FEBRUARY 2007 READS
THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield: Vida Winter is a famous novelist whose life is coming to an end. Margaret Lea is the woman chosen to write Winter's biography. Not an easy task, given that Winter has spent her life making up backgrounds for herself as easily as she made up her stories. A tribute to the best gothic novels, in the tradition of Bronte and du Maurier, this book is a wonderful story of twins, haunted houses, mysterious deaths, mistaken identities, and the power of literature. I didn't see the resolution coming, but it was perfect and supported by everything that came before. I loved, loved, loved this story.
I LOVE EVERYBODY AND OTHER ATROCIOUS LIES/THE IDIOT GIRLS' ACTION-ADVENTURE CLUB by Laurie Notaro: two books of humorous essays about one woman's life. I needed easy reading that would make me laugh, and these books did it. My favorite essay has to be about Jerry, the homeless man who shows up to do yard work for her without tools. His method of bringing down a dead orange tree is to throw himself bodily upon the tree and rip off branches with his bare hands and then kick them when they're down. Her writing is funny and her take on life suits my own skewed sense of humor.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte: book club choice. Heathcliff, Cathy, and the Yorkshire moors--I fell in love with this book when I was a teenager and I was glad to see how well it held up for me twenty years later. Though there aren't many likeable characters in this book, the power of the writing and the imagery and the story itself is unique in Victorian novels. Someone said it was poetry masquerading as prose and I agree. Emily Bronte wrote a beautiful book that captures a time and place and people like few writers ever have.
APRIL FOOL'S DAY by Bryce Courtenay: by the writer of THE POWER OF ONE and TANDIA, this is a non-fiction account of his son Damon's life and death. Damon was born with haemophilia and at the age of 17 was infected with HIV from a transfusion. He died of AIDS at 23, on April Fool's Day. Not an easy book to read. I'm glad I did, for it helped me understand things I will never experience, like the constant and increasing pain of a haemophiliac, the crippling of joints as they grow older, and then the terror of a new disease which brings not only physical ruin but social ostracism. The saddest part of the book was when Damon was in the HIV ward in hospital and the boy in the room next to him died all alone because his family wouldn't come see him. My compassion increased in reading this book.
MY COUSIN RACHEL by Daphne du Maurier: I read this so long ago that I couldn't remember the story. I love du Maurier and this is a classic: a young man whose cousin and guardian falls in love in Italy, marries, and then dies after sending several letters that more or less accuse his wife, Rachel, of killing him. Phillip is determined to hate Rachel, but that doesn't last long when she actually shows up in England. At first bewildered, then fascinated, by Rachel, Phillip ends up in love and showering her with gifts. Is it the money Rachel wants? Why has she come to England? And what really happened to her husband? You'll have to read to find out.