Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reviews...

...well sort of, anyway. It's been so long since I read the following books, that I really don't feel I can say all that much about them. But, in an effort to get back on track and get caught up with some things, I'll just briefly mention my thoughts on each one.

The Spare Room by Helen Garner

I first heard of this book from dovegreyreader. It is a short little book, but it is absolutely packed with emotion and heart. It's the story of two women, one of whom has terminal cancer. As the book opens, Helen is getting her guest room ready for her friend, Nicola who is coming to stay with her for a couple weeks while she gets some experimental treatments. It becomes obvious right away that Helen is not at all prepared for the horrible reality of cancer. The book is so realistic in its description of not only the physical effects of cancer on the patient, but also the emotional toll it takes on everyone around the patient, as well. Having watched my brother lose his wife to cancer, I recognized so much of what they experienced in this book. The main caregiver for a cancer patient experiences so many emotions, including anger and guilt. You expect them to experience sadness and grief, but I don't think most people are prepared for the anger they feel towards the person and then the ensuing guilt. That was the hardest thing for my brother to deal with after his wife died. I don't mean to make this book sound so depressing, because it really isn't. Yes, it is sad to read about what cancer does to people, but Nicola herself handles it so well. She is uplifting and encouraging to everyone around her. She refuses to give up and maintains her dignity through it all. In an interview, the author confirmed my suspicion that she had indeed experienced such a situation herself. I knew she could not have written this book otherwise. I wish I had read this book before my brother went through what he did. I think it would have helped me to understand and possibly help him to know that he wasn't alone. Everyone experiences those feelings. I think it could have helped him with the guilt, especially.

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks

This book is written in short little chapters that tell the story of a Maud Martha. Each chapter tells the story of her life at different stages beginning with her as a young girl and following her through her teenage years, young adulthood, marriage and motherhood. Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize (1950). She mostly wrote poetry, which is obvious when you read this novel. The language paints beautiful pictures that give the reader a brief glimpse into the life of Maud Martha at a particular moment in her life. I'm not sure if this will make sense or not, but reading this book is like looking at a photo album, which documents someone's life. Brooks uses few words to tell her story. But, the reader learns more about the character than you would in a book length biography of a person.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

I read this book for my book club, which I didn't get to attend. I was really looking forward to the meeting because this book really lends itself to thought and discussion. The book is set in the deep South during the late 1940s and tells the story of two young, Black men. They both are born and raised in the same small town, but their lives take drastically different paths. However, one random act will bring them together and change them both forever. Ernest Gaines is a master at evoking time and place. He also does a great job with developing characters. The reader can't help but ache for the young men who are victims of circumstances. This is a must read, especially for anyone who wants to know what is meant by the term Southern Literature.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I wasn't really sure what this book was all about when I picked it up. It turns out that it's a genre that I absolutely love -- retellings of classic fairy tales. Carter takes some of the fairy tales we all loved as children and puts her own special twist on them. Some remain somewhat light-hearted, but the majority of them are much darker. The story for which the book is named is a great example. The Bloody Chamber is the longest of the stories in this collection, as well as the darkest. The author does a great job at building suspense even though the reader knows from the beginning what is coming. I highly recommend this one.

So, now I'm caught up with reviews. I'm in somewhat of a reading slump right now. You can tell from the "Currently Reading" section in the sidebar that I'm still reading Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, as well as A Jury of Her Peers by Elaine Showalter. They are both great books, and I'm really enjoying them. I'm not sure why I'm not picking them up more often. I have been doing quite a bit of knitting lately. I have been trying to finish a gift for my mother-in-law's birthday, which is tomorrow. I have pretty finished it, but I just have to weave in the loose ends. It turned out very pretty, but it took forever. I actually had to rip it out and start over twice. It is a wrap, which is usually simple; however, this one is a complicated lace pattern. What made it more difficult is the yarn is very slippery, which means a slipped stitch can ravel back through quite a few rows before you catch it. There's also been quite a few things going on at home, as well. So, I hope to get back in my reading groove soon. But, until then I'll just keep up with what you guys are reading through your blogs.

15 comments:

Lezlie said...

I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed when I read A Lesson Before Dying earlier this year. The chapter that is Jackson's diary was heart-wrenching! I think it's my favorite book of the year so far.

Lezlie

Lisa said...

Lezlie, it is definitely heart-wrenching. It will probably one of my top picks for the year, as well.

Shelley/Book Fanatic said...

They all sound good! I'm going to add them to my list of summer reads!

Andi said...

Great list of books! I'm glad you enjoyed The Bloody Chamber (loved it myself). I alllmost bought A Lesson Before Dying recently, but for some reason I put it back. Thanks for the review catch-up, and I hope your slump doesn't get too bad. My own slump is slowwwly but surely going away.

JoAnn said...

A Lesson Before Dying was one of my favorites the year I read it, too. I'll bet your group had a good discussion!

Margaret said...

Great post, Lisa. I have The Spare Room and have been hesitating about reading it after my sister died last year. Your post reassures me and maybe I'll start it soon.

Reading slumps happen now and then and it's good to do something else - like knitting, either plain knitting which I find soothing or a more complicated pattern needing concentration.It looks as though the wrap took a lot of concentrated effort - enjoyable I hope.

Iliana said...

Sometimes doing the quickie reviews is the only way to get caught up isn't it? I really want to read something by Angela Carter one of these days and The Bloody Chamber is really the one I have highest on the list. I keep hearing such great things about that book!

Lisa said...

Shelley, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Andi, glad your slump is getting better. This has happened to me before, and luckily, it doesn't last very long (usually!).

Margaret, I think The Spare Room could be cathartic, but I'm sure it will induce some tears. The knitting was enjoyable, and I actually gave the wrap to my mother-in-law last night. She was thrilled with it.

iliana, I think you'd really like The Bloody Chamber if you like that kind of book. I think I could get used to the "quickie" reviews. :)

Cornflower said...

Completely off topic, but if I remember correctly, congratulations are in order today!

Lisa said...

cornflower, you are so sweet to remember that. Am I right in thinking that it is your anniversary on the 23rd, as well?

litlove said...

Great reviews, and I loved The Bloody Chamber too. I haven't been reading books so much lately - the weather has been fabulous and life has been so busy. In a little while it will either a) start to rain a lot, like it does in English summers or b) get too hot to do anything but read and then the books will come back again! :)

Lisa said...

litlove, I know what you mean about the weather. I've been spending a lot of time outside myself lately.

wisteria said...

Sometimes the reviewing does get overwhelming...totally understand. Sometimes I just read like you and then catch up later.

Lisa said...

wisteria, I think I'm beginning to like the idea of short reviews.

Dark Puss said...

I love the work of Angela Carter. My favourite is Nights at the Circus, but I have also greatly enjoyed The Bloody Chamber.