Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Europa Challenge- Playing Catch-Up

Taking the NYC subway has given me a lot of time to read and most days you can find me with my nose stuck in a book, usually a Europa. But I haven't been blogging a lot, for various reasons, and once again I'm behind on reviews. So I'm going to do a big post with lots of little reviews to catch up.

Of Beasts and Beings, by Ian Holding. This book is comprised of two intertwined stories, one set in modern day Zimbabwe as a white teacher named Ian is getting ready to pull up stakes for South Africa. He's disassembling his home, selling possessions, saying goodbye to friends and his longtime servant. He's also reassessing his life and himself. The second story is set in a nameless place and indefinite time, about a man who becomes literally shackled to an itinerant group who use him as a human mule. One story is terrifying, the other thought-provoking, and then they intersect in a most unexpected way. I loved this book but it was a tough read in places. Buy.

Arctic Summer, by Damon Galgut, is a fictionalized biography of E.M.Forster. I'd recommend it to readers of memoir and biography, because it is so heavily character-driven. It covers the period of his life leading up to the creation of his masterpiece A Passage to India and features his failed attempts at relationships. Galgut depicts his character has self-absorbed, misogynistic and insecure, and yet still makes the narrative compelling. I enjoyed reading Arctic Summer but it was slow at times. LGBT. Backlist.

The Island of Last Truth, by Flavia Company, is a quick read about a man trapped on a desert island after the boat he is sailing is overrun by pirates. This is a modern-day story and the pirates are terrorists of the sea, engaging in any number of crimes. The man finds out he's not alone, and what comes next is breathtakingly suspenseful and ends with a shocking twist. I liked this one a lot but it was too short. Translated from the Italian. Backlist.

My Berlin Child, by Anne Wiazemsky, is a World War 2 story about a privileged young woman named Claire who becomes an ambulance driver and falls in love with an impoverished Russian prince. Based on the life of Claire Mauriac and written by her daughter, it's romantic but probably only of interest to fans of the author, a famous French actress, or her mother, the daughter of writer Francois Mauriac. It would make a good movie probably but I found it self-absorbed and dull. Translated from the French. Borrow.

Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery. Since Europa just announced they'll be publishing her third book, I thought I should catch up and make sure I've read the first two. This book takes a minor character from The Elegance of the Hedgehog and put him front and center as he's dying.  Pierre Arthens, famous food critic, is dying and reminiscing about his favorite foods. Rhapsodic food writing alternates with bitter remembrances by those who knew him, and you can read between the lines in his chapters to get his take on the relationships in his life. I enjoyed this book but didn't love it. It felt a little disjointed to me. Translated from the French. Backlist.

I have a few more to review so stay tuned over the next week or so.

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