the characters's psyches or, as the article also mentions, have them develop over time. Which works in the case of Leave the World Behind, but I'm not sure it leaves me eager to read more by Alam.

Ene 23, 4:57am

>108 RidgewayGirl: very good point.

Ene 24, 2:13pm

There is nothing worse, certain painful and deadly diseases notwithstanding, than an unsatisfactory, piss-poor truth, whereas a satisfactory lie is all too easy to accept, even embrace, get cozy with.

Zach Wells is doing fine. He's a geologist/paleobiologist professor who feels like he's teaching on autopilot some days and there's a woman in his department who is probably not going to get tenure, but that's not his problem. His marriage feels dry, but they both love their daughter, so she keeps them together and, overall, life in Altadena, California is fine enough.

Then Zach has to deal with a pushy student and he finds himself drawn into his colleague's tenure worries. He receives an odd note, tucked into a jacket he ordered on-line and his daughter has been having some memory issues and blank spells that can't easily be explained.

In Telephone by Percival Everett, a father is stretched to the breaking point by his daughter's illness. Searching for distraction, he focuses on the slip of paper found in a garment he ordered off of eBay. This is a novel about loss and about discovering what's really important, about doing something because it's the right thing to do, without much hope of success, and also about how we distract ourselves from things that are too painful to be present for. I'm a huge fan of Percival Everett's work and this novel amplifies my admiration. Everett plays with the trust the reader has for the protagonist-narrator as he has done in previous novels.

Telephone is a novel published in three different versions, I read the "A" version and now am on a quest to find the other two. It's a challenge because it's impossible to tell the difference when ordering on-line, so it may take awhile, in this age of COVID, to track down the other two versions.

Ene 24, 5:05pm

>110 RidgewayGirl: That sounds very interesting. I think I've only read Erasure by Everett, but would like to read more.

Ene 24, 7:20pm

That sounds like a find of an author. I'm interested.

Ene 26, 1:04pm

>103 RidgewayGirl: reviews have been fun, but I think i’ll pass

>110 RidgewayGirl: I’ve been curious about Telephone. Noting your review. 3 versions seems - hmm.

Ene 26, 8:21pm

>111 wandering_star: I'm becoming more fascinated by this novel. I've ordered another copy, this one from Barnes and Noble, in the hopes it will be a different version. I'm curious as to the differences.

>112 sallypursell: Sally, I've really enjoyed the four of his novels that I've read.

>113 dchaikin: I wonder what you'd make of Telephone, since the protagonist is a geologist. I wonder if you'd find that interesting or think the author did a bad job in portraying him.

Ene 26, 8:22pm

There is possibly nothing more calming than a traditionally-structured novel about ordinary people leading ordinary lives, especially when that novel is solidly written in a way that doesn't draw attention to itself.

In Monogamy, Sue Miller writes about the marriage of Graham and Annie, from when they met in the seventies at the opening party for his bookstore, until a few years after Graham's death. This is a novel about grief; the pain of missing someone you love as well as the pain of discovering that that person was not who you thought he was. It's also about the roles we end up taking in a family and how impossible it is to change that.

This is a quiet novel, with a lot going on and I appreciated getting to spend time with each member of this family. It felt very honest and real and normal.

Editado: Ene 27, 5:23am

>115 RidgewayGirl: I hadn't heard of this before, but I see that my library has it. It's out at the moment but I have wishlisted it. (as mentioned above, I have no holds available!)

Ene 27, 5:46am

Great review of Telephone, Kay. I'm also a fan of Percival Everett, although I've only read half of the eight novels I own by him, so I'll definitely buy and read his latest novel this year.

Ditto on Monogamy, which also sounds very interesting.

Ene 27, 7:56am

>110 RidgewayGirl: 3 versions? I wonder how different they are from each other. Nice review.

I like Everett a lot as well - I discovered him by chance a couple of years ago and read 3 of his books very quickly. Probably should plan a return to him this year :)

Ene 27, 1:29pm

>114 RidgewayGirl: regarding geologists a protagonists.

It would be interesting to get Kevin’s input here if he catches this. I’ve learned to be mixed on this as author’s do this for their own reasoning regarding rocks, science, time, or, especially, exploitation. But i am attracted to books written by geoscientists - Rick Bass was a oil field geologist and George Saunders is trained to be a geophysicist - and i find that and how it plays in their work fascinating.

