I really want to read 1o0 books in 2010 for some reason. Right now I’m only on my 83rd book. Can I read 17 more books in 14 days? We’ll see. I certainly don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity. I did manage to read a few books in the past week that were worth mentioning.
- The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball): Ever dream of quitting your job and moving to a farm? This book will make you rethink that dream. Kimball meets a farmer, falls in love, quits her job, and moves to the farm. Farm work is hard! Kimball finds farm work rewarding but doesn’t sugar coat the sweat, blood, and tears part of it.
- Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson: The fourth installment (due in March 2011) in Atkinson’s series featuring private eye Jackson Brodie. Again, this one relies on odd coincidences, but Atkinson always makes it work. Plus there’s a cute dog. The various story lines are Tilly, an aging actress; Tracy Waterhouse, a retired policewoman who makes a split second decision that changes her life forever; and Jackson Brodie, returning to the are where he grew up in search of someone else’s roots.
- Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick: Ozick has taken the plot from Henry James’ The Ambassadors and retold it as a “photographic negative”. The problem for me is that I’ve never read James’ book, something I hope to remedy soon. No matter, as I enjoyed this book thoroughly in soite of that. Bea Nightingale is a middle-aged, divorced school teacher in the Bronx who has lived alone for decades. Her estranged brother Marvin asks her out of the blue to go to Paris to retrieve her nephew Julian, whom Marvin believes in in the city’s thrall. In fact, the nephew she doesn’t know is in thrall to Holocaust victim Lili. Add to the mix Julian’s feckless elder sister Iris, who also flees to Paris in search of Julian, so she says. With simple, direct sentences, Ozick manages to convey the despair and emotional turbulence of her characters. I’m onto James’ original next!
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A mistake to “retell” James, don’t you think? That’s like bringing the Campbell soup green bean casserole to Julia Child’s Christmas party.