What I’m Reading – Austen (still), Holmes, and Dystopian novels

Here’s the honest truth. I didn’t read a stitch of anything until the last week or so of June. Somehow, I found other ways to fill my time. Mostly they were silly things involving a screen of some sort, but sometimes they involved live music, tap-dancing chimney sweeps, or tuxedo-wearing strawberries.

So I cheated a little bit in June. Hey. It’s my own resolution/challenge – I can cheat as I see fit! My cheating involves an audiobook…of a book I read in May. Also, a short story. But I am confessing it to you now, so it’s all fine.

Well, I made up for it in July. I read three books in a matter of five days. I was on vacation, okay? What else is a girl gonna do? Not sunbathe or shop or hike, that’s for sure. Not when there are books to read. Anyway, here are my extended thoughts about a few of them; for my short one-sentence reviews, check the “What I’m Reading” tab.

Persuasion (Jane Austen) : I’ve decided. This is my favorite Austen novel. It edges out Northanger Abbey simply because I relate to Anne Eliot more than Catherine Moreland. Anne is a mature woman, one who believes she has accepted her lot in life: to care for her silly father and silly sisters with a kind and sensible hand. Of course, a man from her past – that she rejected due to some advice from a trusted mentor – changes all that. Anne takes responsibility for her actions, but she also has hope that those actions could be redeemed. She doesn’t feel she deserves the man of her heart, but she never gives up hope, not until he is wed – to her or someone else. I admire her for that. Also, part of this book is set in Bath and I was there!

A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four (A. Conan Doyle) : Sherlock Holmes gets a bad rap. He’s not really that terrible. Sure, he struggles socially, but not more so than any of the extremely focused people I’ve known in my life. He rejects social convention for the sake of his craft. He does not suffer fools, but he is not so unkind as the media makes him to be. Holmes smiles and laughs, and he has a genuine wit and a concern for those he cares about (which is Watson, and pretty much no one else). Brilliance is impressive to me, and so I adore Holmes. I could never love a man who was so prone to upheavals of temperament, but I forgive him his faults, for he is not real. As a side note, for fleshing out Holmes and Watson so well, Doyle relies on some pretty cliched characters as villians and sidekicks. I know it was a different time, but his portrayal of savages and Mormons? Less than politically correct. It makes me cringe and laugh all at the same time.

The Road (Cormac McCarthy) : This book almost broke me. I never wondered if I would finish it – I knew I must – but rather how much would I let it consume my emotions? I read the first part when I was in a vulnerable position emotionally, and I stopped reading right before the necessary shred of hope. So I was left in a place of utter despair along with the characters. But it got better in a few short pages. McCarthy’s writing style is brilliant for the setting. His short sentences, his repetition serve as a pacing mechanism that reflects the burned-out, nuclear-ravaged landscape. I’d be interested in reading his other novels and plays to see how his style adapts to different settings. Ultimately, it is a story about love, a strong and sustaining love between a father and his son. They are never named, but they are everyone and no one and what could be but I pray never will. The world around them is horrifying and bleak, but their love colors their world, not so much that they can ignore their situation but so that they can bear it. I’ll tell you this: it ends with hope. I won’t tell you how or why or where it comes from, but there is hope.

The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) : An excellent tale for any sort of adult, young or otherwise. Like The Road, it is a dystopian novel. North America is divided into districts that tried to rebel against the central government, and, after the rebellion is squashed, the children of the districts are forced to enter a lottery for the annual Hunger Games. Basically, it is a fight to the death. Katniss is our girl, and we follow her in her sacrifice, her fear, and her ability to survive by doing the unthinkable: creating emotional bonds with other contestants. It’s just an entertaining and quick read, and you root for the heroine while trying to figure out how to root for the others too. Ultimately, we find we need each other. No one can go it alone – even if you’re in a fight to the death.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Steig Larsson): Another trilogy that I started. I didn’t love it, to be frank. I know the world has been raving about it since it was published in Sweden in 2004. Maybe that’s part of it – the translation. Maybe the Swedish style isn’t to my liking. But the flow of it is odd. The first chapters are excruciatingly boring. I almost gave up, until I realized it was the only thing I had left to read while I was in a cabin in Minnesota. The character exposition is stilted and rote, and there is far too much family history that is unnecessary. The characters are the most intriguing part, and they’re enough that I think I’ll give the second book a shot. Also, I don’t like not finishing trilogies. But by golly, do as many Swedes have flings like Mikel does? I mean, that man has it made, sexually. I’m naive, but I find that a bit ridiculous. Anyway, interesting subject, not a bad mystery, just cut out the extraneous stuff (of which there is plenty) and some of the sex, and I’d put my seal of approval on it. But not ’til then.

So, the question is: what are YOU reading these days?

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5 thoughts on “What I’m Reading – Austen (still), Holmes, and Dystopian novels

  1. I just have to say, as someone who loves reading, I appreciate your book 'reviews' greatly. I don't get to bookstores often and get overwhelmed easily so I don't always end up with something, but always appreciate others thoughts on what they are reading. Definitely gives me ideas 🙂 On that note, I am currently enjoying a non-fiction book (one of my first ventures away from fiction) callled 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'. It is about this woman whose cells were taken without her knowledge and have been used in research since the 1950's. I was skeptical at first, but it is written like a novel from the writers point of view. I'm not usually one to be interested in science type stuff, but the people and story is very fascinating, and even more so because it's true. I'm not finished yet, but enjoying it very much. I would recommend it 🙂

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