Ene 27, 2:30pm

>116 wandering_star: I was surprised at how much satisfaction I got from an old-school novel. I've been reading so many new novels doing new things that I forgot that a traditional novel is also great, and satisfying in ways more innovative novels are not.

>117 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I have loved the four I've read. In my hunt for other versions of Telephone, I ran into a copy of I am Not Sidney Poitier, so I have that one on hand now.

>118 AnnieMod: Annie, Everett isn't a flashy writer, but every word is deliberate. I'm glad he has a large body of work to explore.

Ene 27, 2:31pm

>119 dchaikin: Possibly geologists make a good choice too because so few of us understand what geologists do, besides look thoughtfully at rocks.

Ene 27, 2:57pm

>119 dchaikin:

Have you read Man in the Holocene by Max Frisch? To my mind best ever application of geology in literature. (Not that I can think of more than 3-4...:))

Thanks for putting Percival Everett on the map for me, everyone. I see he has done a book about Medea and I must have everything about Medea.

Ene 27, 3:46pm

>122 LolaWalser: never heard of this

Ene 27, 4:09pm

>122 LolaWalser: What's the name of it, LW? The book about Medea, I mean.

Ene 27, 5:37pm

>123 dchaikin:

I hope it finds you some day! I think you'd like it.

>124 sallypursell:

Hmm let's see--For her dark skin--a reworking of Euripides, it says, so not clear how many liberties were taken, if any.

Ene 28, 5:28am

>115 RidgewayGirl: Monogamy has gone straight on my wishlist. I'm a sucker for a 'quiet' novel (particularly now).

Ene 28, 9:33am

>126 rachbxl: Yes, it's absolutely the right time for a quiet novel! And for a novel that centers on grief, this was a lot less grim than many of the novels I've been reading lately.

Ene 28, 2:04pm

I've read one other Sue Miller novel, and I was struck by how well she portrayed families. Monogamy on my list; I think I'm about #10 at the library. Luckily I do have some other books to read.

Ene 29, 8:44am

>128 BLBera: I've read one other novel by Sue Miller - The Good Mother - which I've remembered despite reading it decades ago. I'm going to try to read a few more quiet novels this year, probably something by Anne Tyler or Marianne Robinson.

Ene 29, 8:55pm

>125 LolaWalser: I've been fascinated with Medea since Bulfinch's Mythology, when I was 9 or 10. It was the first time I could picture to myself what it would be like to be driven to an "unnatural" and horrid murder, or really, any murder. At ten I suppose few children think a lot about murder. I'll look forward to that book.

Ene 30, 12:51pm

>130 sallypursell: ...At ten I suppose few children think a lot about murder...

In my experience, kids at that age are pretty blood-thirsty and have a strong sense of injustice, so it surprises me not at all that you were fascinated by Medea. Possibly a good reason to hold off on the unexpurgated versions of mythology until later? I got my hands on an unDisneyfied version of Grimm's fairy tales around then, and they are pretty much entirely about murder. Doing murder, practicing murder, finding good reasons to do more murder...

Ene 30, 1:10pm

>131 RidgewayGirl: My parents didn't expurgate anything for me. I read Shakespeare, Grimm, and Bulfinch's Mythology all in the unbowdlerized forms at about that age. There's plenty of murder, now that I think about it, in Morte D'Arthur, which I read at that age. And I read Dumas, which has plenty of murder.

And you are right, of course. Ten year-olds are into justice and warfare in all their most blood-thirsty forms. I was only a few years older when my mother gave me Havelock Ellis' masterwork on the psychology of abnormal sex. I had asked a question about some perversion, I think. Anyway, when I gave it back to her she asked me if I had any questions, and I remember that I said, "I don't understand coprophagia." She said, "I don't get that one, either."

Ene 31, 6:37am

>15 BLBera: Nice review of the Sue Miller book.

Ene 31, 6:38am

Your last two books have gone straight onto my wish list. They sound like just what I feel like reading just now, although I have quite a few books on my TBR pile that I feel obliged to focus on for the next while.

Ene 31, 8:27am

I think ten-year-olds can be pretty dark—they've lived long enough to have a basic understanding of violence without quite grasping the implications. I remember having these fantasies about turning into Iron Man and beating up our principal in front of the whole school, and I was this very introverted little kid who liked stuffed animals and books.

