Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Best reads of summer 2012

One of my favourite summer reading spots

  • Gold by Chris Cleave - What more can I say? You can open this book scoffing at the importance of sport, and Chris will nevertheless grab your heart in a vice grip and proceed to toy with it like a cat with a bird for 336 pages. Here, just watch a video already. And go see him - he will be at Westmount Public Library on October 27th as part of their Fall Author Series.
  • Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - Of course Mantel knocks it out of the park with this second volume in her planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. This is an intense look at the inner workings of Henry VIII's court. It spends little time on the overwrought soap operas we are all familiar with, and more time ruminating on the timeless crimes of corrupting power, political backstabbing. In Mantel's handling, Cromwell might well be the most shrewd (note I did not say likeable or even sympathetic) character in Tudor England. Your heart will break for many minor characters, and it will break all over again for the ultimately flawed, and deeply troubled Anne Boleyn.
  • Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer - Affectations that could be incredibly annoying in a lesser author's novel (linear equations used to explain appropriate emotional responses to an autistic husband, stereotypical walk-on parts for suburban neighbours, random baldness) fit perfectly in this gem of a first novel. Props to Book Riot, which is where I think I first read a review. No props to the NYT, which described it as "chick lit with a metaphysical spin." Ew. This is a love story with a science (or you could say magic realist) spin, in which Sunny (bald: see above) snaps under the pressure of a white picket fence life with an autistic husband, Maxon, and toddler, only hours before Maxon (an engineer who makes robots) leaves on a space mission. When Maxon's spaceship is hit by a meteorite (jeopardising not only the mission but the lives of those on board) and Sunny decides to stop wearing her wig, life for the unique couple seems about to veer sharply off-course. Reflecting on their shared history (Maxon more or less grew up at Sunny's house, taking refuge from an abusive home) and their possible future (as Sunny's single mom, a force of nature herself, lies dying in hospital guarding one last secret of her own), both Sunny and Maxon realise a few things about themselves, and each other. This is a very unique story, very uniquely told.
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - This was one of Sharron's "Best Bets" last year, and I have been meaning to get to it for awhile. Ejected from her group home when she turns 18, Victoria Jones isn't exactly prone to opening up or trusting others after a checkered past in foster families. Instead, she uses the Victorian language of flowers as a way to communicate with others, spending long hours growing flowers and herbs with meanings known (mostly these days) only to her. Victoria's past, and the person who taught her about the language of flowers, is gradually revealed in flashbacks while the adult Victoria lives on the streets and starts a job at a florist. Her past and present collide when she gives a bouquet with a particular meaning, and receives one back with a significant, and relevant, response. Check out the dictionary of flowers from the novel here. Yarrow, by the way, is a cure for the broken heart.

2 comments:

  1. Dear Alexandria, thank you for posting about Bring Up the Bodies. I found it an excellent book, having finished Wolf Hall a few months ago. And yes, so many minor characters will break your heart. The turmoil that Thomas Cromwell confronts each day, and the honest truth about deception for the sake of the King, well, it must in reality have been crazy. I'm looking forward to her next book, which as you know she alludes to at the end of Bring.

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