If you like the sea, especially bordering isolated northern islands, this novel might appear to you. It’s atmospheric and literary with beautiful descriptions of the light, the beach and the Atlantic. Throughout the book, the sea is more threatening than warming.
It’s also very similar to a modern fairy tale. A literature professor, who by the way studies fairy tales, falls in love with his young student. He invents an end-of-term party to get to know her better and then begins to date her. In fine restaurants, she is half-wild and licks her fingers and then his while eating lobster. She is mum about her past and her family. She often arrives with wet hair that is so blond it looks white; he later discovers that she has webbed feet. They marry, but without any family or friends to witness it. Her choice of a honeymoon spot is the wild Orkney coast where it is cold, rainy and remote.
Richard is obsessed with his young wife who is never named. Instead of working on his new book, he gazes at her through their vacation cottage’s wide windows. She spends most of her days outside wandering the beach or just watching the sea. Nights they have sex, and then she wakes up terrified by her dreams. Read more about Bride of the Sea
Here’s the scenario. Walking across a bridge over a railroad one day, you notice that five people are tied to the tracks below. Worse, you also spot a speeding train approaching, with no sign of slowing down—it’s sure to plow through the five people, killing them. Suddenly you see the only possible way to save them: an exceptionally large man—large enough to derail an oncoming train, it just so happens—is leaning on the bridge’s railing above the tracks, resting. Now’s your chance: do you push the man over the railing, killing him, but saving the five people tied to the tracks? Or do you refrain from pushing him, thereby sparing his life but effectively allowing the five below to die? Read more about Would You Kill the Fat Man?
I love this new age of biography where not only famous people’s lives are examined but also everyman’s or in this case everywoman’s. Of course, Jane Franklin’s life would have faded into history were it not for her very famous older brother. But this compelling biography gives a very interesting account of the life of an ordinary, rather poor Boston woman during the time period of the Thirteen Colonies.
Jane grew up in a big family and Ben was six years her senior, and he taught her to read. They corresponded their whole lives, and were for many years the last two left from their nuclear family. Many of Jane’s letters have been lost, but can be somewhat reconstructed from her brother’s responses to them. Like her brother, she was very opinionated and thought of Benjamin as her “second self.”
At age fifteen, she married a saddler named Mecom, and for the next twenty plus years, she was either pregnant or nursing children. She had twelve children and all but one died before she did. Most, unfortunately, died as adults which was less common at that time. Her husband was not a good provider and eventually went crazy. So Jane and her children boiled and sold soap from home.
Her letters to her brother and his gifts of books, many of which he had printed himself, gave her an intellectual life that she otherwise would not have had. They shared many secrets from the rest of the family, some of them jokes. Read more about Jane Has Her Say
Last year I blogged about the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which was a really wonderful and Emmy winning video series that told the modern day story of Lizzie Bennet and her sisters based on the original characters from Pride and Prejudice.
Fans of that series now have something new to watch! Emma Approved is a video series from the same producers and again is a modern day retelling of a classic Austen work. I was able to get caught up on the first five episodes today during lunch. They might be harder to get into because Emma Woodhouse isn’t initially as likeable of a character as Elizabeth Bennet, but having read the book (both for school and leisure!) I am feeling confident that she will grow on me with time. It isn’t too late to get caught up with either story, no matter if you are an Austen super fan or just a casual admirer. Read more about Emma Approved and Other Jane Austen Inspirations
If we were to believe the media, summer reading is a time for light beachy reads. Thrillers, romance and other guilty pleasures seem to fall in this category. I fall strictly into the camp that you can read anything you want at any time, but one thing we can agree on? It isn’t summer anymore! So maybe it is the perfect time for a literary read. Literary fiction is often denser, more lyrical and the characters spend less time doing things and more time reflecting or reacting to things. They can be beautiful to read, have complex issues, but also sometimes dark and sad. Warning: literary fiction books often have open or ambigious endings! You will be in for a surprise if you normally read romance or mysteries.
Literary fiction fans often refer to awards lists – and two of my go-to lists have recently announced their nominees. The Man Booker prize is awarded to British authors and those from the Commonwealth of Nations. Their recently announced short list is very diverse – four of the six are women and are from the far reaches of Zimbabwe, New Zealand, India, and Canada. The entire list: Read more about Award Nominatons and Literary Fiction
Paul Harding’s second novel after his Pulitzer-prize winning Tinkers is heartbreak of a novel. One Sunday in the lovely New England village of Enon, Charlie Crosby takes a solitary walk at a bird sanctuary. He had invited his 13 year-old daughter Kate but she chose to go swimming instead with her girlfriend. That afternoon while she is biking home from the lake, a distracted mother runs over her. Charlie’s life changes forever.
The first casualty of Kate’s death is Charlie’s marriage to Susan. Apparently, Kate had been the glue holding their union together, and when he is so overcome with grief that he can do nothing but lie on the couch and cry, his wife first begs for his help then gets angry.
Then in an intense moment of grief, wanting to feel real physical pain, he pounds the stairway wall and breaks his wrist. Susan takes him to the emergency room but a few days later leaves for her parent’s house in Minnesota.
The novel is essentially focused on two characters, the village of Enon—it’s presence is almost human and palpable--and Charlie, who has long studied the village’s history. Charlie, who starts to abuse prescription drugs and alcohol, wanders the village mostly under cover of night. Read more about A Year of Loss