It’s been a long while since I’ve posted on what I’ve been reading. So, here we go.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
I could not stop reading this novel; it consumed me for an entire weekend. I made the stupid mistake of not reading anything about it before I picked it up (a friend recommended it and I just bought it and started reading), so I was very confused for probably the first 30 or 40 pages. Once I realized what was happening, I was hooked.
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.
Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can — will she?
The concept of multiple lives and that the feeling of Déjà Vu is actually the memory from some mistake or decision you’ve made in the past is an idea that I think is intriguing for most people. I constantly felt panic and anguish while watching her repeat errors of the past or narrowly miss death. Again. It was a haunting reminder that there really is a “a fine line between living and dying.” The fantastic development of the characters and the vivid imagery of her world gave me that incredible feeling of missing somebody and something when it was over. I’m pretty sure I was depressed for a solid two weeks when it was all said and done.
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
I really wanted to like this book, but I just never really got into it. The alternating narrators and time periods just didn’t work for me at all. The narrating characters changed within paragraphs and I spent way too much time just trying to figure out what year I was in. I also never really felt like there was an actual building of feelings between the two main characters. This book pretty much had all of the things in it that make me hate fiction. The only decent thing to come out of this novel was that I did not know anything about the Armenian Genocide and I ended up reading The Burning Tigris, which was an excellent.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.
After reading Gone Girl, I picked this one up hoping for some of the same twists, turns, and truly awful people. I was not disappointed. I’m not sure if I liked this book because it was quite disturbing and all of the characters were about as despicable as they could be. It definitely kept me me interested, but I was so glad when it was all said and done.
Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick
Unsurprisingly, it’s a historical account of the Battle of Bunker Hill (which I once got confused with the Battle of the Bulge in fifth grade and cried in public). I prefer to read historical narratives that are focused on singular events or very short periods of time because I feel like I don’t get so overwhelmed with ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING. It’s much easier for me to focus my ADHD when all 400 pages are dedicated to one thing. I think this story is well worth your time and I learned quite a bit from it.
Eiffel’s Tower: And the World’s Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count by Jill Jonnes
I was looking for something that would do for the Paris World’s Fair what Devil in the White City did for Chicago’s, but that was probably unfair. Maybe if I had gone in with lower expectations then I would have enjoyed it more, but the unnecessary length of the subtitle should have been a clue. The entire thing was kind of jarring. The author bounced around subjects frequently without any sort of meaningful transition as to why we were suddenly talking about Annie Oakley. There was plenty of interesting information, but I was just too frustrated with the writing to ever enjoy it.
Have you read anything fantastic lately? Preferably of the historical variety…
Blitz Diary: Life Under Fire in World War II by Carol Harris
After reading Life After Life, I really wanted more information on life in London during the Blitz (since Ursula spends several lives in the midst of that misery). This book completely satisfied that desire. The devastation was far more widespread than I ever realized. I cannot imagine how anyone survived that and how people today still manage to go on with their lives while living in war zones.