Monday, February 11, 2013

Unread Books Around the Web

I started my 100 Books Project because I was feeling guilty about the number of books on my shelf that I hadn't read. Today I found a great video on YouTube from Ariel Bissett who was feeling that same guilt. Check it out:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book 5: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

People have been telling me to read The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel for at least 10 years. It's funny, several people told me to read it, but those same people didn't want to give up their copy even for a few weeks to give me the chance to read it. So, eventually, I bought my own copy and let it sit on my shelf for another 2 to 3 years while I thought about maybe reading it one day.

Now that I've finally gotten around to reading it, I can see why so many people told me that I ought to. This book is so serious and so fun at the same time. Fun because it has all the things I love- good characterization, great plot and dramatic tension. Serious because it deals with issues of racism and colonialism and other general biases that Americans have. Kingsolver does a fantastic job of dealing with these serious issues while grounding them in the lives of these characters.

My big concern with this book is the way that Orleanna deals with her daughter's death. We as readers know that the death is coming, but what I wasn't prepared for was the way the family completely disperses afterward. As a mother, you would expect Orleanna to take care of all of her daughters and keep her family together in the face of such a horrible tragedy. However, she allows the family to break up and leaves her daughters to fend for themselves. I was completely taken aback by this course of events. I was not surprised that they would leave Nathan by himself in the jungle, but for her to leave her daughters behind and only bring one of them home to safety was completely out of character as I saw it. 

I felt the story kind of fell apart after that point because even though we saw the girls growing older and wiser (except for Rachel) I felt like there was no coherence with the beginning of the novel. 

Would I recommend this book to a friend? Yes, but with some reservation.This is not a book for everyone. It is a very specific type of story and not everyone will like it. If you like the kind of book that makes you think about politics and the human condition you will like this book. If you like character driven stories about family life, you will find this book insanely frustrating and broken.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book 4: White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Oh my goodness, how I loved White Teeth: A Novel. It was beautiful. I can't honestly say anything else without completely geeking out over it.

I actually listened to the audiobook version, which was read by Jenny Sterlin who was fantastic. Each of the characters had a remarkably distinct voice, which is partly due to Smith's expert characterization, and partly due to Sterlin's talented voice acting.

One thing I loved about the novel is that the story is not told in a completely linear fashion. Smith takes her readers through the lives of Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, painting their portraits without describing every moment in order. She builds suspense, making us question what we think we know about these characters, and drawing us into their story so that we can't turn away. There were many moments while I was listening to this audiobook when I did not want to get out of the car because I wanted to find out what would happen next.

I'm trying to be objective and find something about this book that I didn't love, but it's difficult. The one thing I took issue with was the way that the story ended for Irie (Archie's daughter). Without giving away the ending, I felt that it was a bit stereotypical for her to end up the way she did. It made me feel like we were back in the 1960s rather than the early 21st century.

All in all, if you haven't read this, (I'm about 10 years late on this) you should. It's a wonderful book.