Here’s a few books I’ve read over the past few weeks.
The Mistress’s Daughter by A.M. Homes
I’m a big A.M. Homes fan and when I read her essay in the New Yorker on being adopted, I grew excited learning it would be turned into a book. This is her memoir of being adopted, meeting her biological parents, and overall what it means to belong. I enjoyed parts of the book more than others. Her encounters with her biological parents reek of hurt and angst. They’re some of the strongest parts of the book. Her growing obsession with genealogy I found less interesting, perhaps because it lacked the visceral punch of the rest of the book. Still, this book works to truly make you understand what it might feel like to be adopted, something other books have failed to do for me.
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
This book has been reviewed all over the place and I say that it deserves the praise it’s been receiving. Described as a comedy of manners, the story follows three friends from college, Danielle, Marina, and Julius, now entering their 30s. Set over nine months in 2001, we watch them agonizing over their love lives, trying to establish careers, and realizing that they’re not getting any younger. What sets this book apart is Messud’s ability to take the stock characters and setups and do something more with them. Yes, 9/11 looms over the whole novel, but she avoids the treacly Now-I-Realize-What’s-Important realizations that many novelists fall upon. And even though none of the characters are that likable, you like them enough to empathize.
I read the entire trilogy over the course of a few days. They’re very fun and good. Imagine an alternate reality with the Napoleonic Wars and dragons. The series starts as naval captain Will Laurence captures a French frigate and seizes its cargo, which turns out to be a soon to hatch dragon’s egg. There’s a whole set of lore about the dragons and their habits in the books, but to make it short, Laurence becomes the dragon’s master/friend and is at once swept up into the Aerial Corps. I can’t wait for the fourth book to come out. Also, Peter Jackson just bought the movie rights I believe.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
One of Europa Editions lovely volumes, this novel After a lucrative life as a judge, Sir Edward Feathers, or Filth as he is called (which stands for Failed in London Try Hong Kong), retires to Dorset. Going back and forth through time, he reflects on his childhood as a “raj orphan” and its consequences. Gardam doesn’t waste any words. She’s brilliantly evokes the stifled atmostphere of Feather’s life. It took me about 25 pages to get into the novel, but after that I found it a very pleasurable book, if not a touch depressing.