Some more mini-reviews from the last few months:
1. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. Good, fun mystery, well written. A sequel of sorts to Case Histories. Atkinson is master at weaving a bunch of stories together. (4/5)
2. The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. Excellent book. Love the story, the writing, the characters. (4.5/5)
3. A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson. Charming, funny novel with much irony and an occasional nod to some serious subjects (AIDS, death, politics, boy soldiers). Lovely writing. (4/5)
4. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Astonishing book - the characters, narrative, dialog, story, setting, all practically flawless. And that's saying a lot for 850+ pages. McMurtry is a master storyteller. I never thought I'd be interested in this Western, but Lonesome Dove will make it onto my top 20, if not top 10 books of all time. (5/5)
5. The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini. Interesting novel about Zimbabwe after independence. Beginning in the 1980s, we follow the narrator Lindiwe from adolescence through adulthood. The boy next door is Ian, a white boy, who is charged with murdering his stepmother by setting her on fire. In the first part of the book, Lindiwe is filled with teenage angst as she explores her attraction to Ian, who is released and returns to the neighborhood after just a few years.
The story is full of tensions -- racial, sexual, political, familial -- and secrets. The chaotic inner worlds of Lindiwe and Ian are mirrored by the chaos in the outer world, as Zimbabweans try to find their way after independence, which involves a great deal of fighting and inner turmoil.
I found the first part of the book choppy and difficult to follow -- but the narrator was a 14 year old girl; as Lindiwe matured, so did the story and the narration. There were a number of Shona words and no glossary, so I had to guess at the meaning sometimes.
That said, this was an excellent read and I recommend this debut novel - the 2010 winner of the Orange Prize for New Writers. (4/5)
6. No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym. I love Pym's writing, but this one seemed a little draggy to me. (3.5/5)
7. The Outcast by Sadie Jones. Compelling, difficult subject matter, intense, very well written novel of a young man in 1950s England who is not permitted grieving over a very traumatic event in his life and the effects this has on his coming of age. Recommended. (4/5)
8. The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg. Fabulous book. Orange Prize shortlist for new writers, 2008. (4.5/5). Highly recommend.
9. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. Absolutely delightful novel full of humor, compassion, social justice and romance. A love story with a lot of depth. Some of the characters are a bit over the top, but most are spot on and endearing. So glad I read this! (4.5/5)
10. Property by Valerie Martin. Another Orange Prize book (winner, 2003). Another excellent, if difficult, read. (4/5)
That's it for this week. One more Sunday and I'll be caught up! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.