Since I can’t seem to gather enough thoughts together these days to write about books in any lengthy fashion, I am going to give you three brief thoughts on books I’ve finished lately:

 

A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark -Set in 1950’s Kensington, this darkly humorous novel is told in the first person by Mrs. Hawkins, an overweight widow who works in publishing. Mrs. Hawkins is a dependable and sensible woman, seen as a mother figure to many though she is really quite young. She realizes that this is tied to her matronly appearance and when she starts losing weight those who depended on her before no longer trust her opinion and chaos ensues. I didn’t think about the connection between her slenderness and the way others view and react to her as I was reading the novel, but now I think this may be one of the main themes. Anyway, I really enjoy Spark’s writing and I love her whimsically sardonic humor.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe – This memoir is the beautiful story of Schwalbe’s relationship with his dying mother, Mary Anne, and how books draw them together during her final months on earth. Mary Anne is a remarkable and wise woman who lives with dignity. She imparts some wonderful life lessons to her son as they discuss the books they’re reading and Will is able to learn more about his mother’s life through her beliefs and opinions of the books they share. I think this book strikes a perfect tone – never crossing over into saccharine – and is a wonderful tribute to Mary Anne and her life filled with service. To read more about this really special book visit Lisa or Karen.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (no photo) – This first time novel is a treat. In beautiful, unadorned prose Coplin tells the story of William Talmage, a lonely orchardist, whose life is upended by the arrival of two hungry teen girls in his remote valley in Washington State. The  novel examines the need for connection and how that desire can lead to unlikely bonds. The setting, late nineteenth century Western USA, enhances the sense of isolation the characters endure and makes their longing for relationships even more poignant. Coplin’s writing is lovely and it will be interesting to see where it takes her next.

 

Happy November! I have a feeling this is going to be a great month.

 

14 Comments

  1. Joan Hunter Dunn

    I have The end of your life bookclub written down in my book notebook. Must check to see when it’s out in paperback over here.

  2. Short stories helped with your reading block, so maybe short reviews will with blogging 🙂

    • I think so! In fact, I may switch to this style forever. I liked writing a ’round-up’ better than trying to be brilliant (which I never am) for three paragraphs!

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one with a blogging block. I look at the pile of books I could be writing posts for and just can’t seem to achieve anything. No doubt it will pass but it is frustrating.
    Everything I read about The Orchardist is positive so I hope it finds its way here.
    Happy November!

    • I believe a lot of bloggers are suffering from ‘blockage’ at the moment 😉 Let’s hope we all recover quickly.

      The Orchardist is really gorgeous – hope it finds its way to you soon.

  4. Anbolyn, I am so glad you wrote about “A Far Cry from Kensington.” I read it many years ago and now that I have rediscovered Muriel Spark (ever since Simon hosted the Muriel Spark reading week) I am inspired to read more of her books. Another writer I am enjoying is Elizabeth Bowen, and I just finished “To the North.” It was excellent. Oh the blogging block…don’t we all experience it. Have a good weekend!

    • Muriel Spark is one of my new favorite writers. Discovering her this year has been a joy.

      I would love to read Elizabath Bowen. She sounds like my kind of lady.

  5. Miss Bibliophile

    I think there’s a lot to be said for doing quick, mini-reviews from time to time. I think they help with bloggers block 🙂 I’m definitely going to add A Far Cry from Kensington to my To Read list. I wonder if odd/ interesting/ eccentric characters who work in publishing is a recurring theme for Spark. In Girls of Slender Means there’s a character who works in publishing who is the most dowdy of the girls in the boarding house and who refers to her job as “brain work”, which I think is hilarious.

    • Haha! I think you will enjoy Spark’s portrayal of the publishing industry in A Far Cry From Kensington. She’s a bit scathing about it 😉

  6. Interesting about the weight issue in the Spark. It often seems, in historical fiction especially I find, that the motherly women are described as quite big, a stereotype of sorts, and I’ve wondered if it ought to be questioned. So for that the book interests me a lot.

    • The ‘earth mother’ figure does seem to be prominent in literature – it’s as if overweight women aren’t allowed to be anything else. The examination of weight and women and personality in the Spark novel is pretty fascinating in light of that.

  7. have a great month I loved the Spark I read it earlier this year was my first book by her ,all the best stu

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