I finally finished Hunting and Gathering by Anna Galavada a few days ago — it is the longest book I’ve read in years. It is the story of three unlikely friends living in Paris who create their own unconventional family when their own families let them down. The book is character-driven, rather than plot-driven. In close to 500 pages, Galavada delves deep into each of character’s backstory, and explores the way their personal histories impact their relationships with others. I did feel that the book was a bit longer than it needed to be, but I enjoyed it. I noticed that there is a movie version, featuring the actress who played Amelie! Maybe I can watch it on Netflix someday.
We returned from our honeymoon trip Saturday, and it’s been a whirlwind of catching up on work at home and in the office ever since. I’ll post a few pics from the trip later, but for now, I thought I’d mention the books I finished reading before, during and right after our trip.
First, I read Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. The first great thing about this book is that the author went to my alma mater, N.C. State. After reading The Paris Wife , the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, I was interested to read about Fitzgerald’s wife. The stories intersected a great deal, because of the circle both couples belonged to in Paris. I must say, I enjoyed reading about Zelda a great deal more than reading about Hadley Hemingway. While Zelda’s story was not ultimately happy, she was a lively and unique woman with many talents and skills of her own. While Hadley’s story involved her being Hemingway’s doormat at all times, Zelda was much more her own person with hobbies and ideas of her own. I really enjoyed this book!
Next, I read The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. It was an exciting and suspenseful, yet fictional, twist on the story of the real-life art thefts from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but this book was really great.
The final book I read on the trip was The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, which went hand-in-hand with Z and The Paris Wife. It was the story of Anne Morrow, the wife of famous aviator Charles Lindenbergh. I enjoyed learning about Anne’s life, but after reading all three books about women with such oppressive husbands, I felt a bit depressed. Anne’s life was very exciting at times, but ultimately, Charles was in control. I guess all I can say is that I’m glad times have changed.
Is it ok if I don’t really say much about Farewell Waltz by Milan Kundera? I decided to read it because we’re leaving for our honeymoon trip to Prague and Paris this weekend (!!!), and Kundera is a Czech/French author. I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being during my first trip to Prague, and I loved the story that took place in the city where I was living at the time. Farewell Waltz wasn’t bad, and I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t love it or even care very much about it.
Let’s see how many books I can read during about 20 hours of airplane time over the next week!
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros was short and pleasant to read. This classic novel is written from the point of view of a young girl living with her parents and siblings in a poor Latino neighborhood in Chicago. While the heroine, Esperanza, is surrounded by poverty and sadness, she sees joy and excitement in small things in her neighborhood and amongst her neighbors. She dreams each day of living in a real house away from Mango Street with two stories and a beautiful yard. The book comes across as a collection of short stories, or anecdotes, told by Esperanza. Some are sad, and some are uplifting. I highly recommend reading this!
After all the craze over The Great Gatsby over the past year, I wasn’t even surprised when I stumbled upon a “Party at Gatsby’s” cropped tank on Pinterest. I guess there are worse cultural obsessions than a classic piece of literature! While I love Gatsby as much as the next person, I decided it was time I read something else by Fitzgerald. I chose This Side of Paradise. The book–Fitzgerald’s first–is the semi-autobiographical story of a wealthy, egotistical young man beginning in his late childhood years and ending in his mid twenties. The language in this book was pretty tedious for me, and I didn’t really enjoy much of it. I actually checked Spark Notes when I was finished reading just to make sure I had actually understood everything that happened, and thankfully, I had.
Even though this wasn’t my favorite book, it was interested to read Fitzgerald’s earliest work, written when he was just 23-years-old.
My opinion of this book was probably doomed from moment I placed it on hold at the library. After reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene this spring, I was obsessed. I just had to read more by the author, and hoped Looking for Alaska would be as great (or greater!) Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.
I think the reason for my disappointment is the fact that while both books fall under the Young Adult category, the heroine in The Fault in Our Stars is wise beyond her years. She’s a high school student, but because she’s battling cancer, she has a wisdom that is unmatched, even among adults. In Looking for Alaska, the characters are high school students who come across as…high school students. I thought the story was fairly compelling, but I just didn’t love it the way I loved Stars.
Oh well, on to the next book! I’m looking forward to some extended reading time as I fly to and from Chicago this weekend for the BlogHer Conference. Plus, I’ll see Shana there!
Something sort of strange happened a few Saturdays ago. Alex and I headed to our new favorite coffee shop in the neighborhood to use someone else’s air conditioning for a while. I had requested 10 books from the New York Public Library, and eight of them came in at once. I decided I had better start getting through the stack, and chose Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn to start. I had heard a lot of buzz about about the book, but didn’t know any of the plot details. I started reading and COULD NOT STOP. We hung around the coffee shop for an hour or so, then went back home. I kept reading. I stopped for a quick trip to the grocery store, and then to make dinner, and started up again. Before I knew it, it was after midnight and I was on the last few pages of the book! Gone Girl, a murder mystery, was so gripping that I read all 450ish pages in one day. The whole story was mind boggling. Pick a day that you have lots of free time to start reading this book!
Hens Dancing by Raffaella Barker was a perfectly pleasant summer read. The book is written diary-style by a single mother of three small children, Venetia, living in the English countryside with a brood of hens, piglets, dogs, cats and plenty of other creatures wandering in and out of her home. Venetia’s life fluctuates between idyllic and chaotic as she manages her children and home with minimal help from family members and random visitors. She is honest and witty, and her family’s adventures out in the country had me longing for a large field to run through or a pond to swim in. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Summertime, after I get through the stack of library books I picked up Friday–it turns out when you put ten books on hold, you might receive them all at once!
I’m a little bit behind on blogging, and for good reason! But I’ll get to that later. In the midst of a few busy weeks, I read what turned out to be one of my favorite books–The World to Come by Dara Horn. The book is about a young man living in New York and his connection to an art heist from a Jewish museum in the city. The book is full of Yiddish folklore, which I absolutely love. The World to Come confirmed for me that Jewish literature is my favorite sub-genre. See: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, City of Thieves by David Beniof…I could go on! What I like most about these books is the connection their characters have to their family members–living and deceased, and those they knew and didn’t ever get to meet. The World to Come told the stories of four generations of a family who had gone through plenty of hardships and adventures over decades past, and used those experiences and stories as they carried their family traditions forward. I highly recommend this book! In fact, you can borrow it from me–I actually purchased it!
In addition to reading, in the past two weeks, I:
1. Flew to North Carolina to get married,
2. Flew back to Brooklyn and packed up my apartment, as well as Alex’s apartment and
3. Moved from Brooklyn to our new apartment in Greenwich Village.
Oops! I am super behind on updating my blog. With my wedding just four days away, I guess I’ve been pretty busy! I finished Death is Not an Option by Suzanne Rivecca a week or so ago. The thing is, as many times as I’ve tried to read short story collections, I just don’t like them–I’d much rather immerse myself in a long novel with plenty of character development throughout. This particular collection is a set of stories about girls and young women, with Catholicism and guilt being a common thread between nearly all of them. The stories were quite dark, and while well-written, I just didn’t enjoy them. I guess I will officially give up on short stories!
Now I’m reading The World to Come by Dara Horn, and I’m loving it so far. I’m looking forward to some reading time on the plane as I fly home to North Carolina tomorrow for the wedding Saturday!