I really, really need a good book. Not just a good book, but a great one. A big bitey, juicy, descriptive, character-driven book. One that will captivate me in the first chapter, transport me to wherever it is set, and make me forget all about the world… kind of book.
Not necessarily a serious book, but a seriously interesting one. A book like The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, or A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, or The Children Act by Ian McEwen. A new Penelope Lively, maybe. Or the aptly named masterpiece, Euphoria, which Lily King wrote a few years ago. These books conjured up reader’s euphoria, for me. The feeling you get after reading only a few pages when you know that you’re going to be able to dive into the book, learn some really cool stuff, love and/or love to hate the characters, and feel as if you’ve been on a trip to a far away land. Yeah. That’s what I need right now.
Maybe a big fat, terribly well written mystery like Peter May’s Lewis trilogy. Or the books Ruth Rendell and P.D. James used to write.
I’ve been listening to some old Ruth Rendell novels on my i-pod lately while I pedal. Most recently Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter read by Robin Bailey. Bailey’s deep, smokey voice is wonderful; I mean with 12 hours of listening in store, one had better like the sound of his voice. He reads Chief Inspector Wexford’s part perfectly… and Inspector Burton… well, he has Burton’s cultured, sometimes sarcastic, often bored tones down pat. As a narrator, Bailey becomes the characters. Even though I read the novel myself years ago, I still love to hear it aloud. If an audiobook is well done you can disappear into the words and come up for air when the housework is done, or the 50 minute pedal is complete, and not even notice you’ve been doing something you patently hate to do.
I’ve read a few pretty good books lately. I enjoyed My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. I didn’t love it. Still, Strout is a really good writer. I was fascinated by the character and her developing writing career. I found the plot structure creative and interesting, and the hinted at, but not fully developed, elements from the past well handled. But I didn’t adore the book.
Similarly I liked, but didn’t adore, Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, recommended by a reader of this blog. I finished this book a few weeks ago and then passed it on to Hubby. We both were drawn in by Grenville’s ability to capture time and place. I found myself catapulted back to nineteenth century east London, the docks, the river, the poverty, and the society that pretty much conspires to prevent the poor from bettering their lives. The second part of the book set in colonial Sydney, Australia is similarly evocative. The convict settlers and their families, how they manage to survive in a harsh landscape, the dreams of some for a better life, and the inevitable conflict which arises between the indigenous people and the newcomers. I’d recommend this book. Grenville is a really good writer. In fact, I wish I were still teaching, I’d ask my students to read it. But as I said… I didn’t adore it. And right now… I’m searching for something that I can adore.
I didn’t find it, either, when I read Elly Griffiths’ latest offering. Blood Card, the most recent book in the Magic Men series was okay. A bit thin, I thought. The backdrop of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 was interesting, but…meh… I’d not say this was close to Griffiths’ best work.
The other day I went browsing for a good book at the local Indigo book store. I have a couple of gift cards that I haven’t yet used. I sipped coffee, and sidled along the rows, looking for something that peaked my interest. These were the contenders, below. Clearly the fifties are having a moment in fiction. Many of the books I picked up are set in the fifties. I like Kathleen Tessaro, so The Perfume Collector is a possible. And yes, I do admit I picked it up because of the cover. Same with The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant. The idea of sisters in a small post-World War II town trying to make it in the fashion business interests me. My problem is that I need to know I’ll really love the book, that it’s a book I’ll want to keep on my shelves, before I buy.
|The contenders. Maybe.|
I’m picky about books I buy these days. I use the library so much. Even to download books for my i-pad. A few weeks ago, the local librarian introduced me to a new ap called “Cloud Library.” I was 78th or something on the “holds” list for a book I needed for book club, but saw on the Ottawa Public Library website that the branch in Kanata, a 30 minute drive away, had it on their express shelves. I tore over there, but, someone had signed it out before I arrived. Crap. So the librarian helped me sign up for “Cloud Library” on my phone. “Cloud Library” allows you to access e-books from the express shelf of your local library. You just have to download the ap, choose the country and province or state where you live, and bingo. Here’s the link. As long as your library is linked to this network and you have a valid library card, you’re free to get free books really fast. I’ve read two or three books that way already.
Aren’t libraries magnificent? I have such fond memories of libraries growing up. The old brick town library in Marysville when I was a kid. The big wood tables inside. Scuttling home with an armful of books. The day when the “bookmobile” would visit the school. Sigh. But I’m digressing. And I’m no closer to finding a great big juicy book for this upcoming week.
|Some of the contents of our big bookshelf relocated temporarily to the sun room.|
You see, we’re having work done on our house this week. The old wall-to-wall carpet will be ripped up all over the house, and hardwood floors installed. So with all the dust that will be swirling, the hammering, and the sawing that will be taking place in every room except the kitchen, and the bathroom, and the sun room which will be plugged with furniture from all those other rooms, I’m going to be hard pressed to find a place to put myself. I may have to decamp to a coffee shop nearby, maybe back to the bookstore, or to the library for a verrry long read. So… you see my problem.
But, I’m not despairing, my friends. I’ll save my despair for when I shop for wide-legged pants later this season. Ha.
I do have another Elizabeth Strout book waiting for pick-up at the library. Dottoressa (I believe) recommended Olive Kitteridge a few posts ago. So, her vote and the fact that it’s set on the coast of Maine are signs I might love this book. If you know your North American geography, you’ll know that Maine is as close as you can get to New Brunswick, where I’m from, without actually being in New Brunswick. In fact my brother Terry was born in Maine because the hospital in Fort Fairfield, Maine was closer than the nearest Canadian hospital.
I generally hate to read reviews before I’ve read the book myself. So I kind of skimmed this positive review of Olive Kitteridge with one eye, not wanting to see too much detail, even as I wanted to see if the reviewer thinks it’s a good book. Like going to the bathroom in the middle of the night with one eye open and one shut so you don’t wake up fully. Yeah, I know, that’s weird.
Still, if you have a recommendation for a book you think I’ll adore, my wonderfully well-read, erudite, yet modest friends, please weigh in. Remember it doesn’t have to be a serious book. Just a big, bitey, delicious, seriously interesting book.
Okay. It’s your turn, now.