I sort of realized I hadn’t wrapped up any books in a while. Or blogged at all, in a while. So these are the last nine books I read.
Evelina is a sort of coming-of-age novel written in 1778. The main character, Evelina is the result of a sort of scandalous union. Her father refuses to acknowledge her and refuses to acknowledge his marriage to Evelina’s mother. Her mother then dies and Evelina is raised by her mother’s benefactor reverend Villars. He loves her deeply, and raises her with love and compassion. She’s sort of sheltered, living out in the country. She is then invited to the local Lady’s home. She’s friends with Villars. Evelina goes to London with friends of Lady Howard, and is introduced to society. It was really funny. Evelina was raised in very sheltered circumstances and has no idea how to act in polite society, so she does a bunch of stuff that is considered faux pas. She laughs at people because they’re silly, then realizes that it’s impolite when people look scandalized. Evelina also meets her grandmother, who has this great plan to get her legitimized by essentially shaming her dad. Evelina was spunky and funny and sharp, and I loved her. I also loved how the other characters were written. Some of the men were hilariously idiotic and annoying and I feel like I was rolling my eyes with Evelina. So I really liked this. It was fun.
Sarah Vowell is a historian/journalist who is really fascinated by American presidents and in particular the presidents who have been assassinated. So the premise of this book is her taking a vacation where she visits the sites related to the first three presidential assassinations, Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. It’s so fascinating to read about how America reacted to the different assassinations. About how much politics went into Lincoln’s memorial. I also learned that Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln was present at all three assassinations, which is so weird. It feels like a book about presidential assassinations should be sad and dry, but she has put in so much fun stuff. Her travels take her everywhere and she talks about getting seasick, mummies, bits of victims and murderers, show-tunes and biblical sex cults. I listened to this on audiobook and Sarah reads it herself. She was very good and it made it very personal and cool. She also has some actors with her, who fill the roles of Lincoln, Booth, Garfield, McKinley, and a lot of others. And I really enjoyed that too.
Ghostwritten is David Mitchell’s first novel. It is very much a David Mitchell novel in that it’s broken into nine stories that seem sort of random, but are connected to each other. I liked it. It wasn’t amazing, I could tell it was his first novel and he wasn’t entirely sure how he was going to do this whole writing thing. On the other hand it’s very impressive. In the beginning the two first stories seem sort of tangential and the connection seemed sort of incidental, but the more stories you read the more complex the connections got, which I really enjoyed. I also again was impressed with, and sort of curious about how much he plans out his novels. Mitchell tends to populate his books with people who have appeared in other novels. It’s like they all exist in the same universe. And I don’t know how much he plans it out, and it’s driving me slowly mad. I have to meet him one day so I can ask him. It was fun, but not his best. I really want to read his last two books published to date.
This is a Norwegian classic about the two youngest daughters of a District governor somewhere in Norway. It’s mainly focused on Sofie, who is like 14 in the beginning. She has just gotten a new teacher, along with her brother. The teacher is quite frustrated with her, because she is so mercurial. She loves to learn some things and has no interest in other things. Sofie has this idea that she’d rather not get married, she has seen her two oldest sisters be forced into their marriages and being miserable. She later sees her last sister, Amalie, marry someone she loves and still be miserable. The book is a serious critique of arranged marriages and the station of women in 19thcentury Norway. I liked it. There were things that annoyed me. Kold, the teacher, was annoying as hell. And the way it was ordered bugged me, no chapters. I liked Sofie, I like how annoyed she is with her life and how she tries to make the best of it. Yeah. It was lovely.
This is the last book in the Immortal Beloved trilogy. It’s about a young lady named Nastasya, who is an Immortal. Basically what it says on the tin, she has been alive since the Viking age in Iceland, and is currently still alive in 2014. She spent about 100 years boozing and acing like a teenager, then she moves to River’s Edge, this place in the North East of the US where she tries to become a better person. Now River’s Edge is under threat by this big, black, awful thing that wants to take their magical power. It seems like a lot of the people at River’s Edge think it’s Nas’ fault. So she’s trying to get her life on track, trying to be with her hunky Viking boyfriend, and trying to save the world. It’s fun. It’s YA, and it’s obviously not a masterpiece, but I like Nastasya’s surly, snarky attitude, and I like imagining her hunky boyfriend. It was fun, and I’m done with this trilogy. So go team.
This is Virginia Woolf’s extended essay on writing and women. On men writing about women, on women writing about men and women. And what women need if they’re going to write. She sort of acknowledges that her privilege of having 500 a year and a room where she can sit in private and write. And that women need this if they want to write. It was fascinating to read. I liked it.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home is about June Elbus. It’s 1987 and she’s 14 years old and her favourite person in the world, Finn Weiss, her uncle and godfather, has just died. And they can’t talk about how he died. And they can’t talk about him, because he died of Aids, and he had a boyfriend, and it’s the 80s and people don’t talk about aids. Before Finn died he painted June and Greta, June’s sister. After he dies June feels unmoored. Finn was the only person she felt like she could be herself around. Then she meets this man, Toby, who was Finn’s boyfriend, and they find their way back to normalcy together. Or at least something like it. Meanwhile Greta is in the school play and she and her and June’s relationship becomes more and more fraught and destructive. I liked it. I found the relationship between Toby and June a bit weird. It was a bit odd. I did love the way that June and Greta’s relationship was written. It was so angsty and angry and weird and it made me cry. It was weird, and I sort of liked it.
Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer who runs the Equal Justice Initiative. It’s a pro-bono law firm that work with people on Death Row to try to overthrow their executions. The book tells the story of Stevenson finishing law school, going back south, and starting the EJI, and how his life goes. The book also tells the story of Walter McMillan, a Death row inmate who has been wrongly accused, tried, and sentenced to death. He was put on death row right when he was arrested, which is insane. Bryan and the other lawyers at his firm try to overturn his conviction and exonerate him. And it’s amazing. It’s incredible. Bryan Stevenson is fantastic, and the writing is beautiful. And the stories are incredible. McMillan’s story is a big part of it, but there are also other stories of other people they represented. There are stories of them working to overthrow the laws that let southern states execute children, and let states put children in adult prisons, and let states put children in jail to die there. And it’s so sad, and it’s so inspiring to read what Bryan and his colleagues have managed, with the help of other lawyers obviously. And it’s so incredible. And so sad. And so great. And how does someone work as much as Bryan Stevenson? I think he’s a robot. A kind, fierce, wonderful robot.
Bålet by Bergjlot Hobæk Haff
So the title of this novel translates as ”the Bonfire” and it was written in the 1960s and is about a young woman who works as a teacher in a little town in Norway. She is never referred to by name, she’s always called the teacher, and she’s this peripheral person in town, but the children like her, and she’s a good teacher. A man moves to town and becomes the cobbler and they start this sort of relationship that people talk about, and don’t talk about. It’s very cool. Then another man comes to town, and he’s just this man, who seems to be an artist, and he just hints about things, and mentions things, and sends these looks at people, and the people in town start to wonder why they even let this cobbler move in, and isn’t he a bit weird and creepy? And the book is so weird, and so creepy and weird and odd. And it’s so insidious and it’s so grotesque and amazing. I’ve been trying to read more Norwegian books, and my first foray was a success. More now please.
So those were the last nine books I read. And weren’t they glorious? I’m going to try to get it together and not be such a lazy blogger. Anyways. This has been that.