Friday, 4 September 2009

Long days and terrible TV

Thank goodness for long days and terrible TV, the combination of which has made me very industrious this summer. I have managed to conquer some of my cooking hang-ups, acquire two new hobbies (like I need more), read a handful of books and improve my German. This is more than I usually accomplish in a year.

For the sake of brevity, I'll just address what I've been reading.

Though War and Peace still has me stumped, I've gone on to read lighter fare this summer. The Tea House on Mulberry Street was a quick read, though somewhat predictable. I'm glad I didn't actually buy it; it was a book swap. Another freebie, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, intriqued me because of its setting in India. Unfortunately, I think it could have been a much better book than it was. The author's writing style, or lack of, was at times distracting and there were missed opportunities for character and plot development. As someone foreign to the culture, I hoped that there would be more detail to the setting (ie. history, background, sensory usage). For all that, a pleasant read.

My favourite, stylistically, was Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. As a fan of Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle, I was looking forward to this one. It was quirky and funny, but didn't have the same weight or substance of my two favourites. I did buy it and will probably keep it for a little while at least. I haven't seen the movie yet, but hope to soon. My next choice, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, was another that I relished receiving. I had heard much about it and couldn't wait to sit down with it. It was good -- a perfect balance of humour and heartache. I really loved some of the characters and wished that the book was longer just so I could read more of them. I only have one lament, the ending. After reading and rereading the book, I still couldn't feel or understand the chemistry between Juliet and Dawsey. A good read, go out of your way to pick it up.

Lastly, I'm slogging my way through My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. Yes, slogging. This is an anthology of "Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro" but should be described as a collection of stories about tortured and torturous relationships. I love short story collections, especially when I can compare and contrast the writing styles of such fantastic authors. This collection certainly does that, but some of the stories are either so difficult to understand or are so painful to read that I can neither enjoy the story nor the author's craft. Great love stories? No. I don't believe every love story should be sappy happy, but neither is love only a cankerous wound. I've come away from the book feeling that Mr. Eugenides has forgotten the reader and is primarily concerned with showing off how cerebral he is with such a collection.