It's funny, I saw that Sue Miller and it didn't really appeal to me, because I wasn't in the mood for what looked overwhelmingly a domestic novel—I think being home all the time makes me want to read further afield. But it sounds good in your description, so I definitely won't rule it out.

Ene 31, 12:32pm

>132 sallypursell: Yikes! Your poor mom, but her reaction was very good.

>133 avaland: Thanks, Lois.

>134 AlisonY: Alison, it's a scandal how quickly the "books I'd really like to read soon" pile grows. For me, it's not helped by having tabs open to both The Millions and Lithub's "most anticipated books of the first half of 2021" open.

>135 lisapeet: Lisa, it is very much a domestic novel. I go back and forth between wanting to read about faraway places and wanting the calm of a quiet novel to read as a counterpoint to the turmoil of the news.

Feb 1, 4:12pm

Bree is one of those moms. The ones who stay at home to care for their kids because they have so much money already. They're active in every area of their kids' private school and are kept busy taking their kids to expensive extracurriculars and making sure that their kids get the right kind of snacks after drama club. But while waiting to put out the carrot sticks and hummus for the kids, her infant son is kidnapped. Left behind is a note telling her to go home and wait for instructions if she wants him back.

What follows is Mother May I, a thriller by Joshilyn Jackson where a mother works to keep a kidnapper happy, find out who the kidnapper is and why she kidnapped her son and how to get him back, all without letting anyone else figure out that anything is wrong. She's soon joined by an old friend, an ex-cop who now works as an investigator with her husband's law firm on the proverbial race-against-time to save her son and discover some hard truths.

I'll give Jackson credit for purposefully choosing a heroine whose situation makes it difficult to cheer for. Her family is perfect, her daughter is the most talented one in the school play, she's gorgeous and she and her husband are in love in their perfect house. it's a lot, and while it's greatly mitigated later by learning about how she grew up and, of course, having her infant son kidnapped, it took me a long time to warm up to Bree. It wasn't helped by half of the chapters being narrated by the man helping her, a man who is deeply in love with her and likes to talk about how perfect she is.

Jackson is willing to tackle difficult issues, like how income inequality means unlimited do-overs for some and a half chance, at best, for others, and how what is seen as youthful hi-jinks for some, are life-destroying for others. This is a well-written and well-plotted thriller that is marred by an unrealistic too-happy ending and characters who remain stereo-types.

Feb 2, 11:05am

The kudzu had already taken over the silver post of the sign. No one had bothered to clean it off for a while, because they knew it would just swarm it again in a week or so. Why bother? Why bother.

Lord the One You Love is Sick by Kasey Thornton is a collection of tightly inter-connected short stories set in the small town of Bethany, North Carolina. Really, it's a novel where the focus shifts from one character to another, circling back to look at people and events from different perspectives. Beginning with a young man's overdose and the subsequent shattering of his family and his former best friend's guilt, this book looks at the darkest corners of small town life, how it smothers those who don't fit in, how it allows a judgmental complacency to thrive as well as a fear of the unfamiliar. It's also a novel about how deep roots in a place can sustain us and how we might need to come to terms with the place that nurtured us in order to move forward. It's telling that the most clear-headed character is an agoraphobic young man living in his mother's basement.

This is a gorgeously written book and by changing the viewpoint throughout, the reader is given a complex picture of the various characters. It's very effective method of story-telling, but makes the often difficult subject matter much more difficult to read. Thornton doesn't gloss over a single dark corner of small town life. This is an excellent addition to current Southern Lit and I look forward to reading whatever Thornton writes next.

Feb 2, 1:17pm

>138 RidgewayGirl: Another one onto the list. That sounds great.

Feb 2, 1:29pm

>138 RidgewayGirl: Oh goody, that one's on the pile already but no one I know had read it. Your review confirms why I picked it up in the first place, thanks!

Feb 2, 2:29pm

>138 RidgewayGirl: This one does sound great. Onto the list it goes. I haven't heard anything about it.

Feb 2, 2:59pm

>139 AlisonY: It's fantastic, Alison. You'll get quite a look at what life is like in the rural South.

