Books Read: December 2020
Another month and another round of books read. In many ways I can’t believe the year is over and in others I’m so glad that it’s over, what a strange, sad, and difficult year. Books definitely got me through it and I did a bit of a round up and read over 60 books this year which may be a record for me. This month, with two weeks of vacation at the end, I’ve been reading more than ever.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
I honestly had no idea what to expect when I started this novel, but everyone was talking about Susanna Clarke as she’d just published her second novel. As you follow Mr. Norrell in his quest to bring magic back to England and he takes on a student, Jonathan Strange, you see what can happen when you open the way to that magic. Set during the wars with Napoleon, Strange and Norrell open up the way to magic in England and use it in the wars, but don’t realize exactly what they’ve done until it’s already under way.
The Memory of Babel
The third book in the Mirror Visitor triology is not bad, but it’s not nearly as thrilling as the two previous books. Christelle Dabos continues the story of Thorn and Ophelia, this time taking us to another ark where there is no crime and life is perfect (on the surface at least). But of course, life can never really be perfect. Ophelia is trying to find Thorn and also continue on the mystery of who or what is controlling the universe. I’m fascinated that this has ended up being a story about God, so many YA series like this are about that and it’s interesting that yet again someone is telling a story to explain God, which becomes much more real and apparent in this installment.
The American Agent
Another Maisie Dobbs mystery and with it I’ve caught up to the author, this is the latest that’s been published. We find Maisie at the beginning of The Blitz in 1940 London investigating the death of an American reporter who’s trying to become one of Murrow’s boys. It’s a good mystery, I didn’t see the end coming, and it’s the usual escape for me, I enjoy the character quite a bit.
There is something about Elizabeth Strout’s writing that makes me think so much about my grandmother and about the place in which I grew up, even though she’s never written about Minnesota. In Olive Kitteridge Strout has written so beautifully about a town, a woman who’s part of that town through and through and how she interacts and lives with her community. Olive isn’t a nice woman or a perfect woman, but she is a fascinating character that had echoes of people I’ve known. As I read I often felt melancholy, the stories aren’t necessarily uplifting, but they are so true to life and families and how utterly difficult relationships are.
What young people didn’t know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly, as if it were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn’t choose it. And if her platter had been full with the goodness of Henry and she had found it burdensome, had flicked it off crumbs at a time, it was because she had not known what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered. (page 270)
Dept. of Speculation
I’ve had this book on my list for a long time and when I needed something to read while waiting for my turn in the hold line for some other books, I decided to give it a try. It’s a quick read, beautifully written, and I loved it. Jenny Offill tells a love story with the most important bits at the forefront, skipping around the thoughts of a woman who, if I’m being honest, felt somewhat like she and I had the same type of mind. And now I’m off to read all of Offill’s work.
The reason to have a home is to keep certain people in and everyone else out. A home has a perimeter. But sometimes our perimeter was breached by neighbors, by Girl Scouts, by Jehovah’s Witnesses. I never liked to hear the doorbell ring. None of the people I liked ever turned up that way. (page 18)
But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be. (page 114)
This epic story of a Korean family living in Japan throughout the 20th Century is beautiful and so well written by Min Jin Lee. I’ll admit to complete ignorance on the history of Korea and Japan and what happened between the two countries and that so many Koreans lived in Japan. Lee tells their story through that of one family, a woman marries a pastor and they immigrate to Japan and the story follows her and her family throughout the next 70 years. It sucked me in from the beginning and I had a hard time putting it down.