Reading Notes

I’ve finished quite a few books recently. I’m hoping to write something a bit more about Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler, which I enjoyed so much, I then immediately read his first book River Town. They’re two different books written by a very observant and open author. His first book is more of a travelogue/memoir. Oracle Bones has no definable category. It’s somewhere between history, travelogue, cultural commentary about the changes happening today in China.

I picked up The Girl in the Glass next by Jeffrey Ford mainly, to be honest, because I liked the cover. It’s a wonderful mystery set during the Great Depression, with spiritual hucksters as the main characters. The mystery has several turns and twists, but more importantly, the writing keeps you sitting in your chair saying, ‘just one more chapter before I go to bed’, until you’ve finished the book.

Continuing with the mystery theme, I grabbed Dope by Sara Gran off my shelves. I keep hearing about this great new noir novel written by a woman no less. It lived up to its expectations. Set in postwar New York in 1950, the story involves recovering addict Josephine Flannigan as she gets paid by a couple to find their heroin-addicted daughter. Easy money she thinks, accepting the first thousand dollars up front, but things are never what they seem. As the novel progresses, we find out more about Josephine’s difficult childhood growing up in Hell’s Kitchen and her years as an addict. We follow her through all of the junkie hotspots in New York, talking to taxi dancers, pimps, and other addicts. Yet no matter how many old “friends” she runs into, no one seems more alone in the world than Josephine. The plot twists grip you and the ending shocked the hell out of me. Gran certainly deserves the comparisons to Dashiel Hammet and Raymond Chandler.