>140 lisapeet: The cover on this one demanded that I read it right away. I found it disconcerting that the review from the publisher posted on goodreads compares Thornton to authors from Ohio and Idaho. This is a Southern novel and it's not like there aren't a ton of Southern authors writing in this same vein. I guess if you're writing copy from a big city, it's easy to see all of rural America as one thing. Well, now I feel old and curmudgeonly.

>141 BLBera: It was in the second half of the most anticipated books of 2020 that The Millions puts out and that I comb through making lists.

Feb 4, 9:34am

>137 RidgewayGirl: It wasn't helped by half of the chapters being narrated by the man helping her, a man who is deeply in love with her and likes to talk about how perfect she is. Hilarious! This would drive me up the wall too ;-)

>138 RidgewayGirl: Lord the One You Love is Sick sounds excellent.

Feb 4, 10:05am

>143 wandering_star: I will admit to rolling my eyes quite a bit whenever he talked about seeing her inner pain.

Lord the One You Love is Sick is excellent. I love finding new Southern authors.

Feb 4, 2:28pm

I love the Millions list as well, Kay. I must admit though, that I often miss books; there are so many choices.

Feb 4, 2:49pm

>145 BLBera: This may not come as a surprise, given that this is a cataloging website, but I do like a list. LitHub's has a lot of overlap, but there's enough of a difference with The Millions that I'm following each list.

Of the Tournament of Books books, I'm now ten down, with eight to go. This is the point each year where I wonder if I'll manage to read all of them, but at least I've read all the long ones.

Feb 5, 11:01am

Benson and Mike share a place in Houston's Third Ward. Their relationship isn't going well. Then Mike's mother comes to visit from Japan and the next day Mike flies out to Osaka to see the father he hasn't spoken to since he was a child. They are estranged, but when he hears that his father is dying, Mike finds that he needs to go care for him. Left behind with Mike's mother, Benson develops a cautious relationship with her, and along the way begins to come to terms with his feelings about his own family, one that kicked him out years ago but now needs him.

Memorial by Bryan Washington is a quiet novel about families and about figuring out how to still love your family after things have gone wrong. It's not quite about forgiveness, Washington isn't aiming for fairy tale endings, but here he looks at two men from fractured families and how in coming to terms with their families, they may be able to find a way to move forward together.

The writing in this novel is structured in short segments, some a paragraph long, some a few pages, making the novel read quickly and changing the emotional direction of the books to shift a lot. Washington was not afraid to make this novel as episodic and chaotic as life; this isn't a book where the reader knows where things are going and can settle in and enjoy how Washington gets there.

Feb 5, 1:42pm

I want to read this for the Houston (and 3rd ward) element.

Feb 5, 5:20pm

>148 dchaikin: I'm always pleased when a novel is set outside of New York and actually seems to be specifically located there.

Editado: Feb 5, 8:47pm

>147 RidgewayGirl: This is one I've been meaning to read, and the hold list at the library looks reasonable. His newest novel, Lot, looks interesting too.

Editado: Feb 6, 10:25am

>150 markon: Lot is actually a short story collection, and it came out a couple of years ago—I think it was his debut book. Also set in Houston, revolving around queer characters of color, and really good.

Feb 6, 5:56pm

Figuring by Maria Popova begins with an unforgettable image, that of the mathematician and astronomer, Johannes Kepler, racing through the night to rescue his mother, who was being tried for witchcraft. From there, Popova sets off on a wide-ranging look at a variety of things, from asking how it is that genius arises to examining how people negotiated lives outside of the traditional heterosexual framework in times when there wasn't even the language to speak about sexuality. At first the book seemed to be a scattershot of ideas and historical tidbits which, while interesting enough, do not make a coherent narrative. But Popova settles down into the meat of her book, a series of biographies of women, mostly living in the mid-nineteenth century, who lived extraordinary lives, far outside of the parameters allowed American women at the time.

Her subjects range from women who are now largely unknown, like Margaret Fuller and Harriet Hosmer, to household names like Emily Dickinson and Rachel Carson. Popova lets each woman's story speak for itself, but she also is primarily interested in how each woman dealt with chronic health issues and how they negotiated love and relationships, which were often found outside of what was seen as acceptable at the time they lived. Margaret Fuller's life was the most revelatory for me; I'd never heard of her, despite her having been famous in her time and a woman who was able to forge an independent path for herself. Rachel Carson's story was also particularly well-told.

