A lot of reading done this week….two books of which were two of the best books I have read in a very long time. I am only sorry that I may not have time to give them the full attention they deserve but I do hope that you will be reading them because I recommend them will all my heart. The first was The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey which I must say was one of the best historical fiction novels I have read in years. That’s saying a lot since historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I read quite a bit of it and I can easily spot run of the mill vs. the magic that can be created when a writer can transport you to another place in time. I simply could not pull myself away from this book. It took me back to classics such as Gaskell’s North and South and the heroine Eileen had so many of the qualities that I have always loved in dear Tess of Hardy’s Tess f the D’Ubervilles. When one book can bring me back to two of my favorite books of all time that are both absolute classics, I am in awe. This book kept me emotionally invested until the very end. In Owen Sheridan I saw a hint of John Thornton, in Eileen a touch of Tess, I often wonder if authors find inspiration in classical characters or if it is just my reader’s mind making the connections. Whether that is the case or not, The Yellow House is a new classic. Wonderfully written, magically created, it could only come from a true Irish lass and to be her debut novel….amazing. I loved it…every page.
Brief Description of The Yellow House:
Glenlea, County Armagh, Ireland 1905. When her family is torn aaprt by religious intolerance, personal tragedy, and explosive secrets, young Eileen O’Neill is determined to reclaim the Yellow House where her family had been happy and bring her broken family back home.As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the personal impact of the conflict. Her choice is complicated by the influence of two men. James Conlon, a charismatic and passionate politcal activit is determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, appeals to her warrior’s soul. But Eileen also finds herself drawn to Owen Sheridan, the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the milll where she works, and who believes that peace can never be achieved through violence. The choice that Eileen makes will change the course of all their lives and give her a true understanding of herself. Set in Ulster in the early 20th century, this novel brings to life the conflicts leading up to the birth of the border that divided the island of Ireland, and still exists today.
My next book to rave about has received the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so I know I am not it’s only admirer. Olive Kitteridge is everything I should not have liked but did. I have a confession to make…I do not particularly care for short stories…I always want more. I don’t like that about myself, makes me seem a greedy reader unable to appreciate a “slice of life” as they may say. But it’s what I am pure and simple. I’ve never told anyone but you can probably look at my reading lists and posts and determine there are no short stories or collections there of mentioned. However I loved this book and that’s exactly what it is…a book of short stories…”slices of people’s lives”. Not terribly exciting lives either but the average, normal, almost mundane details of life. Olive for instance is simply an aging woman, one who speaks her mind, loves her husband but might not even know it herself, often thinks badly of people and on occasion has been known to steal but only in order to set someone straight. She’s frightfully normal…I feel like I might pass her daily at the grocery or post office. And yet Strout makes her fascinating. She makes ever character fascinating in their own way by showing them as people. Their behavior, their quirks, their down right faults…she shows it all and you cannot help but want more. Strout is a creature of detail and she shows how those tiny details make up who we are and how our lives are played out. She is a master of characterization and a true artist of words.
Brief Description of Olive Kitteridge:
“In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge. At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama–desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love. At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance: a former student who has lost the will to live: Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.”
*I truly hope you will chose to put these two works on your to be read lists….and now I will share a little of what My dream day at the beach….. might look like. Thanks to IKEA for putting the image in my head although after only a moment of excited joy…now my poor librarian self can only think of the water damage! Happy Sunday all and enjoy your reading!