This week as I mourned the beginning of the sixth year in the debacle known as the Iraq invasion/occupation and the 4,000th US soldier killed there, I found myself in the middle of two other wars - in Belgium patching up casualties from WWI in Life Class (Pat Barker) and in the midst of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in Tolstoy's War and Peace (I am past the halfway mark!).
I rarely read war stories, so it was a bit unsettling to find myself so occupied in the ugliness of battles and the aftermath of them. Barker’s novel of historical fiction snuck up on me; I started it several times and abandoned it for one reason or another, but this time I stuck with it, as she comes so highly recommended by several people. I did like the book quite a lot; it was an interesting comparison of one person who’s mired in the war while another is at home enjoying a social life and trying to ignore the war. And how utterly war changes one’s perspective and life and the effects it can have on art and relationships.
The book starts out quietly, at the Slade, an art college in London. There are hints of a pending war, but Paul, the protagonist, is mostly concerned about the direction his art is taking and wondering if he should stick with it. His art lacks passion. He will remedy that after working for the Red Cross patching up wounded soldiers at the front in Belgium.
There were some unresolved pieces in this novel and I think it could have gone a bit deeper. Barker’s writing is engaging and, when I feel ready to read more stories of war, I will give her Regeneration Trilogy a try. It’ll be awhile, though. (3.5/5) (Advanced Reader's Copy)
Reading War and Peace is sort of like life – when I get to the hard icky parts (the war) I want to put it down and avoid it. I haven’t picked it up for a couple of days now – just need to take a breather, so I’m reading another Elizabeth Taylor book, At Mrs. Lippencote’s.
Ex Libris' post, Short Story Sunday, gave me an idea. I plan to start doing a different genre each Sunday -- next Sunday, short stories; the following one, essays, then poetry, and drama (possibly a Shakespeare Sunday). I'll rotate each month, so on the last Sunday of each month I'll be reading short stories, etc.
Laura posted her top five books for the quarter and wondered if others have picked their favorites. I’ve read 24 books so far; I've read so much good fiction since the turn of the year, it's really hard to pick, but here goes, in no particular order:
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Of course, if I finish War and Peace by the 31st, I'll have to amend this. That’s not looking very promising though, even though I have several reading days this next week.
Nonfiction - I didn't read a lot of it this quarter, but I did love:
The Translator: a tribesman's memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
In Defense of Food : an eater's manifesto by Michael Pollan
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
Happy Spring to everyone!
It's not too late to impeach Bush and Cheney.