I'd recommend this book for anyone who likes an author to explore side trails and ask questions as they arise, or for anyone interested in the lives of women, early feminism, women in science and in how people negotiated love lives that were not traditional and heterosexual in the nineteenth century. I felt early on that Figuring was too episodic, but Popova had a plan and I'm glad I stuck with it. It's a book that gets more fascinating as it goes.

Feb 6, 6:31pm

This sounds like one I would like, Kay.

Feb 6, 7:33pm

>153 BLBera: I really liked it, Beth.

Feb 6, 11:31pm

>152 RidgewayGirl: I'm very draw to that one, too.

Feb 7, 11:55am

>155 sallypursell: I think you'd like this one, Sally. There's some interesting stuff about how genius is nurtured and Popova spends a lot of time with each of her subjects as they age, which is far more interesting to me now than it would have been twenty years ago!

Feb 7, 2:59pm

The narrator of Red Pill is married with a small child and while his wife works as a lawyer, he's at home, caring for his daughter and finding himself unable to write. When he gets a three-month residency at a German center, he and his wife agree that he should take it and that he should return less angry. It doesn't work out that way. Wannsee, a lake community outside of Berlin, is gray and grim in the winter. It's also the site of the infamous Wannsee Conference, and the presence of that house across the lake weighs on him, as does a nearby monument erected in the memory of a histrionic and angry romantic poet who committed suicide on that spot. The narrator is upset that the center has rules and expectations and that his individuality as an American is not given the right amount of deference. He dislikes his fellow residents, it's not going well, he's not writing, the center is not inclined to let him stay, but he also feels like he can't go home.

Hari Kunzru has written a novel with an absolutely unlikeable character who always makes the worst choice possible as he cycles into angry despair, and yet this was a book I raced through. Kunzru can write and while I didn't want to spend time with the narrator, especially as he reacted to his brushes with white supremacists, I didn't want to put this book down and not see what would happen next. Kunzru wrote especially well about Berlin in the winter and how the dark, gray days take a toll on one's spirits.

Kunzru posted some pictures of Wannsee in winter on twitter. Here are a few of them:

Feb 8, 8:13am

>157 RidgewayGirl: I always love a book where a dislikable narrator is made accessible and interesting. That authorial sleight of hand is so fascinating to me.

Feb 8, 9:58am

>158 lisapeet: I was reading a novel at the same time where the narrator was both unlikeable and uninteresting and I struggled with it (review to come soon). I generally like novels with unlikeable main characters, but it's a hard thing to do -- create someone the reader doesn't like and make the reader want to spend time with them.

Feb 8, 10:19am

Great reviews of Figuring and Red Pill, Kay. Both sound very interesting, so I'll be on the lookout for them.

Feb 9, 1:10am

>156 RidgewayGirl: Oh, that really does sound great. Thanks, I'll look for that. Both my parents were geniuses or near-geniuses. I'd love to know more about that type.

Feb 10, 11:24am

>147 RidgewayGirl: So I was thinking this was set in a hospital and couldn't quite figure out how your review was fitting with that. The joys of Google - so now I know that Third Ward is an area, not a hospital floor.....

Feb 10, 3:58pm

Antara and her mother have always had a difficult relationship and now her mother, in her fifties, has dementia. As she struggles to find a solution to her mother's care Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi goes back in time to her unconventional upbringing in an ashram where her mother leaves her to be cared for by an American woman when she becomes the guru's newest paramour. Her adolescence and young adulthood are likewise marked by abuse and insecurity. Neither Antara nor her mother are able to relate to each other with love or respect and their other relationships are marked by conflict and manipulation.

An author takes a risk in choosing to write about an unsympathetic character. It's a balancing act to make the narrator unpleasant and to still have the reader invested in what happens to the narrator. And whether you think that Doshi succeeds in this will determine how you react to this novel. Doshi provides Antara with a childhood that should make the reader root for her and to understand why she is unable to form bonds with anyone, but then she multiplies the many ways Anatara's inability to form attachments harms the people around her.

This isn't an easy novel to read, nor is it intended to be.

Feb 10, 5:26pm

Nice review of Burnt Sugar, Kay. It was a DNF for me, as I found Antara and her mother both repulsive and uninteresting, but I know that others liked it.

