The original plan was to review Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in December, when it’s seasonally appropriate. But I’m reviewing it now when people feel less sentimental about it because I have a quibble over the ending. It seems silly to summarize a story that has been told or satirized in every medium, but just in case: Ebenezer Scrooge, a tight-fisted curmudgeon, is visited on Christmas Eve by a series of ghosts to shock him into becoming better. Can he be saved?? (Spoilers abound, because it’s the ending that rankles.) read more
I saw many positive reviews for The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old, but held out because I don’t like books written as journals. Books written as journals rarely feel like such—some entries are so long that they’d take hours to write by hand, others contain information you wouldn’t expect someone to include (e.g., overly intricate descriptions of landscapes or the physical attributes of their friends). Hendrik Groen feels like a natural diary. There are some explanations for the reader, but no exposition dumps. read more
It’s a bit awkward to recommend On Chesil Beach to friends and family because it’s a book I’d never read aloud (or in front of) friends and family. After a swift recap of the wedding and dinner, the book launches into a detailed description of Florence and Edward’s awkward, bumbling wedding night. There’s an imperceptible shift into an engaging story; it’s like a magic trick. read more
“Ghosts and Empties” is the opening story of Lauren Groff’s Florida. Much of the collection pivots around Florida’s humidity and propensity for hurricanes, and the stories featuring a conflict are strongest. In the opening lines of “Ghosts and Empties,” there’s a small, individual conflict:
I have somehow become a woman who yells, and, because I do not want to be a woman who yells, whose little children walk around with frozen, watchful faces, I have taken to lacing on my running shoes after dinner and going out into the twilit streets for a walk, leaving the undressing and sluicing and reading and singing and tucking in of the boys to my husband, a man who does not yell.