Tag Archives: Hogarth

Woman No. 17, by Edan Lepucki

20 May
woman no 17 edan lepucki

Five of Five Stars

I wouldn’t be surprised if this book gets some negative reviews because of the unlikable characters – and make no mistake, there’s not much to like about any of them. But generally I find unlikable characters more interesting and more realistic. I mean, I feel like I’m pretty well liked in my life but I also related to some of the selfishness these women exhibit. Maybe we don’t like the mirror held up to our own souls, but I love to see how other (characters) deal with the stupid situations I sometimes get myself into.

The book switches between Lady, recently separated and living in the Los Angeles hills with her two sons, and “S” (for Esther), a Berkeley transplant recently graduated and trying to find herself. S gets a job as nanny to Lady’s youngest son while also getting a little too close to the teenage, mute son. Both women have mommy issues, both likely also have daddy issues, both are thoughtless, selfish, narcissistic and neurotic, and did I mention they have issues?

Seriously, these people are not very likable, but I was fascinated anyway. I think the fantastic writing is what keeps the reader hooked. The author is just a couple steps away from a great piece of contemporary literature, and I’m very excited to see where her future writing goes.

Not everything about the book was perfect. Lady and S live such parallel lives that I sometimes got confused with who was telling the story when they went back in time. S’s “artistic plan” feels like a bit of bullshit, but having known several artistic people I can’t quite say its unrealistic or implausible. I wish we got some real answers about the mute son. And in what I consider a better way to end books, nothing is really tied up with a nice bow.

Yeah, I know, this is a bit all over the place and I seem to be giving five stars to several unlikable characters and a problematic story. But the writing brings this book to another level. It’s also kind of a fascinating look into mother/daughter relationships, and how complicated they can be. I don’t want to say anything else about the story, just go into it blind and enjoy it.

Many thanks to NetGalley for allowing me an advance copy in exchange for a fair review.

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The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni Fagan

26 Jun
sunlight pilgrims jenni fagan

FIVE of Five stars

I don’t know in what genre this book belongs. According to plot synopsis I would think sci-fi or dystopian, but really it’s more British Lit, or “Amazing and Beautifully Written Literature”, which is a new category I just made up now.

The story is set just four years into the future, and as far as a dystopia, they aren’t quite there yet. The world is basically the same as ours, they have cars and internet, electricity and cell phones, all the basic infrastructure, and no rioting in the streets. BUT. Global Warming has caused the polar ice caps to melt so much that a new Ice Age has been triggered, and it’s about to start on page one of the book.

So what we have is a cast of three main characters who gradually move from our normal life – or as normal as anyone’s life can be – to preparing for a winter which no one may survive. But no one can really imagine a life in -65F weather, so there is even excitement about viewing the giant iceberg that’s headed right for Clachan Fells, the tiny village in Scotland where they live.

But all this is just the background setting for the relationship between these three characters. We have Dylan, the 6’7″ man who traveled from London to Clachan Fells, to scatter the ashes of his mother and grandmother in the Orkney Islands, where his ancesters are from. He decides to spend the winter in Clachan Fells where his mother has left him a caravan to live, and he meets and becomes close to his neighbors. Constance is the young independent mother with a bad village reputation (she’s had two lovers, simultaneously, without marrying or living with either of them! EGADS!). She desperately loves her 13 year old daughter Stella, whose estranged father lives up the mountain with his own wife. Stella is an amazing character in that she is actually trans, yet the story isn’t necessarily about her being trans; she just IS. We do see the problems and issues she must go through, and it is a heartbreaking and hopeful life that she has, but the book is still about the relationship between the three of them.

As we progress from November 2020 to January 2021 and beyond, the world gets colder and colder, and we meet other villagers such as the beloved alcoholic Barnacle, whose spine has curled his body into the letter C. We watch as Dylan and Constance become closer, and discover the connection they all have with each other.

But first and foremost, the reader just enjoys the beautiful writing. There were many words I had to look up, either because they were more British or Scottish, or they described snow and ice features that this California girl has no knowledge of. Jenni Fagan takes us to a beautiful and eerie Ice Age in the tiny Scottish village, and her descriptions have you completely present in the story. I could see in my mind every detail of the Northern Lights when they arrived, and my imagination can tell you it was an amazing, glorious sight.

You will come to love Stella, and admire Constance, and root for Dylan. You will very very slowly understand the horror that an Ice Age would bring. And you will enjoy every single beautiful word of this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Penguin First to Read program for allowing me to review a copy of this book. It’s one of the most wonderfully written books I have read this year.

The Dinner, by Herman Koch

5 Sep
FIVE of FIVE stars

FIVE of FIVE stars

Book Form: Holy crap! This thing goes unexpectedly DARK halfway through, and somehow gets even darker and darker and darker until the last horrifying missing piece comes in at the end. GREAT book, but be prepared for the darkness.

I had thought I was getting a more comical Gods of Carnage (a play that I hate with all my being) when I got this book. So I was very pleasantly surprised when that turned out to not be the case. I am a little surprised that so many reviews are hating the book because they hate the characters. I think that is part of the point though… you are led to think one thing about the characters at first, and then halfway through, like a play, discover nothing is as it seems. It takes you deep into serious mental and psychological issues as well. I felt like┬áthe dislike of the characters was very important to the story.

As for the comparisons to Gone Girl… the publishing world needs to stop saying that every book with a twist is the next Gone Girl. In fact this book is MILES ahead of Gone Girl by ending when it should instead of dragging out the story an extra 100 pages. And unlike Gone Girl, where one character suddenly starts behaving in ways they never should have (someone so smart to have committed that crime should not have made so many mistakes later on), the changes in the characters from The Dinner are just slowly revealed to us. The changes don’t go against character, we just realize we never knew them to begin with. As for story comparison, it reminded me much more of Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, where you really did not see the culprit coming.

In short, I loved this book.

My second “reading”, this time on Audible.
Just as fantastic. I still don’t understand any negative reviews; this story is told brilliantly and voiced perfectly by Clive Mantle. It’s been almost two years since I had read the book, and I couldn’t remember many of the details, so I was still surprised over and over again. I could recommend either book or audio, they are both great. The best word I can think of to describe this book really is simply brilliant.