What I’m Reading…

I’ve been trying to get some reading done before school starts, because then it will only be school assignments and books I will feel I like have to read more than I really want to.

I read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. Here’s a synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s a testament to Simonson that in this delightful novel, Pettigrew
must navigate the tragic, the absurd, and the transcendentally joyful aspects of a familiar life turned upside down by an unfamiliar and unexpected late-life love affair. That two people from opposing andpettigrew mutually distrusting worlds are able to bridge every gap with unerring respect and decorum serves as a quiet suggestion that larger conflicts might be avoided or resolved in much the same way. Finally, a way forward that Major Pettigrew would approve.

I loved her witty writing and the dialogue was spectacular. Major Pettigrew is for sure a character I will remember for a long time. I thought the supporting characters were well-developed. The only qualm I really had was the ending. I thought it was a bit random that a character we had hardly met at all would pretty much be the catalyst for the climax, but it was still entertaining and fun. A nice summer read.

Plot: 3/5

Characters: 4/5

Scenery and description: 3/5

Altogether: 3/5

I also picked up New York by Edward Rutherfurd, because, well, I figured I should know something about the city I am moving to. Here’s a summary:

New York bookRutherfurd celebrates America’s greatest city in a rich, engrossing saga that showcases his extraordinary ability to combine impeccable historical research and storytelling flair. As in his earlier, bestselling novels, he illuminates cultural, social, and political upheavals through the lives of a remarkably diverse set of families.

New York is the book that millions of Rutherfurd’s American fans have been waiting for. A brilliant mix of romance, war, family drama, and personal triumphs, it gloriously captures the search for freedom and prosperity at the heart of our nation’s history.

I give him major kudos for sticking through hundreds of years of history. I am not much for family sagas, but I thought that he approached it in a way that was interesting, and you grew to care about the characters—even if you only had less time with them as you moved on from generation to generation.

One thing I was not such a big fan of was that I did not think his characters were that diverse. When the city of New York comes to mind, that’s pretty much the first thing that pops into my head. Rutherfurd mainly sticks with one family…a wealthy, upper-class family most the time.

Plot: 2/5

Characters: 3/5

Scenery and description: 4/5

Altogether: 3/5

I read The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn one weekend when I was at the lake. It’s a novel of Emily Dickinson and her life—with some of the author’s own additions. The writing was gorgeous, and I lost myself in the descriptions he used.

What if the old maid of Amherst wasn’t an old maid at all? Her older brother, Austin, spoke of Emily as his “wild sister.” Jerome Charyn, continuing his exploration of American history through fiction, has written a startling novelThe secret life about Emily Dickinson in her own voice, with all its characteristic modulations that he learned from her letters and poems. The poet dons a hundred veils, alternately playing wounded lover, penitent, and female devil.

Bear in mind, it is fiction, and it seemed a lot of it was not actually based on historical fact. I thought he pulled off Emily’s style of writing and her diction without sounding dated really well, but unlike Alice I Have Been (read my review here) I didn’t think the licenses he took with Emily’s life were justified. I think if you go into it with the mind set that a lot of it won’t be accurate, the writing will compensate.

Plot: 2/5

Characters: 3/5

Scenery and description: 5/5

Altogether: 3.5/5

Lastly (whew), I just finished Ulysses by James Joyce. I was interested to see if it really was as bad as everyone has warned me it would be. I had read some of his poetry before—so I was more prepared for the craziness.

Goodreads doesn’t have much of a synopsis. Ulysses is pretty much a day in the life of a character named Leopold Bloom—based of the character of Odysseus inUlysses The Odyssey. There’s some head-jumping, because that’s Joyce, but you are following this character throughout the day in Dublin. Some of it, no matter how much you analyze, will simply make no sense. I can’t really say I had a favorite part—or that there was a part I really hated. I’m weird because I have a love/hate relationship with stream of consciousness writing. Sometimes, I felt it was quite beautiful, other times, I don’t think anyone would think that way (even if you are schizophrenic).

Plot: 4/5

Characters: 3/5

Scenery and description: 2/5

Altogether: 3/5

I also nominate this book for The Craziest Book Award so far this year. Congrats, Joyce!

Have you read any of these? What are you currently reading?

♪ Peter Bradley Adams – Leavetaking – So Are You to Me ♪



4 thoughts on “What I’m Reading…

  1. Great reviews, Alex! Major Pettigrew has been in my TBR (to be read) pile for months now. another friend loved it, too. I’ve got so much to read before school starts, though, that I don’t know how I’ll get to it. Good summary of reading Ulysses, too. It took me way longer than it did you– I think I spent over two months on it. I hate stream of consciousness while I’m reading it, but I often love it after I’ve slogged through. I’m taking another Ulysses class this fall, so I will probably have further adventures.

    Tell your mom I said HI– I sent her a FB message a couple of weeks ago but haven’t heard back. If I don’t see you before you leave, I hope you love New York and SLC!

    • Thanks, Barb! Totally agree while reading stream of consciousness. I don’t know. Joyce is hard, and I find myself wishing I was reading Virginia Woolf instead.

      Mom says she needs to get on facebook more often! And thanks! It should be a lot of fun.

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