Friday, June 09, 2006

Immersed in good prose

While away from the blogging, I have been reading quite a bit. I have three completely different books to recommend. (I never did like getting stuck in a rut as far as genre...)

First, I picked up the book The Fall of a Sparrow by Robert Hellenga from a pile of books at the top of my bookshelf. I had received this book (an autographed hardback copy!) as a gift several years ago, and hadn't picked it up because I tend to like to read paperbacks so I can carry them anywhere.

I wish I would've picked it up sooner.

The novel is about a classics professor at a small midwest college whose eldest daughter is killed in a terrorist attack in Italy in 1980. The story is about how he, his wife, and his surviving daughters cope with the tragedy. The book immersed me in the very believable lives of the characters and in the rich settings of rural Illinois and modern Italy. I loved being amongst the academia where people quote classics in everyday speech, switch languages with ease, and are comfortable with their extensive vocabularies. It made me stop on occasion and wonder where I could surround myself with this sort of crowd. Highly recommended book for those in love with the language and in need of an escape.

A dear friend recommended How to Be Good when I asked him if I should read any Nick Hornby. And I am really glad I read it.

It's a fast and funny read, but not always a light read. Kate is a GP living in suburban England and married to a sarcastic, often bitter man. The novel is told from Kate's point of view and is a sad and funny picture of a marriage going sour. Just when Kate is ready to leave the marriage, her husband meets a healer who calls himself DJ Goodnews, and he undergoes a spiritual transformation. The rest of the book is a funny look at Kate's (and her family's) attempts at being "good". It is a thoughtful novel about moral and ethical decisions while poking fun at modern suburban life and what it means to be good.

I can't say the book made me want to run out and read more of Nick Hornby's books, but I was told that this one isn't representative of Hornby's prose, so I may try another. A bittersweet book, but not one the best.

Finally, I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I hope it doesn't sound like a bad advertisement when I say that this has to be one of the best novels I've ever read.

I was a bit put off when I kept hearing the word "atmospheric" used in reviews of this book, but after reading it, I can see where the adjective is spot on.

The book begins rather innocently with the narrator, Kathy, describing her years growing up in an exclusive boarding school called Hailsham. As you read, you begin to notice subtle differences in the world Kathy describes. Ishiguro sets the story in England in the "late 1990's", but as the narrative continues, one begins to realize that this is not the world we live in.

I won't go into much of the plot, but I want to state that this is one of the most thought-provoking books I've ever had the pleasure to read. Highly highly recommended.