Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Here's My Summer Reading Pile

What Are Your Summer Reading Plans?

Here are mine. I've finally started Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I must be the fifth reader, 3.5 of whom have actually finished it. It promises to be a challenging read.

I recently read The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett's 1982 historical fiction. I have his most recent World Without End in the pile. It's a big read. While I am annoyed by his style which seems to need to give me all the details, even ones I can surmise, I love stories about the Middle Ages. The story of cathedral-building in a small rural village was itself fascinating, so I am looking forward to reading about the same community, two hundred years later.

The bedside pile is an impossible feat for summer reading, but it is good to have a choice, to have light to offset challenging. My pile also includes:

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
Dancing in the No-Fly Zone by Hadani Ditmars
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Ladies Lending Library by Janice Kulyk Keefer
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
Paris 1919 by Margaret Mitchell

On my list but not yet in the pile is the most recent of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. The gentle homespun Botswana wisdom of Mma Ramotswe is so uplifting. Be assured that all will be put aside by October as my absolute favourite author (I do love a good spy novel) is due for a new book: A Most Wanted Man, John le Carré's new novel, will be published in October 2008. I will be checking back to his website regularly for more information as the book nears publication ....

Of course, there are piles in my den: the early BC history/Gold Rush historical fiction piles on interlibrary loans (for which I thank so many of you) will be shaped into the cancelled BCSSTA (PSA) workshop, but I have no doubt it will be under development all summer long, between novels and non-fiction selected for its social studies themes!

Inspired as I am by my fellow-blogger and penthouse neighbour Meredyth, here's my first book review. I have just finished reading Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale and highly recommend it.

A first novel for Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale is a little reminiscent of the style of A.S. Byatt but a slightly less academically challenging read (Setterfield is also an academic). Set in Setterfield's home county of Yorkshire, one is beset by the bleak countryside even as one is mesmerized by the rich tale and contexts of the story told. It is a story within a story, about a biographer writing the story of the writer Vida Winter who never tells the truth about her life. Her last published book Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation is itself a lie, as it contains only twelve stories. The prologue begins:

All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind, and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won't be the truth: it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.
In her letter inviting Miss Lea to hear the truth about her life, Vida writes:

I have nothing against people who love truth. Apart from the fat that they make dull companions. Just so long as they don't start on about storytelling and honesty, the way some of them do. Naturally that annoys me. Provided they leave me alone, I won't hurt them.
My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succour, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold makes a statue of you in your bed, don't expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to you aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing rocking safety of a lie.

And so it goes ... a tale of twins -- or are they twins? -- of more than twins, of horror and hope, of destruction, despair, and complex misguided behaviours, a tale than unravels the truth, or is it as simply simple as it is told?

I invite you to enter additional reviews, notes about favourite authors, and recommendations for excellent summer reading titles as a comment (just click Comments below) here in the blog.

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