GPOY. Though I think I still have room for growth.
Always reblog the good stuff
What I’ve Read:
- Submergence by J. M. Ledgard - Both books I’m reviewing in this post are sensory treats, but this is the darker of the two. Submergence is about James More, an English spy who is captured by Somalia-based jihadists in the opening of the book. The rest of the tale—mainly about his love affair with an oceanographer he meets a hotel just before the Somalia trip—is explored in flashbacks, while their present stories are told in parallel through the end of the book. Danielle, the oceanographer, is unaware that James has been kidnapped, and is simply working and preparing for a research expedition to study deep-sea vents. (“Into the abyss” is a heavy-handed metaphor, but it works here.) The book goes back and forth between mostly straightforward prose (describing characters, conversations, happenings) and almost poetic philosophical “shorts” that become the thread tying all of it together. It was a beautiful, sad, thought-provoking book to read. Not a light read, but I’ve had enough of those lately.
- Alena by Rachel Pastan - I heard about this book and another (reviewed here) in an NPR interview and I’m so glad I read it. It’s a modern retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and manages to capture some of the original intrigue from that book while re-imagining the setting and characters in exciting, new ways. We never learn the name of our protagonist, but we do know she met the owner of a Cape Cod-based art museum in Venice while attending an art festival and after spending some time with him there, accepted his offer to become the new curator of his museum. The former curator—Alena—disappeared mysteriously, but is assumed to have been swept out to sea during one of her regular nighttime ocean swims. Relatively inexperienced, the protagonist stumbles into the prestigious job with insecurities about her creative vision, made worse by the fact that the ghost of Alena haunts her incessantly. Alena’s office. Alena’s brilliance. Her beauty, confidence, worldliness. Everything about the museum is Alena and she struggles to find her place, while also navigating the relationship with her strangely distant new boss, the friendly town sheriff and the Alena-obsessed museum employees she now manages. The descriptions of contemporary art are reason enough to read this. The artwork is brought to life so realistically that it seemed I was actually looking at them. The Cape Cod setting is another highlight. The ocean plays a huge role in the book and the stormy, windy, unpredictable shoreline could almost be a separate character. There is a major difference between Alena and Rebecca (that I won’t spoil for you) and it recast the story and the relationships between the characters differently, but not in an unsatisfying way. I liked the modern spin, really enjoyed the book and found the last few pages especially good.
I’m reading Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston now but am prowling for a new book for when I’m done with it. Any suggestions?
If you ask me about this book, I will lie to you. Except to say that it was wonderful.