I was shocked to see on my Books Read 2016 list, how many I have yet to post about. For some reason I thought I was caught up. I wasn’t. But this post will help close the gap.
Euphoria by Lily King
I think I bought this one for the cover but I really enjoyed it. A fascinating look at a young couple who are anthropologists in New Guinea. Great combination of anthropology related drama and personal dynamics.
The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
A novel about a classical composer I quite like, Dmitri Shostakovich, should have been a slam dunk for me, but it was just so-so. I found the story about the composer trying to stay clear of the vagaries of the ruling Communist party interesting, but overall the book seemed a little emotionless and left me cold.
The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
A 1971 thriller about a professional assassin who has been hired to kill Charles de Gualle. This book is interesting on a few different levels. I didn’t realize how fragile France’s government was in the 1960s. Nor did I understand much about France’s departure from Algeria. But the aspect of this book that I just loved was the description of all the steps the Jackal took in planning the assassination attempt. Visits to public records offices, trains, passports, cafe tipples, top-secret multinational briefings. I love that kind of stuff. I’m not even sure I would need a plot–although there is plenty of plot here.
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
A lovely, beautiful book about a servant and her romance with the heir of a neighboring country estate. Luminous is a word I want to use. It has depth and subtlety that is too often absent from the upstairs/downstairs genre.
Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud
A young boy becomes friends with the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife during World War I. Freud uses actual correspondence between the couple in a way that isn’t gimmicky. This is a great example of historical fiction that works for me. I never got the feeling that the author was trying to write historical fiction.
The Girls by Emma Cline
So much hullabaloo about such a boring book. I was kind of liking it until Evie hooked up with the cult, then it just got really boring and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
This is an odd, fascinating, enjoyable, little book. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, it’s narrated by “U”, a corporate anthropologist who takes us on a wild, somewhat depressing, ride through the many ways in which we create and consume information. It also shows how we are leaving trails of information that allow markets and governments lots of room for manipulation.
And Sons by David Gilbert
The narration seems to be first person omniscient. The story starts off using “I” and goes back to it with some regularity, but we know what everyone else is up to and what they are thinking. In some cases you can see how the narrator was a fly on the wall, but there are other times when there is no way he could have been a fly on the wall. The action focuses on a reclusive, national treasure type author and his family and social circle. Enjoyable for sure.
Hotels of North America by Rick Moody
This book is essentially one man’s story as told through his online hotel reviews. I wasn’t sure if this would work for me, but I found it witty and biting (in a good way) and more than a little quirky. I can imagine re-reading this one.
Books and You by W. Somerset Maugham
A collection of three essays about what to read. Fun in the way those kinds of essays are always fun, but not much in the way of surprising choices, or even authors who were new to me.
The Last First Day by Carrie Brown
A woman reflects on her life as the wife of a headmaster of a boys school in Maine as they experience their last first day of school. Interesting, engaging, a little sad. Nicely done.
At Last by Edward St. Aubyn
The fact that this is the last in a series almost kept me from reading it. There were moments I loved the cast of characters, but overall I found it a little too arch to like all that much. I think I could enjoy St. Aubyn in the future, but this wasn’t compelling enough to get me to try.
[J] I’ll try Mr Mac and Me. Keep up the good work, Thomas!
Goodness, that’s a big catch-up, all done now? I have missed a couple of reviews, I’m sure – I only ever realise when I search for my review of a book I know I’ve read and it’s not there!
What a stunning cover to Euphoria! And I don’t think I can resist Books and You, even if it’s not the most revelatory book in the world.
As someone who loves Shostakovich, I was expecting to hate the Julian Barnes, but it wasn’t too bad. I suppose it effectively depicted the madness of the Soviet Union’s attitude towards creative artists, but I don’t really know why Barnes felt compelled to write the book.
It reads like a Cliff Notes guide to Soviet art under Stalin.
Barnes is also very selective with the facts, ignoring pieces of music that don’t fit in with his narrative. However, I’d still recommend to someone who knows little about the composer or the times.
I think I was hoping it would be more about the music. An interesting story for sure.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Oh, I adored Euphoria and became fascinated with Margaret Mead. I think the cover is a close-up of the rainbow gum tree. Beautiful.
I really want to read Mothering Sunday.