Posts Tagged ‘Literary Fiction’
Nine-year-old Rose is excited to bite into her mother’s homemade lemon cake. Little does she know she’s about to learn about a peculiar gift: Rose can taste the emotions of the person who created the food. If the person loves to cook and finds the experience joyful, she will taste the joy. If the person feels trapped and upset, the sense of despair will come through in the taste of the food, say, in a lemon cake made by a mother anxious to change her life but unsure what to do.
While Rose is too young to fully realize the full impact of the emotions she’s tasting, she’s still upset and reaches out in the way she knows how. For years, she sticks to eating processed food to escape the emotions (and she can narrow foods down to the factories and farms that produced them). In part through food and its affect on Rose we learn about her father’s curious detachment, her mother’s affair, and her brother’s odd, almost Asperger-like behavior.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel and I appreciated the concept. I enjoy novels about food and family life, and I generally love magic realism. While there are a few things in the second half of the novel that made me scratch my head, I’m happy I read this. (I’m also very happy I can enjoy food without learning about the emotional state of the cook.)
Title: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Author: Aimee Bender
Source: Nook E-book
Read: September 2011
So far, 2011 has been the year of Yorkshire novels. The Red Riding Quartet shows the region at it’s darkest, while South Riding shows the region at a time of transition. The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison is set in Yorkshire during World War II, and shows the spirit of England at its best as it rallied to protect their country.
During World War II, children were evacuated from the London to the countryside as a well-founded precaution to shield them from German bombings. The Very Thought of You follows the life of eight-year-old Anna Sands when she ends up at Ashton House, the fictional Yorkshire estate of Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. The novel shifts perspective between various characters, including Anna’s mother back in London, the Ashtons, and other characters.
Thomas Ashton is wheelchair bound from polio, and his marriage with his beautiful wife is unraveling. Elizabeth Ashton expresses her desperation to have a child by drinking heavily. In London, Roberta feels guilty that Anna isn’t with her, but she’s also experiencing freedom from marriage and responsibility while enjoying her wartime position with the BBC. Meanwhile, Anna and the rest of the children on the Ashton Estate are growing up in a house that seems idyllic with it’s excellent education and caring teachers, yet they’re growing up without parents and individual attention.
The prose is beautiful, yet it relies on a telling voice to explain each characters emotions and actions. Anna’s journey from eight-year to an unfulfilled wife and mother in her early thirties didn’t quite seem believable. Yet I still enjoyed reading this novel, and am happy I had the opportunity to do so.
Note: The Very Thought of You was nominated for an Orange award.
Read by: Kelly
Title: The Very Thought of You
Author: Rosie Alison
Read: June 2011
The Magus, by John Fowles, is the sort of book that draws a strong reaction: you either love it, or hate it. (A quick flip through its Amazon book reviews will show you exactly what I mean.) There’s really no middle ground when it comes to this book, where, in nearly 700 pages you’re taken on one hell of a journey, for better or for worse.
The Magus starts off with great promise and is undeniably well-written throughout. Fowles proves to his readers early on that he is well-versed in his craft and that his characters are worth our attention. The plot surrounds the life of Nicholas Urfe, an aspiring poet who takes a teaching position on the remote Greek island of Phraxos. With little to do on the island but ponder his own inadequacies and roam the barren landscape, Nicholas becomes involved with the eccentric and reclusive, Maurice Conchis. The nature of Nicholas and Conchis’ relationship is mysterious from the get go, which serves as excellent bait for readers. Other mysterious characters and relationships emerge early on as well, so it’s easy to keep the pages turning. Soon, Nicholas is taking part in a psychological game, where it becomes increasingly difficult to determine if he is playing the role of willing subject, or unknowing victim.
My feeling is that the largest payoff for readers in this book is Fowles’ examination of reality vs. perception. Often times what you think you know isn’t what you know at all. A number of supporting characters in the book switch from protagonist to antagonist and back again, all to the dismay of Nicholas, who does his best to desperately make sense of the maze. Truth be told, Fowles does this flawlessly. The problem for me, however, began after about page 400. I found myself wondering if a book such as this would have come out of the editing room today with the same page count. The book becomes an all too monotonous back and forth—predictably unpredictable. Although incredibly smart, the heavy literary references and psychology make you wonder if Fowles wrote this book to prove a point or to simply prove how educated he is; an irritating sentiment to have creep into your mind around page 550. When you know halfway through a scene that what you’ve learned as a reader will only turn itself upside down a chapter later, the foundation of what you’re reading becomes unreliable and, consequently, uninteresting. For me, this book landed too closely to the line of, “it was all a dream” to really enjoy, or believe in, what the characters were experiencing.
Reviewed By: Kim
Book: The Magus
Author: John Fowles
Read: December 2010
Source: Borrowed from a friend