Once again time has completely gotten away from me when it comes to writing about the books I've read, so a catch-up post with a few brief mentions is going to have to suffice. I have set aside three novels that I really do want to write about and will get to those in the first week or so of the new year. So there will be more tidying up in 2016 before I am ready for a fresh 'fresh start'. I never feel completely satisfied when I have finished reading a book until I have in some way written about it or shared my experience. Unfortunately in a few cases too much time has passed for me to do more than give a very very brief mention, but better a mention than nothing at all.
With Jamilti and Other Stories I have now read all of Rutu Modan's graphic novels (published in book format that is--she has some other comics online that I have tagged in my mind to read at some point). Jamiliti is Modan's first book and her earliest work. It is a collection of seven short stories--all interesting, some a little quirky--dealing with family and identity, relationships and love. The stories seem to be presented chronologically, so it's cool to see how Modan's work and style developed over time. The first story, the titular "Jamiliti" is quite brief and almost a little bit simplistic in the way it is drawn and presented. But by the last story,"Your Number One Fan" the comic is recognizably mature Rutu Modan. It's almost curious to me how very descriptive those latter comics are in the way they are drawn. You almost forget that this is a comic and those are not real people. I am eagerly awaiting another book by Modan! And in case you're wondering--Jamiliti is an Arabic word meaning "beautiful one".
Edna Ferber's So Big was my choice for the 1924 Club, which I enthusiastically picked up even knowing I wouldn't likely finish at the time everyone else was reading and writing about their 1924 books. I've always wanted to read Ferber and have long had this book on my reading pile. Not least I wanted to read an early Pulitzer Prize winner. If I am entirely honest with you--I am glad I read the book, but it was a story I enjoyed reading when I was reading it, yet I was not as enthusiastic about reaching for it as often as I should have. It is a completely satisfying story (and I put down my reaction mostly to just timing and the wonky reading year I have been having) of one woman and her desire that her son- Sobig, would have a better life than she had. Selina Peake is the daughter of a gambler who ends up as a farmer. It's not the life I expected for her. I thought it would be more elegant or easy perhaps. But she ends up marrying an immigrant farmer who then dies young and so she continues on, and she manages to make more of a success of it (willing to take more risks) than he ever did. I'd like to give her books another go. They were hugely popular and many were adapted to film. I think I was expecting something light and maybe even a little frivolous, but then there is a reason she won a prestigious award--popular she might have been but she crossed over that line from entertainment to literature.
I wish I had written about Anne Wiazemsky's My Berlin Child right when I finished it. I think I was conflicted about it and so put it off, though I did share a teaser while reading, which has a brief description. It's based on a true story of a Frenchwoman (the daughter of Francois Mauriac) who was an ambulance driver during WWII. It is a fictionalized biography of her experiences during the war and after and about the love affair she had with a Frenchman of Russian birth. It was another story I struggled with. While I liked the use of letters and diary entries as part of the narrative, I found Claire's 'voice' hard to warm up to. Maybe someday I will try and tackle it again and a second reading will be more satisfying.
Oh, Winston Graham's Ross Poldark, A Novel of Cornwall 1783-1787 was a delight to read and maybe eve more of a delight to watch on PBS. Now the two--book and film have become inextricably linked in my mind. The Adaptation actually tells the story of the first two books in the series of novels, though I only managed to read the first. This is a historical saga that you can really sink your teeth into (and how nice know to have such attractive visuals). This is a story that has it all--drama, love, revenge, unrequited love, new love, adventure and sweeping visuals of Cornish countryside (oops--thinking as much of the film as the book on that note). In case you haven't read the books or seen the adaptation--Captain Poldark returns home from the War in America only to find the love of his life (the one thing that kept him going when he was at war) about to be married to his cousin. His home is in ruins and now he must start from scratch. He is a decent and admirable man, or as much so as any 18th century man would be. He takes in this ragamuffin of a girl, who had been dressed as a boy, and over the years they end up falling in love. Cut to the next book, which I still look forward to reading (even though I have seen it and know how it ends). Typically . . . now that I am thinking of the story again I am in mind to pick up the next book. I wonder if there will be a new season of Poldark next summer? And how many books were there in this saga? (Quite a few I think).
I think Giorgio Bassani's The Garden of the Finzi Continis was the first classic I read this year. I was off to such a good start--not only a classic but a book translated from Italian and one set during WWII. What happened. I jinxed myself by not writing about it apparently, because it's been a poor showing this year in terms of classic literature. This is a book I would like to read again some day. It is a melancholy story for a number of reasons--a war story told from the perspective of a Jewish young man who falls in love with the daughter of his rich neighbors, a love which is doomed to fail. Of course you know what's coming but you watch as this way of life comes to an end. It's one of those perfectly told stories that grasps you around the middle and you can't turn away and don't want to but are left feeling bereft in the end even when you expected it.
I've got three more books to tell you about (and a further two or three more that I am finishing up this week), so there will be a few more loose ends to tidy up and maybe next year I will manage to write about my books in a more timely manner? Or there is always wishful thinking.