Summer reads, last installment

by anneMoore on August 29, 2017

 

IMG_7925Bliss: three weeks off the grid at our home within Club Lac Pythonga in Quebec. Few bugs, hot sun, lake water the perfect temperature for swimming. I kayaked, practiced yoga outdoors, gazed at stars, visited with friends. So much time and quiet, a good place to write and read.

I finished the fourth and last of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, The Story of the UnknownLost Child. If you haven’t read this series, I urge you to: it’s rare to read the lives of women, of a long friendship, careers, children, love and loss. The personal is the political: always the violent workings of Naples, and Italy, is present in these books. I didn’t especially like the first in the series, My Brilliant Friend, but everything that follows hangs on it. I’m glad I kept reading: such drama!

Always I bring a classic for my summer reads and this year I chose Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. I’d read his The Scarlet Letter (again: Unknown-1who assigns this to a 14 year old?) a few years ago, also Melville’s Moby Dick, and with both I was enthralled by story and language. No wonder they’re classics! Well, all classics need not be read, including The House of the Seven Gables. It’s the overwrought !!! tale of the cursed family Pyncheon. If you ever feel the need to read it, think: Anne did it for me.

World War 1 and its poets have always interested me. Testament of Youth, by Vera Unknown-2Brittain is a memoir of that time and those people. Brittain worked as a nurse at the French front and in London hospitals; her poet fiancé, her brother and their best friend die over the course of the war. I wept more than once over her losses, and later for her awkward re entry into every day life post war. This is a big story, beautifully told.

My “beach read” this summer was Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown. I was engaged throughout, didn’t guess its conclusion until the last page and didn’t feel the need to shower after reading because of hateful non-sensible characters (Gillian Unknown-3Flynn’s Gone Girl). Brown’s characters are mostly believable and I felt for them. Here’s the story: Bille Flanagan disappears hiking in the California wilderness, but her body is never found. Dead or alive? Teenage daughter Olive has visions of her mom and follows her commands. Husband Jonathan is writing a memoir of Billie and discovers a whole life he’d never know about his wife. A quick, engrossing read.

My on-her-way-to-college daughter pressed two books on me.

Unknown-4Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson tells the true stories of men on death row and Stevenson’s efforts to free them. One of those reads I’ll never forget.

The other is a political satire that everyone in her freshman class was asked to read. The book is A Man of the People, by Chinua Achebe, first Unknown-5published in 1966. It’s set in an unnamed African country run by a dictator; I’d say the corruption, thievery, betrayals, grandstanding, double talk and misogyny in the book boggles the mind, but with Trump in power it feels like our everyday.

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