Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fiction Corner: Recent Reads

Winter's a good time for curling up with a novel, and I've done some of that, in between making beaded jewelry and working on my etsy site. I've recently read a couple of good ones.

Thanksgiving Night by Richard Bausch. This one has been on my TBR (to be read) shelf for a while. I'd actually meant to read it in November when the time was appropriate. That said, it isn't really about the holiday, of course, even though this hallowed and very American occasion does take place at the end of the book and the notion of "thanksgiving" is certainly explored. In case you're not familiar with him, dear readers, Richard Bausch is an excellent prize-winning writer with many novels to his credit. And here's an interesting biographical tidbit: his twin brother, Robert Bausch, is also an excellent writer of novels. The two may well be the only identical-twin novelists in literary history. The outstanding strength of Thanksgiving Night is its in-depth development of characters who become real for the reader and Bausch's ability to make their personal challenges and questions resonate as universal challenges and questions -- about love, loss, faith, courage, and change.

Another favorite writer of mine from many years back is Anne Tyler. In contrast to Bausch's Virginia settings, Tyler's novels often take place in her native Baltimore. Many of them involve lovable but eccentric female characters coming to terms with complex family issues and identity crises. You may have seen the film The Accidental Tourist, which was adapted from one of her books. Noah's Compass seems to me to be a bit different than her others. The character is an older man, the pace of the story is slower, and the plot seems less important somehow than the character's state of mind. As always with Tyler, the prose is highly engaging and the book is a "fast read." I was a little disappointed in the ending, however, which didn't give me quite the sense of closure that I found in her earlier novels. Nonetheless, I certainly enjoyed the novel overall and was glad I'd read it. If you're read it, please let me know what you think about the ending.

I don't want to say too much about books I'm just starting and certainly nothing but titles of the ones I just got at the library this weekend, but I was pleased to get a new novel by the author of The Time-Traveler's Wife, Audry Niffenegger. David and I had both read Time-Traveler several years ago and were absolutely fascinated. It's in a category all by itself -- part science fiction/fantasy, part literary love story, part adventure. You have to read it to know what I mean here probably.

Anyway, I just began the first few chapters of Her Fearful Symmetry, and it looks to be a good choice too.
The story involves two twin sisters. One of them left England and moved to Lake Forest, Illinois. She has two twin daughters. The two British women were evidentally estranged for twenty-five years or so. When the London sister dies, she leaves a valuable London apartment to her two twenty-year-old American nieces on the condition that they live there for a year without selling it and never allow their parents to set foot in it. It promises to be an intriguing plot . . .

Other books on the docket to read soon include a new novel by William Trevor, excellent Irish writer; short stories by the amazing playwright and actor, Sam Shepard;, a novel of Victorian ladies in India; a novel set in the era of the cultural revolution in China; another Susan Hill Simon Seraillier mystery, and McCall Smith's next in the 44 Scotland Street series, The  Unbearable Lightness of Scones (wonderfully hilarious reference to Czech writer Milan's Kundera's serious novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being).

What are you reading now? Please comment. It's lonely doing the only talking ... ;)

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