I’d heard good things about Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, but thought it was a dying-person-thinks-about-dying book so I didn’t read it. Then I saw a snippet from the movie in an episode of The Sopranos and needed to know why Anthony Hopkins was hiding a book from Emma Thompson. If you need literary reasons to pick it up instead: The Remains of the Day won the 1989 Man Booker Prize and Ishiguro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. read more
Washington Black was short-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. From its nomination to the glowing praise around the Internet, most people liked this book more than I did. Though the first half of the book is well-written, the plot’s over-reliance on coincidence strains belief in the second half. Unlike my usual reviews, there are minor spoilers for the end of the book. read more
Ian McGuire’s The North Water made so many best-of-2016 lists that I picked it up with little information beyond its setting: the arctic. Northern cold and claustrophobia can add to a story (especially when I’m safe under a blanket with an Irish coffee).
Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship’s medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.
In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which a man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring?
I’d like to state up front and unequivocally: Anne Enright is a brilliant writer. The Green Road is excellent, but The Gathering is overwrought and pretentious. It’s a hybrid of Gilead and Written on the Body with a curious fixation on genitalia. The book jacket makes it sound more interesting:
The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations, she shows how memories warp and secrets fester. As in all Enright’s work, her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction, and gives it back to us in a new unforgettable light.
I haven’t read much modern satire and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout convinced me I should start. The Sellout’s depiction of the Supreme Court in the prologue is so pointed (and uproariously funny) because everyone knows which Justices are being mocked with no footnotes necessary. It takes some of the sting out if, after reading a line, you’re required to flip to the back for a history lecture before nodding and saying, “I get it now. That’s hilarious.” read more