Although I have only read two books on this year’s Man Booker shortlist, I would read them again. Both were books I started to listen to on audible and then switched by the first one hundred pages to reading online, to better savor the nuances. George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo was a complicated chorus of voices accompanying Abraham Lincoln as he fought to make peace not only with his young son’s death but also a battered nation during the Civil War. Autumn was Ali Smith’s gentle nod to the battering of circumstances (Brexit) and the relationship of time to life. Both books have a lot to say about personal perspective and national angst. Both are award winning novels and well deserve to be on the shortlist.
The others on the list now have my attention; Sewall Chan quickly summarized each for the New York Times:
- Paul Auster’s “4 3 2 1” – the story of a young American, Ferguson, across much of the 20th century, in four different versions. Events like the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement “reverberate around and through what’s happening in Ferguson’s life.”
- Fridlund’s debut novel, “History of Wolves” about a wild adolescent, Linda, who lives on a commune in the Midwest and is changed by the arrival of a young family.
- Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West,” about a couple uprooted by turmoil, in an unnamed city swollen by the arrival of refugees.
- Fiona Mozley’sdebut novel, “Elmut,” about an English child’s struggle to survive and his memories of Daddy, a moody, bare-knuckle fighter who defies rural social norms.
Fridlund’s story catches my interest, but I’m not sure I will read the others. Have you?
Review: Lincoln in the Bardo
I’ve decided to take a little time off from reviewing books to focus on a few unfinished projects. I’ll still be reading voraciously and thinking about how each book changes my outlook.
To start the month of April, I am looking forward to reading:
Autumn by Ali Smith (I listened to this on the plane, but I need to see it in print – so many nuances, I want to digest Smith’s words slowly).
Possession by A.S. Byatt (my friendly librarian gave me the movie version and now I am anxious to see how it compares to the novel by this Man Booker winner).
Ties by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri (I just started reading this and am already under Lahiri’s spell of luxurious language).
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (a pick of one of my book discussion groups).
The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church (another book club pick).
The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve (her newest novel to be published April 18th.
I hope to restart the discussion of books with you here again next month.
My Audible credits are piling up, and I decided to use them all before I cancel my subscription. Although my library is full of books I have yet to hear, I am not discouraged. Short British mysteries, Maggie Smith and Julia Child biographies have kept me company as I walk, but heavy plots requiring attention tend to collect moss – started, stopped, ignored, replaced by a library book in print. Flanagan’s Road to the Deep North still lingers – waiting to be heard on a long flight with no escape.
Five credits – five books:
- Joanna Kavenna called Ali Smith’s first in a four-part series – Autumn – “a beautiful, poignant symphony of memories, dreams and transient realities…” in her review for The Guardian. A symphony? A candidate for an audiobook.
- Recently published Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders has a cast of 166 voices, including David Sedaris.
- Since I am number 279 on the library wait list, John Grisham’s The Whistler is a good candidate, promising fast-paced thrills.
- Melk Wiking’s Little Book of Hygge looked like a quick way to get life-style advice when I skimmed it in the bookstore, especially coupled with Rinzler’s The Buddha Walks into a Bar (already on my iPod).
- Finally (possibly because I have been reading articles about challenging the brain to prevent Alzheimer’s lately), the last book is French Short Stories (in French, of course).
Now I am ready to cancel my subscription. But wait, those clever marketers have offered me a reprieve – 90 days on hold, a pause instead of a stop. If I have not listened to my last five books by Spring, I may have the courage to really cancel.