Saturday, January 31, 2015

A snowy week of reading

This week I spent a lot of time preparing for the blizzard we had from Monday night through Wednesday morning. I thought I'd want to spend all my time reading, but found that all the books I was pouring over were awfully heavy, dark, and often depressing - a real contrast to the gorgeous white whirling world outside our windows.  So I often stopped the reading to chat with distant relatives on the phone, bake some bread or otherwise clear my brain of man's inhumanity to man.
Our book club is reading a light hearted novel to discuss in February - "The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared".  I read this one last summer, so I'm listening to it in audio now to refresh my memory for next month.   It's been a welcome change of pace to these others.   I also finished an ARC I got from the publisher and will be posting a review of  The Thing About December by Donal Ryan next week.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Richard Flanagan

This won the Man Book Prize this year, and it well deserves the honor.  Flanagan's portrayal of Australian, Japanese, and Korean combatants involved in the building of the Siam-Burma railway during World War II (some as POWs, some as their cruel guards and tormenters) is a stunning work that manages to revolt us with its sickening detail about the treatment these POWs suffered while at the same time it delves into the psyches of all the participants, giving us not excuses, but explanations and even glimpses of redemptive behavior after the war.   Compelling, disgusting, beautiful, violent and brutal.   A must read.   I can only wonder how this did not make the Maine Readers Choice long list.

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An Untamed State
by Roxanne Gay

Another brutal, unvarnished, violent tale about the kidnapping in Port-au-Prince of a young Haitian American woman whose father refuses to pay ransom for her, fearing to set a bad precedent.  I found myself unable to read parts of the descriptions of the unspeakable torture she endured for 13 days before her rescue. The second half of the book deals with her slow and painful semi-recovery and how the whole incident impacted her marriage, her relationship with her parents, and her young son.   Roxanne Gay is an incredible writer, giving us word pictures of incredible horror and delicate scenarios of the aftermath for victims and their families.  I would never have read this if it weren't on the long list for Maine Readers Choice, but I don't regret having read it. 

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1 comment:

  1. Both reads sound deeply emotional. I doubt I could have gone through either.


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