Campaign 2016 has become intolerable, even for this confirmed political junkie. I won’t go into why. You know what I’m talking about. So, in the interest of sanity, it has become increasingly important to savor the baseball, books and beauties of the last days of summer.
Today, the Red Sox have a tenuous hold on first place, but it has made for a very entertaining season. While their pitching, especially the bullpen, is sometimes painful, their starters have held their own, and their offense has provided some moments of sheer joy. Which is more than I can say for Donald Trump.
The rabbits in my garden definitely have the upper paw during these last weeks of summer. And who can blame them? Everything is so parched they’re driven to eat in contemptible disregard for the efforts I’ve put into my roses, hostas, blue salvia and more. I’m keeping the manufacturers of Rabbit Scram in business as hope trumps (oops, there’s that man again) experience.
These are the days to wallow in summer reading, and, as I usually do at this time of year, I am herewith passing along a few recommendations. First, to the fiction, to maximize escape from politics.
The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah, tells of two sisters in France during the Second World War, their relationship with each other, what strengths they draw from their family, how disparately they respond to war and occupation, and how ultimately they find each other again. It is a powerful story, beautifully written, about women and war and love.
A Little Life, by Hanya Yonagihara, is long (700+ pages) but, for the most part, riveting. The spine is the lifelong relationship among four college friends, an actor, an artist, an architect, and an attorney. The attorney is totally messed up physically and emotionally by a series of childhood traumas, which are gradually revealed through the book. The story is dark and tragic, and anyone who has followed the news for the last 20 years will find it difficult to put down. Although some parts get repetitious, it is still a page turner.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a tender story about a loving relationship between two older people (as in, seniors) who find solace in companionship after their spouses have died. The comfort of friendship becomes something deeper as practical (read, family) issues assert themselves. The ending is more poignant than sappy, and it’s well worth a read.
For those who haven’t yet discovered Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels (I was late to the game), this series of four (I’m in the middle of the third) books chronicling a deep and complex friendship between two impoverished girls in a rough neighborhood of Naples, Italy. It explores their competitive relationship, their dependence on each other, and the incendiary battles among a variety of colorful characters and families a half century ago. Against the backdrop of Italian politics, class differences and violent clashes between Communists and Fascists, the books raise the question of what is takes to rise above one’s background and develop to full potential. The first is My Brilliant Friend. Then come The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of a Lost Child. As with Yonagihara, Ferrante excels in recording social details. As soon as the reader completes one of the books, she wants to go on to the next one.
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest, knows how to tell a good story, but she is not as skillful a writer as any of the previous authors. The Nest is her debut novel, telling of four siblings who have spent their lives waiting for their problems to be solved by receiving their share of their father’s estate, the nest egg. It’s an interesting premise, and the weaving of the siblings’ stories provides intriguing plot lines enough for a 13-part Netflix series. It will hold your attention for a couple of days of beach reading, but really there are so many other places to read about dysfunctional families that The Nest is rather superfluous.
My next blog will reflect on some non-fiction that I’ve read over the last several months. Until then, I wish you extended summer days and hours of pleasurable reading and would appreciate your contributions to this list.
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