Archive for July, 2013

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

July 17, 2013

[Lesley]┬áThis was a great read. The repetition never got repetitious and the characters – especially Ursula – are very compelling and unfold in intriguing ways. I couldn’t put the book down EXCEPT for the parts in Germany and then when Ursula is part of the Watch. Those sections abandoned the snapshot style of the rest of the book and were simply too drawn out. Clearly Atkinson felt that those sections needed to be there to more fully illuminate Ursula’s motivations, but I disagree. We could have had those sections be more fleeting like the others and still have ended up in the same place. The Watch section at least gave us more of the family and that helped. I would have given this 5 stars except for the slow parts.

It is fascinating to see all the different possibilities for a life from birth through school, marriage, and adulthood. Sometimes the changes are minute – so small that the eventual outcome is the same. Sometimes the changes mean that many people’s lives take entirely different paths than they might have. Beyond this structure, the novel raises questions about memory, perspective, our impact on others, and the infinite number of choices we face daily. Highly recommended to anyone.

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We are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

July 5, 2013

[Lesley] This story is revealed to us starting “in the middle” according to our narrator, Rosemary, and we come to learn why she starts there and much more about her unconventional family. Some of these characters are familiar – the angry brother who leaves home, the sisters who compete with each other for attention, the scientist father who has trouble seeing his family as separate from his studies, the emotional mother who withdraws after a family crisis, but this particular family makes those roles new given their unusual situation. In some ways this is a complex story, made more complicated by the order in which things are revealed, but it is told so compellingly and is so interesting that readers won’t be lost even when they don’t understand everything. Rosemary is a likeable character, but also honest about her own flaws (even the ones she is just discovering). The writing and the way this story is told are both excellent – Highly recommended.

Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld

July 5, 2013

[Lesley] This is a great book about sisters (twins even, though they are different enough that all sisters will relate to their dynamic) and how much of who you are is choice and how much is nature. Kate, aka Daisy, is a great narrator. We learn about her through her first-person narration but also through her relationships with her distant father, her husband, her friends & neighbors, and her sister. The psychic storyline is integral to the plot but is only a small piece of what Kate needs to come to terms with in herself. Sittenfeld writes a good story and keeps everything moving along and interesting.