I sort of realized I hadn’t wrapped up any books in a while. Or blogged
at all, in a while. So these are the last nine books I read.
Evelina is a sort of coming-of-age novel written in 1778. The main
character, Evelina is the result of a sort of scandalous union. Her father
refuses to acknowledge her and refuses to acknowledge his marriage to Evelina’s
mother. Her mother then dies and Evelina is raised by her mother’s benefactor
reverend Villars. He loves her deeply, and raises her with love and compassion.
She’s sort of sheltered, living out in the country. She is then invited to the
local Lady’s home. She’s friends with Villars. Evelina goes to London with
friends of Lady Howard, and is introduced to society. It was really funny.
Evelina was raised in very sheltered circumstances and has no idea how to act
in polite society, so she does a bunch of stuff that is considered faux pas.
She laughs at people because they’re silly, then realizes that it’s impolite
when people look scandalized. Evelina also meets her grandmother, who has this
great plan to get her legitimized by essentially shaming her dad. Evelina was
spunky and funny and sharp, and I loved her. I also loved how the other
characters were written. Some of the men were hilariously idiotic and annoying
and I feel like I was rolling my eyes with Evelina. So I really liked this. It
Sarah Vowell is a historian/journalist who is really fascinated by
American presidents and in particular the presidents who have been
assassinated. So the premise of this book is her taking a vacation where she
visits the sites related to the first three presidential assassinations,
Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. It’s so fascinating to read about how America
reacted to the different assassinations. About how much politics went into
Lincoln’s memorial. I also learned that Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln was
present at all three assassinations, which is so weird. It feels like a book
about presidential assassinations should be sad and dry, but she has put in so
much fun stuff. Her travels take her everywhere and she talks about getting
seasick, mummies, bits of victims and murderers, show-tunes and biblical sex
cults. I listened to this on audiobook and Sarah reads it herself. She was very
good and it made it very personal and cool. She also has some actors with her,
who fill the roles of Lincoln, Booth, Garfield, McKinley, and a lot of others.
And I really enjoyed that too.
Ghostwritten is David Mitchell’s first novel. It is very much a David
Mitchell novel in that it’s broken into nine stories that seem sort of random,
but are connected to each other. I liked it. It wasn’t amazing, I could tell it
was his first novel and he wasn’t entirely sure how he was going to do this
whole writing thing. On the other hand it’s very impressive. In the beginning
the two first stories seem sort of tangential and the connection seemed sort of
incidental, but the more stories you read the more complex the connections got,
which I really enjoyed. I also again was impressed with, and sort of curious
about how much he plans out his novels. Mitchell tends to populate his books
with people who have appeared in other novels. It’s like they all exist in the
same universe. And I don’t know how much he plans it out, and it’s driving me
slowly mad. I have to meet him one day so I can ask him. It was fun, but not
his best. I really want to read his last two books published to date.
This is a Norwegian classic about the two youngest daughters of a
District governor somewhere in Norway. It’s mainly focused on Sofie, who is
like 14 in the beginning. She has just gotten a new teacher, along with her
brother. The teacher is quite frustrated with her, because she is so mercurial.
She loves to learn some things and has no interest in other things. Sofie has
this idea that she’d rather not get married, she has seen her two oldest
sisters be forced into their marriages and being miserable. She later sees her
last sister, Amalie, marry someone she loves and still be miserable. The book
is a serious critique of arranged marriages and the station of women in 19th
century Norway. I liked it. There were things that annoyed me. Kold, the
teacher, was annoying as hell. And the way it was ordered bugged me, no
chapters. I liked Sofie, I like how annoyed she is with her life and how she
tries to make the best of it. Yeah. It was lovely.
This is the last book in the Immortal Beloved trilogy. It’s about a
young lady named Nastasya, who is an Immortal. Basically what it says on the
tin, she has been alive since the Viking age in Iceland, and is currently still
alive in 2014. She spent about 100 years boozing and acing like a teenager,
then she moves to River’s Edge, this place in the North East of the US where
she tries to become a better person. Now River’s Edge is under threat by this
big, black, awful thing that wants to take their magical power. It seems like a
lot of the people at River’s Edge think it’s Nas’ fault. So she’s trying to get
her life on track, trying to be with her hunky Viking boyfriend, and trying to
save the world. It’s fun. It’s YA, and it’s obviously not a masterpiece, but I
like Nastasya’s surly, snarky attitude, and I like imagining her hunky
boyfriend. It was fun, and I’m done with this trilogy. So go team.
This is Virginia Woolf’s extended essay on writing and women. On men
writing about women, on women writing about men and women. And what women need
if they’re going to write. She sort of acknowledges that her privilege of having
500 a year and a room where she can sit in private and write. And that women
need this if they want to write. It was fascinating to read. I liked it.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home is about June Elbus. It’s 1987 and she’s 14
years old and her favourite person in the world, Finn Weiss, her uncle and
godfather, has just died. And they can’t talk about how he died. And they can’t
talk about him, because he died of Aids, and he had a boyfriend, and it’s the
80s and people don’t talk about aids. Before Finn died he painted June and
Greta, June’s sister. After he dies June feels unmoored. Finn was the only
person she felt like she could be herself around. Then she meets this man,
Toby, who was Finn’s boyfriend, and they find their way back to normalcy
together. Or at least something like it. Meanwhile Greta is in the school play
and she and her and June’s relationship becomes more and more fraught and
destructive. I liked it. I found the relationship between Toby and June a bit
weird. It was a bit odd. I did love the way that June and Greta’s relationship
was written. It was so angsty and angry and weird and it made me cry. It was
weird, and I sort of liked it.
Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer who runs the Equal Justice Initiative. It’s
a pro-bono law firm that work with people on Death Row to try to overthrow
their executions. The book tells the story of Stevenson finishing law school,
going back south, and starting the EJI, and how his life goes. The book also
tells the story of Walter McMillan, a Death row inmate who has been wrongly
accused, tried, and sentenced to death. He was put on death row right when he
was arrested, which is insane. Bryan and the other lawyers at his firm try to
overturn his conviction and exonerate him. And it’s amazing. It’s incredible.
Bryan Stevenson is fantastic, and the writing is beautiful. And the stories are
incredible. McMillan’s story is a big part of it, but there are also other
stories of other people they represented. There are stories of them working to
overthrow the laws that let southern states execute children, and let states
put children in adult prisons, and let states put children in jail to die
there. And it’s so sad, and it’s so inspiring to read what Bryan and his
colleagues have managed, with the help of other lawyers obviously. And it’s so
incredible. And so sad. And so great. And how does someone work as much as
Bryan Stevenson? I think he’s a robot. A kind, fierce, wonderful robot.
Bålet by Bergjlot Hobæk Haff
So the title of this novel translates as ”the Bonfire” and it was
written in the 1960s and is about a young woman who works as a teacher in a
little town in Norway. She is never referred to by name, she’s always called
the teacher, and she’s this peripheral person in town, but the children like
her, and she’s a good teacher. A man moves to town and becomes the cobbler and
they start this sort of relationship that people talk about, and don’t talk
about. It’s very cool. Then another man comes to town, and he’s just this man,
who seems to be an artist, and he just hints about things, and mentions things,
and sends these looks at people, and the people in town start to wonder why
they even let this cobbler move in, and isn’t he a bit weird and creepy? And
the book is so weird, and so creepy and weird and odd. And it’s so insidious
and it’s so grotesque and amazing. I’ve been trying to read more Norwegian
books, and my first foray was a success. More now please.
So those were the last nine books I read. And weren’t they glorious? I’m
going to try to get it together and not be such a lazy blogger. Anyways. This
has been that.