Friday, November 24, 2006

This Too Can Be Yours (by Beth Lisick)

I am not usually into collected short stories, for some reason. I don't like stories ending right when I am getting into them; it seems like as soon as I get invested in a character or a situation, it's over. But Lisick's characters and stories are engaging right away, and the stories are connected subtly, if you look closely enough. (I love the way readers assign meaning to small details. As a writer, you probably don't have to work very hard to connect your stories, because your reader will grasp at anything to create connection. Is that profound or obvious? I can't tell.) Anyway, I loved this book. It really whetted my appetite to read Everybody Into The Pool, which for some reason I have not yet read. It's next on my list.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Friend For Keeps: The Club #2 (by Patricia Aks)

When I was a kid, I had a library of young adult books that I would read over and over again. They ranged in quality from good to incredibly dippy. I still bring them with me wherever I go for comfort reading. One of the incredibly dippy ones is called The Club and I like it partly because of its dorkiness. This shy girl goes to boarding school, joins a secret club, and comes out of her shell. I must have read it at least fifty times, especially since it takes about forty-five minutes to read. So when I found out there was a sequel, I had to order it and read it! It is equally dippy, and yet the twelve-year-old inside me was very excited. And so here it is, on my reading list. I am so sophisticated.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Atonement (by Ian McEwen)

Finnegans Wake is still sitting on my bookshelf, taunting me. If I can finish it by the end of the year, I will have completed a New Year’s Resolution! Yeah. Yet there is the problem of the finishing. And the reading. And the picking it up off the bookshelf..

In the meantime, I am onto the Time list, and Atonement is another book that Ian already had on our bookshelves. Very handy, his book collection. Reading this book was an experience. I started out absolutely loving it—the prose is pitch-perfect, masterful. Then at the end of the first part, you find out what happens, and it is so depressing that I had a hard time picking it up again. I get all anxious at the idea of Tragic Misunderstanding, I suppose.

The next part was the war part, and it took me a little while to get into it, but it is very vivid, very much like A Farewell to Arms, which I did not love, but do acknowledge did a great job of portraying a war march. McEwan did a great job as well. and I definitely did care about the character. Unlike Beth, I did not pick up on anything about the novel’s structure at this point.

Then came the nurse section, which brought me closer to being sympathetic toward Briony, but not really, as I still wanted her to suffer more—which I guess was the point, in the end. And then came the ending, and now I am going to spoiler tag:

At first the whole metafiction coda made me upset, but that’s probably because I really wanted the semi-happy ending for the characters. Beth said that she was afraid Robbie would turn out to be the villain after all—I had that same fear! Upon reflection, I think that the ultimate reveal is perfect. It adds a beautiful layer of meaning to the whole story—not only does it provide the final tragic blow to the reader, but it reveals that Briony’s atonement was to get inside the heads and hearts of these people, to fully convey the depth of her crime against them. Minor plot question: I didn’t think that Lola actually knew Paul had done it, although Briony clearly did think that, from her behavior in the church and her statements at the end. I thought Lola was confused, in spite of having been attacked by Paul earlier, and I blamed Briony from start to finish. Also, what kind of a name is that? Sorry, I have an issue with implausible names.

I also have the feeling that I need to think about this book more. Maybe Ian or Foo can convince me that the ending is a bad idea after all. (I think they both think that.)