Feb 10, 8:19pm

>164 kidzdoc: I struggled with it, Darryl. They were deeply unpleasant and not in a way that captured my interest. I usually love novels with disastrous women destroying their own lives and others along the way, but not this one. I do think that the writing was good and that Doshi was aiming for something. I'm not sure she was successful.

Feb 11, 11:56am

Great comments, Kay. Both Red Pill and Burnt Sugar sound interesting.

Feb 11, 1:17pm

Enjoyed these last three reviews.

>152 RidgewayGirl: Not sure Margaret Fuller qualifies as largely unknown, but she is definitely considered under-appreciated. Figuring sounds terrific.

>163 RidgewayGirl: Burnt Sugar isn’t due out on audio until this summer. (july ?) That’s probably how i’ll read it. Noting your review and especially that it’s intentionally difficult.

Feb 14, 3:48pm

I enjoyed Telephone a lot, but now I am wondering g about those differences again too. I thought it was just the clockwork on the cover but is the story different too?

And speaking of Everett, I only read this one and So Much Blue, which I also loved. Are there other books by him you could recommend?

I am looking forward to Red Pill thanks to your review!

Feb 15, 10:55am

>166 BLBera: They were. I think that Red Pill is significantly better than Burnt Sugar, but they are very different books.

>167 dchaikin: Daniel, I'm glad Margaret Fuller isn't forgotten. I hadn't heard of her, but my knowledge of the time and place she lived in are admittedly sketchy. Such a remarkable life!

>168 Simone2: Barbara, I really liked both Assumption, which certainly plays with the reader, and the more straight-forward Watershed. They're both westerns in a sense. I recently picked up a copy of his best known work, I Am Not Sidney Poitier and I'm looking forward to it.

The differences between the versions of Telephone, according to the reviews I read, are largely of tone, making the protagonist more sympathetic in one version than another, for example.

Feb 15, 4:09pm

If you haven't discovered the unique pleasures of Allie Brosh's unique view of the world, you're in for a treat.

She has a great understanding for both children and dogs, a willingness to be unsparingly honest and she's really, really funny.

Her latest book, Solutions and Other Problems is a graphic collection of personal essays that range from childhood memories to some tragic events in her adult life to observations about dogs.

Throughout, Brosh represents herself as a small, not quite human creature who wears hot pink and keeps her hair in a ponytail. Even in her essays about her life as an adult, she remains very small. It's an effective choice and it's remarkable how such a simply drawn character can display such a wide range of emotions. While some chapters packed more of a punch than others, all were excellent. If you're already familiar with Hyperbole and a Half, you've probably already read this. And if you aren't, you are in for a treat.

Feb 15, 5:07pm

I think the secret to her expressiveness is that she can REALLY draw, so the "simplicity" is the result of a highly-informed choice about what is shown under what angle etc. She can also, apparently, paint (I don't remember where exactly but beautifully painted squares occur in several stories in this volume). I hope this is not sounding snobby--there's nothing wrong with people drawing to their limits--it's just that with the proliferation of comics, people of Brosh's skill level are actually rare, but on surface it may appear they are just another "naif" who can't draw.

Editado: Feb 15, 5:24pm

>171 LolaWalser: I agree. There's real skill there. I think the choice of keeping the drawing of herself smaller and simpler than the people around her was really effective.

Feb 16, 2:46pm

The Kingdom of This World is a modern classic by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier about the revolution in Haiti. First published in 1949, this is not a book that would be written today; it's overwhelmingly male-oriented, with women existing mainly as objects of lust, prostitutes or to rape. And there's some interesting phrasing around issues of race. But setting that aside, this is an interesting look a the first successful slave rebellion in the western world.

The novel is told primarily through the eyes of an enslaved Black man named Ti Noel, who witnesses the first attempts to break free, lives through the successful revolt, accompanies the man who enslaved him to Cuba and finally returns to Haiti, where he lives through the oppressive reign of Henri Christophe and long after, always just trying to live free in that corner of Haiti he considers home. This is a slender novel that packs a lot in, provides a lot of information while being full of action, magic realism and life.

Feb 16, 5:54pm

I feel guilty about how long I've had that unread... especially as I liked his Los pasos perdidos and musicological writings. But I know what you mean about it belonging to another period, one feels the need to compensate for the bias in POV with such authors.

Feb 17, 7:32pm

>174 LolaWalser: By the standards of that time, he was quite progressive, but in 2021, there were more than a few times I winced at the phrasing.

