The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of My Summer Reading
Beach reads and chick lit were not on my reading plan this summer. Instead I had hoped to get to some of the classics that I’ve never read and reread some old favorites. The days were to be filled with Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, and even Chaucer. I did manage to reread Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights with high hopes that I might enjoy it more reading it as an adult. While I did have a better understanding of the characters, I can’t say that I liked the book any better. I much preferred sister Anne’s Agnes Grey. But that’s as far as I got where great classic literature is concerned. Which is not to say that I didn’t read some great books this summer in amongst the lighter fare and the book that ruined my vacation reading (more on that later).
Neil White’s In The Sanctuary of Outcasts chronicles Mr. White’s year and a half in a Louisiana prison that was also an asylum for victims of Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy. White writes without self-pity but with deep compassion for the people he met during that time. I’ve passed this one along to my parents and they both concur that it’s a marvelous book.
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is the second book I’ve read by Umrigar this year and the second book of hers to make it onto my top ten for the year. Umrigar creates marvelous characters and entices all five senses as she draws the reader into the places she writes about:
Bhima marvels at the paradox: A solitary man, an exile, a man without a country or a family, had still succeeded in creating dreamworlds for hundreds of children, had entered the homes of strangers with his creations of color and fantasy and magic. A man who would never again touch or kiss the sweet faces of his own children brought smiles to the faces of other people’s children. Like a musician, the Pathan had learned how to make a song out of his loneliness. Like a magician, he had learned how to use sheer air to contort limp pieces of rubber into objects of happiness. Empty-handed, he had built a world.
Deborah Noyes’ novel, Captivity, draws on the true story of the Fox sisters of New York state who, in 1848, claimed to be able to communicate with the dead. Their exploits lead to the American Spiritualist Movement. Noyes deftly combines fiction and nonfiction in this debut novel that explores love, death and grief.
I’m late to the party with Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and can’t imagine why I waited so long to read it. The first half of this one, in particular, was brilliant. The book is written from multiple points of view and I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where the author did a better job of giving each point of view a unique voice.
Seen from above this way they are pale doomed blossoms bound to appeal to your sympathies. Be careful. Later on you’ll have to decide what sympathy they deserve, the mother especially—watch how she leads them on, pale-eyed, deliberate.
So much for the highlights. Now about that book that ruined my vacation reading. When I vacation, I’m prone to take more reading than I could possibly finish in three times the length of my trip. But this year, I had to take along a book that I had promised the publisher I would review on a certain date a few days after I returned from vacation. I kicked off the trip well enough, finishing The Space Between Us. But then it was time to read that book for review and my reading screeched to a halt. Much as I tried I couldn’t make myself read more than 20 pages at a time. Not while I was lounging on the hotel patio. Not while I was enjoying the peace of a lovely mountain lake. Not when I was a captive audience while my husband was driving. And there was that bag of books that I was really looking forward to, taunting me with their possibilities. Now, if I had been reading that book for my own amusement, I might have tossed it out the window on day two of our trip. Which may be what I should have done anyone, commitment or not.
What did you get to read this summer?
What are you looking forward to this fall?
I’m hoping to get to some of those classics I skipped over the summer and looking forward to some surprises from the books I’ve accepted for review. I just hope there’s not one in the bunch that’s going to ruin my fall!