Thursday, June 1, 2017

Commonwealth: a Novel – by Ann Patchett

I wasn't nuts about the cover of the book.
 It had Oranges on it. Here are some different Oranges!
Time jumps all over the place in this novel.  If you are looking for a nice linear story, Commonwealth is not for you. What it does have is one day, or two, really, where the lives of two families are forever changed.  The impact of these events shows up in each character in different ways, - some predictable, some not so much.  Patchett gives us extraordinary insight into how the family copes (or avoids coping) mostly through their interactions with each other over their lifetimes.  It is both sad and hopeful.  This is an honest look at ourselves and how we get through life via the experience of this other family.  It is not judgmental or harsh, yet certainly it could happen to anyone.  It is not necessarily a morality play either.  It simply looks at the situation as it is.

I was really excited to read another novel by Ann Patchett, having really enjoyed Bel Canto.  This is an entirely different book, however.  I do recognize her voice, but the completely different direction she took with this novel really shows what a versatile writer she is.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Floating in "The Cloud Atlas"


I had to give myself a few days after reading Liam Callanan's "The Cloud Atlas"  before writing this review. It leaves me with a great sense of calm and peace that I do not want to end.  While the subject is actually rather disturbing, the writing, and the landscape, and the very souls of the main characters are beautiful.  

Callanan has taken an obscure piece of WWII history and knit a story around it, and in the process, made us (or at least me) fall in love with what I had previously thought of as an unforgiving landscape in a desolate land. I supposed I had viewed Alaska as more "foreign", even though it is part of the United States. Having read "The Call of The Wild" and "The White Dawn: An Eskimo Saga", (not to mention Alaska cruise line ads), I considered myself to have at least a rudimentary knowledge about the Alaskan wilderness. This Alaska has much more depth. I love how the myth of  Aurora Borealis folds into the night-scape like a dreamer's waking thoughts. I enjoy our mysterious femme fatale who seems to love both our hero and our antagonist in strangely sad ways.  I love the balloons, though I should not. Even the half frozen marsh is beautiful, in a small boat, quietly following an invisible route under an empty moon. 

To simply describe the plot as about an old priest remembering his days in the bomb squad in the Army during the 2nd world war is to leave out the undercurrent of appreciation he has for this place which has claimed him for most of his life, or the hard relationships, which make up his softness.  It was a pleasure to read whether or not you care about the Alaskan bush, or history, or bombs, or war. 


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Just finished: The Woman in Cabin 10"




I do love a good thriller, even though I am slooow to get it, usually.  Well, always. Never. I never get it.  If it’s a good one though, I can at least see that I should have seen it coming.  The thing at the end, the plot twist. The good person who turned out to be bad, or vice versa.  But sometimes, honestly, it feels like the writer had no clue what the ending would be and just tossed the dice to figure it out, backtracking the plot to “make it work”. Sometimes these tactics turn out well for the writer, sometimes not.

That is kind of how I felt with “The Woman in Cabin 10”: until the last part. It really gets exciting toward the end, and it almost makes up for my eye roll earlier on.  I did enjoy the story and the boat. I love anything to do with water, particularly the ocean.  So as an “ocean thriller” it had me from page one. I enjoyed reading it, and at times it was tough to put down. I gave it a 4 out of 5 on Goodreads.


There are some fun characters and I would have loved to read more about them. I think we could have stood another 20 or 30 pages to let us really get to know the suspects.  We get an introduction early on then are supposed to have them memorized with no real context outside of bare bones identities.  I also wanted to hear more about this fabulous boat! Our main character is certainly likeable. One thing I liked was that she is not really a hero. She could be any of us. She is vulnerable, not infallible, and has her share of demons.  How she reacts to the situation is how any of us might.  It really put me inside the story and I liked that.