Goodbye, October! This was another one of those months where, when I looked up it was the 20th and I had no idea where the days went. Is that an age thing? Because I never used to notice it so much. Anyway, I didn’t read as many books in October, for two reasons. One, I’m continuing to pay less attention to new releases (which is kind of working, in part because I’m only reading novels that have been directly recommended to me) and two, several were in the 500+ page range. The great news is that in October I read not one, but two five star novels. Woo Hoo!
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Published by Penguin
Publication date: August 5th 2003
After falling crazy in love with The Rules of Magic, I knew I’d want to go back and read Hoffman’s first novel about the Owens sisters. I’m glad I did because it is more of her wonderful storytelling, but it is not as good as The Rules. In the ten year difference between the two books I saw clearly just how much Hoffman has grown as a writer. Still, it’s fun, quick reading if you want to see what happens to Gillian and Sally.
Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult
Published by Penguin Books
Publication date: April 1st 1995
I may not always love Picoult’s books, but by and large I really like them. Try as I might I could not give more than one star for this novel. The plot is splattered across a wide canvas like bad abstract art—a wealthy young cardiac-surgeon-to-be falls in love with a runaway, uneducated waitress. They marry after 3 months. His family cuts him off, she works to put him through school and later when things have settled down a bit she gets pregnant. OK, lots of ways to go here, most them good. Is Picoult going to examine women who give up their dreams for a husband’s grueling career and motherhood? Or, mismatched marriages? Motherhood ambiguity? Parental abandonment? No, she’s going with all of these and by the end of this one I was simultaneously bored and completely put off by the maudlin, manipulative ending.
No One is Coming to Save Us: Review to follow
The Heart’s Invisible Furies: Another phenomenal book recommended to me by fellow bloggers. I should have a review up by next week, but it is a close second to How It Always Is.
Ferocity by Nicola Lagioia, Antony Shugaar
Published by Europa Editions
Publication date: October 10th 2017
An Italian translated novel and I can only hope that the translation is the problem because I could not finish this book. It’s about a young woman who supposedly killed herself, but it opens with her wandering alive, but bloody, across a highway. I could not make sense of what was happening and when we got to her funeral and some old guy tries to fondle her in her coffin I decided I’d had enough.
Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication date: August 20th 2013
I read Lookaway Lookaway several years ago, but decided I needed to revisit Barnhardt’s snarky humor in this take on a old Southern family trying to live life in a way that no longer works for any of them. Funny and sad.
Can You Forgive Her? (Palliser, #1) by Anthony Trollope, Stephen Wall
Published by Penguin Classics
Publication date: June 27th 1974
This is the first book in Trollope’s Palliser series. The more formal, old-fashioned prose of the classics is wonderfully soothing. Etiquette of the time was such that it took ten words to say what only needed five. At its core this is a story of a young woman, Alice, who breaks off her engagement (hugely shocking!) with a fine gentleman because she is no longer sure of their compatibility. Instead, she agrees to marry her ne-er-do-well cousin who proposes to her mostly because he wants her money to fund his election campaign and he has no job. Sound modern? That’s the thrill of Trollope—he was writing about British society in the late 1800s and in many instances it reads like contemporary times.
My only problem with Can You Forgive Her? are those same British values of the times. Alice and every woman in the novel is made to toe the line of appropriate behavior to such a degree that it went beyond annoying to making me mad. Thankfully, there is still much to enjoy about the book and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series!
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Published by Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date: June 6th 2017
I was so looking forward to Roy’s new book (the first in 17 years), but I simply could not stay engaged with this one. The first part of the novel is about a hijra, as transgender women are known in India. If the story had stayed there, I might have stayed as well, but Part Two moved to an entirely different scenario. That plus the focus on Indian politics during the 1970s and the resulting religiously fueled violence were too much for me. I gave it 2 stars, even though I didn’t finish it. Her writing is beautiful so this could very well work for someone else.
How did October treat you? Any great books I need to add to my TBR?