We are back from our August “gone reading” break and have some wonderful books to share with you. We chose only two for today’s post and will highlight many more during the remainder of 2013. Some future picks will include cookbooks, memoirs (some are even cooking memoirs!) as well as a few great old-fashioned stories.
So before Autumn officially begins next week and the leaves truly blaze with color here in Vermont, we thought we would start with one title each that rose to the top of each of our lists. These are not necessarily our favorite books from the summer, but they are the ones we are still thinking about, even as the leaves begin to fall to the ground, and ones we can recommend highly to all of you. And, by pure coincidence the reviews both mention Jane Austen.
And now, drumroll please….
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2013). This book shows just how well Karen Joy Fowler can write. She burst on to the literary scene in 2004 with her bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club and while I enjoyed her first novel, this most recent effort eclipses it, taking a deep look at human and animal behavior, and the meaning of family. Part of the power of this story results from the way Fowler has chosen to craft it – the first eighty pages yielding a surprise to the reader who comes to it without knowing too much at the outset. If you don’t want spoilers and trust me as a reviewer, then read no further and just pick up a copy of this book and get started. But for those who wish to know more, continue on. This is a fictional portrait of a family who chose to raise a chimpanzee in their home alongside their biological children (based on actual experiments that were happening in the United States in the 1970′s). Meet narrator Rosemary and her older brother. Then move around in time with them from college years, to adulthood, and back to childhood as a picture of this strange upbringing emerges, and their later lives take shape in reaction to it. What the reader is ultimately left with after turning the last page is an insight into the profound relationships and connections that exist in the animal kingdom. Highly, highly recommended. ~Lisa Cadow
Capital by John Lanchester (2012) – This book is brilliant. As you begin, you think it is a straightforward story about a disparate group of Londoners united only by the fact they all live on the same street – Pepys Road in London. And, it is true — the novel plots an intriguing story line. However, what sneaks up on you is the social commentary. Hopefully, without creating unfair images, or unintentionally offending anyone, you could think of the author as a male Jane Austen for modern times. How, could we compare him so? Well, mostly because Mr. Lanchester (an award-winning journalist and novelist) nails life in the 21st century and all its messes and glories – immigration, bank failures, the consumer culture, football, love, art, terrorism, dying, twitter, to name a few. Each chapter is a short two to three page look into the lives of people residing in one of the various houses on Pepys Road. The next chapter takes up the next household’s stories, and the next circles back again. In each chapter, each resident is reacting to their own unique life and the personalities that inhabit it, but also to the fact they are all receiving anonymous postcard pictures of their homes each marked with the ominous message — “We want what you have”. Each chapter is also a cliffhanger, often causing you to read on longer than your time, and your need for sleep, should allow. As the chapters stitch together, this book lingers long after the last page. Enjoy. I highly recommend this for anyone in the mood for a contemporary novel that offers insight without preaching, and laughter. ~ Lisa Christie