I’ve been making my way through a huge stack of books this summer, thanks to not being especially mobile. While I do enjoy reading, I also enjoy walking around, and this has not been the most adventurous summer for me personally/physically. It’s been VERY adventurous if you count living vicariously through stories other people write.
And I totally do count that.
This summer I not only visited spots around the world, I traveled back in time to do it. Here are my most recent reads in the category of historical fiction.
I've been a bit of a Titanic geek for as long as I can remember--my dad was fascinated by the story, and I was too after the wreckage was found when I was in high school. I'm still intrigued by new and different spins on the disaster, so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. You don't hear much about the *families* of Titanic victims--what it was like to say goodbye or prepare for arrivals, hearing the first reports of the sinking, waiting for the final list of survivors, etc. I enjoyed that part of this fictional account of the event. I appreciated the glossary of Irish terms/expressions, and that it was necessary--dialogue seemed genuine. As for the rest, I say "meh." The book reads like a first draft in some ways; there is a lot of repetition that a good editor would have cut. With little exception, the characters were not very interesting, but they could've been with a bit more development and better details about the immigrant culture of that era. Readers unfamiliar with Titanic facts will be left wanting more, as this book is pretty much "the ship shook, people panicked, first class was full of dumb jerks, lots of people didn't make it to a lifeboat, sad sad sad." I certainly wouldn't expect a minute-by-minute account of the sinking, which has obviously been written about extensively elsewhere, but it was definitely not given the pages it deserved. Overall, the fictional parts all seemed a bit too tidy in an effort to give the book a happy ending.
I was in Guernsey to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I didn’t review it on Goodreads because I couldn’t think of anything to say about the book that hadn’t already been said. However, it is an absolute delight, and I recommend it highly.
I was in Afghanistan for And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini. I truly enjoy Hosseini’s writing style—it has an Amy Tan/Anne Tyler quality to it—but I did not love this book as much as his others. Here’s my Goodreads review:
I give this four stars because although the book was fascinating and beautifully written, ultimately all its separate parts felt disjointed to me. The stories of Parwana, Markos, Adel, and Idris seemed unnecessary. It was jarring to have the narrator's voice change because it sometimes took several pages to figure out who the voice belonged to and what the connection was to the story at the beginning of the book. It's quite possible I thought the book should've been about Abdullah and Pari (and their ancestors/descendants), but Hosseini's intention was to tell a broader story, in which case I just didn't "get" it.
Right now I’m in China. It’s taking a very long time to get through Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China, by Pearl S. Buck, because it’s approximately eleventy billion pages long. The story is mostly fascinating. I’ll keep at it.
My to-read list is very long, but I don’t mind adding to it. What do you recommend?