Feb 18, 5:00pm

In a house where the lower levels are full of ocean and the upper levels full of clouds, lives a young man called Piranesi by the only person he knows. He doesn't remember his real name and so Piranesi will do as well as any other. The house has many rooms, staircases and vestibules and statues of every size line the walls. Piranesi spends his time getting what he needs from the ocean, keeping a journal, which he painstakingly indexes, charting the tides and exploring the house. He also meets with the one other person in this place twice a week, always at the same time and always only for an hour. Oddly, he never encounters the other man at any other time.

If you like world-building, Susanna Clarke's novel will delight. It's rich in detail, and the info-dumps are kept to a minimum. The reader learns about the house as Piranesi goes about his life and learns about who Piranesi is and how he came to this place along with Piranesi. As a narrator, Piranesi is a good companion, scrupulous in his explanations and endlessly good-natured and curious. And the story itself is well-paced. My quibbles with this book are largely personal or having to do with the genre itself. Clarke has done a good job at what she set out to do.

Illustrations are by Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

Feb 20, 1:57pm

>176 RidgewayGirl: Kay, I haven’t read anything by Clark, although I have Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell. My daughter has tried to get me to read it a few times, and I just haven’t had the urge. Have you read it?

Feb 20, 2:06pm

>176 RidgewayGirl: I liked Piranesi much more than you did, but then it is exactly the sort of book that appeals to me.

Editado: Feb 20, 2:08pm

>177 NanaCC: Colleen, I was interested in that one until I found out it was all about magic. I was hoping for a long, satisfying Victorian novel. Given my lack of interest in fantasy or magic, I was surprised to like Piranesi as much as I did.

>178 SandDune: Absolutely. If you're a fan of the genre, then this one is sure to delight. I liked it and I don't have much patience for magic in novels.

Feb 22, 10:50am

Way back in >12 RidgewayGirl: I reviewed The Pull of the Stars, which led to a brief discussion about a terrible procedure called a symphysiotomy. Turns out that this procedure led to the invention of the first chain saw. Here it is. Probably best not to think about how it was used exactly.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Feb 22, 1:25pm

Hideous. And you can imagine with what gentleness and circumspection the women were treated...

Feb 23, 10:53am

>181 LolaWalser: Words fail me on this one.

Feb 23, 4:43pm

So, hey, there's this book, Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, and it's about this guy named Marcos, who works for a slaughterhouse, as the second-in-command, doing all the meetings and employee-related stuff since his boss is not that great with people. It pays well, which is good because his father's nursing home is expensive. He's married, but his wife isn't living with him as they both deal with the sorrow over the death of their daughter. Oh, and the world has changed a little -- a mysterious virus rendered all animal meat poisonous to humans and so they switched to eating people. First poor people, but now humans are being raised for meat, it's a whole thing.

This novel is Marcos, going about his day, visiting butcher shops and suppliers, giving tours to new employees, and feeling not that enthusiastic about any of it. In fact, Marcos is feeling very judgmental about everyone, from his co-workers to the suppliers and customers he's supposed to be smoozing. And that's what this novel is, mostly. Marcos walks a pair of job applicants through the slaughterhouse, carefully describing the process. He visits a butcher shop, where he bangs the butcher and also describes what the butcher does, how she cuts the limbs and torsos and heads she receives from his slaughterhouse into cutlets and chops. He visits a customer, who shows off his hunting lodge, which has switched over to a Greatest Game sort of scenario, and discusses with him which specific kinds of people his clientele like to hunt and Marcos stays to lunch. Marcos visits a laboratory where experiments are run using people and even though he has been there many times, he is still taken on an exhaustive tour.

So this is pretty much a book about this world Bazterrica has dreamed up and all of the details of that world. The characterization is minimal, as is the plot, but those are not the point of this book. Tender is the Flesh is a sermon, of fire and brimstone and slippery slopes. It was not the book for me, not for the eating people thing, but because this book felt more like someone making a point than it did a novel.

Feb 23, 7:52pm

>183 RidgewayGirl: This one seems to be engendering a lot of mixed reviews in CR. Can't disagree with your sentiment.

Feb 24, 1:16pm

>184 stretch: Yes, and the pre-discussion about it before the Tournament of Books starts has been really interesting. Lots of different reactions. It will certainly be a more lively discussion than when everyone agrees.