Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Time Traveler's Wife

Finished The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This is Niffenegger's first novel, published in 2003. Regardless of the title, I felt that this book was equally about Clare, the wife of the time traveler, and Henry, the time traveler himself. The narrative perspective jumps back and forth between them both and backwards and forwards in time.

While the book was intense at times (THE most horrific car accident description ever), one must be an intense reader when imbibing this book. That's not to say that you can't pick it up and put it down easily, because the perspective changes often, so that's easy to do. You just have to have your thinking cap on while reading each journal-like entry. I found it interesting that Henry time travels when he is most stressed. I've been feeling pretty stressed myself lately, and am thankful that this is not the result, but it emphasizes Niffenegger's concept of time travel as an ailment, rather than a perk. Sometimes it's a gift, sometimes it's a nightmare.

This is another novel set in Chicago that I was able to follow, street by street. I like that. I enjoyed this book and read it pretty quickly. It was emotionally clever and engaging, not a favorite perhaps, but a good contemporary read.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gatsby's Girl

Finished Gatsby's Girl by Caroline Preston. This novel imagines the relationship between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his first love Ginerva King when he was a sophomore at Princeton and she was 16. Ginerva and Scott correspond at length after their first meeting. Their romance lasts about eight months and then fizzles out awkwardly during Scott's visit to Ginerva and her family in Lake Forest, IL. The novel then follows Ginerva through her adult years when she becomes aware of Fitzgerald's use of her as a character in various novels and short stories. Set mostly in Chicago, we see Ginerva's engagement taking place in the dining room of The Palmer House. We see her escort Scott's ailing wife Zelda around the 1933 World's Fair, and finally her lunch meeting with Scottie, Scott and Zelda's daughter, in The Walnut Room at Marshall Fields. While their relationship was brief it had a lasting influence on both parties, reinforcing the idea that our earliest romances are with us always.

I enjoyed this book enormously. It reminded me of Edna Ferber's Dawn O'Hara and of my early obsession with Fitzgerald's work. Background for the novel indicates that Ginerva was the model for Isabelle Borgé in This Side of Paradise, Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and Josephine Perry in The Basil and Josephine Stories, which I have just started rereading. I've read Gatsby so many times, but in anticipation of the Baz Luhrmann film, set to be released Christmas 2012, I plan to listen to an audiobook recording, just for old time's sake.

I was about half way through Gatsby's Girl before I realized that I had recently read Preston's newest book, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Bad Beginning

Finished The Bad Beginning, the first book in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, and for me, it was a bad beginning. I just didn't like this book. Yes the characters are cleverly drawn and I can see why the series was popular, with the Baudelaire children being in constant peril, but for me it was just too mean. The idea of reading twelve more books from the series leaves me cold. No, shivering. No, shuddering.

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man

Finished Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg. This is Flagg's first novel, published in 1983. Recently I'd been thinking of how I read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistelstop Cafe so long ago and of how much I enjoyed the book. It's one of the few contemporary novels that has a permanent spot in my bookshelves. If I liked the book so much why hadn't I read any of Flagg's other novels? I had to get this one via interlibrary loan.

Eleven year old Daisy Fay is an only child whose father is constantly dreaming up get rich quick schemes and whose mother is growing more and more jaded by her unhappy marriage to Daisy's alcoholic father. This book made me howl with laughter. It's written as a series of entries in Daisy's diary beginning in 1952 and ending in 1959. Much like other books I've read recently (see Think of England and Five Quarters of the Orange), Daisy feels responsible for a fatal event that she has misunderstood. Filled with charm, wit and misadventure, this book is a must read for anyone who craves a good laugh.