One thing this 100 degree summer offered was plenty of down time. With temperatures soaring and AC working overtime, I spent a lot of time in my living room. On some weekends, I sprinted through 2 or 3 books at a time – some boring, some interesting, some endearing. Here’s a quick run down of some high (and low) -lights.
A Passage to India: E.M. Forster – two stars
This was not a good start to the summer reading list. This book sat on my shelf with it’s golden yellow binding and pristine font, beckoning just like a sunrise over the Taj Mahal. Then I started reading. Bear in mind this was written in 1924, and you may understand why I struggled. There were far too many times in this book that I read a descriptive paragraph, read it again, and read it one more time just to see if I could paint the picture in my mind. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Oof.
Franklin Flyer: Christopher Nicholas – four stars
Set in the tumultuous times of the Great Depression, this story is about a young inventor and traveler. Two parts history, one part imagination it is a colorful human tale. As Publisher’s Weekly noted: “If Graham Greene collaborated with the creator of Dick Tracy, the result might read like this…” The cover alone was enough to tempt me: a yellow fedora whirling through the canyons of what could be a black & white Manhattan.
Sima’s Undergarments for Women: Ilana Stanger-Ross – three stars
While surfing Bookmooch for my next title, I stumbled on this little gem. In a basement lingerie shop in Brooklyn, you meet a determined (and conflicted) woman and her new hire. Through the trappings of silk stockings and the tricks of fitting, the author breathes life into a saleswoman, wife, Jewess and woman with a lot to give.
Chocolat: Joanne Harris – four stars (followed later by sequel The Girl With No Shadow). After many years of stalking this book, I finally came across a copy and devoured it, as it’s title required. This was not my first brush with Joanne Harris, as she debuted in my Spanish apartment with Gentleman & Players. She paints a beautiful story, with food and it’s accoutrements, and a wee bit of magic. Shortly after finishing the book, I rented the movie. Let’s be honest, Johnny Depp also added a little something to the story. (The sequel is equally enjoyable, in a different way).
The Time in Between: Maria Dueñas – five stars
This is the book of the summer, and possibly the book of a lifetime. Set in yet another wicked time period – the Spanish Civil War – the book is lightning fast and full of intrigue and emotion. I’ve recommended it to friends left and right saying, “It’s like reading a movie.” I originally thought she was writing in her second language (English) and was blown away. I’ve since discovered it was originally authored in her first language (Spanish) and I’m still blown away. Often times translated books struggle to get their point across, but this one is a grand exception. (El Tiempo Entre Costuras is high on my list of Spanish novels). As opposed to my brush with Forster, I was re-reading paragraphs in this book for sheer joy. Por favor, Doctora Dueñas, write us another.
McCarthy’s Bar: Pete McCarthy - three stars
Inspired by my upcoming trip to Ireland, I picked up what I thought would be an intriguing memoir about the country. And it is, in it’s own way. One of McCarthy’s cardinal rules: Never walk past a bar with your name on it. You can imagine his success with this rule on the Emerald Isle. Spurred on by questions about his heritage (half English, half Irish), he circles around the country with a wry sense of humor and a taste for Guinness.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Rebecca Skloot – three stars
This was the freshmen reading selection at my university this summer, so I was surprised to find a copy at the local public library. Knowing at least half of the story, I hopped right into the complicated plot of cells, cancer, family, and privacy. It’s clear a significant amount of research went into the novel, although sometimes I question the delivery. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for the breakdown of this book.
Any good reads (or bad ones) for you this summer?