In the last week or so I've finished two books, both of which I'm happy to recommend. The first is Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Dream Hunters, which is the first graphic novel I've read. I was given this as a birthday gift, and it is exquisite. Yoshitaka Amano's illustrations are magical and done with a light, lovely touch. The story is a re-telling of a Japanese fable. While I am not familiar with the original, I believe Gaiman has done an excellent job maintaining the tone that one expects in a fable or fairy tale. This was a real treat.
I went to the bookstore last week, determined to pick up as many other Sandman books as my budget would allow, but I left without any. When I opened them up to look at the illustrations, I realized my naiveté about graphic novels. The one I'd just finished is really more of an illustrated novel; the ones I flipped through, I suppose, take the more "traditional" graphic novel form, which harkens back to comic books. I have to confess that I didn't like the artwork that much (mind you, I only skimmed), and I was not enchanted by the comic book format. I left the books behind. The woman who gave me Dream Hunters highly recommends this series, and she is one of the best readers I know, one whom I always will trust about books, so in time I'll look for them in the library or borrow them from her to see if I change my mind upon spending more time with this form.
The second book about which I want to tell you is Moloka'i by Alan Brennert. This well-researched (but never didactic) historical novel deals with the leper colony in Hawaii. The story follows Rachel, who contracts Hansen's disease at around age six, throughout her life. She is a fantastic character, supported by numerous secondary characters who are well-rounded. Brennert's descriptive powers are excellent, and I always felt that I was in the hands of a good story teller. At times, the narration, generally a third-person close to the protagonist, dips into other characters in a way that seems like it is not deliberate, but those minor flaws were not enough to turn me off. In fact, I was so compelled by the novel that I even did some simple knitting while I read on the deck; I couldn't put this one down!
I just took Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin out of the library; I'll let you know what I think of it when I'm finished!