I've finished up a few books recently and would like to share reviews of two that I enjoyed. First is Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. I saw the PBS miniseries and liked it enough to want to read the book, which I did as an inexpensive Kindle download. As an added bonus, it is on my 1% Well-Read Challenge list. The novel is narrated by Mary, a young woman devoted to the true protagonist, Miss Mattie Jenkyns. The reader becomes engrossed in the doings of the little English village as it struggles to retain its comfortable manners in the face of impending modernity. A quiet book, the novel gives a glimpse into the complex layers that rest beneath the manners and fashions of the town. It was a pleasure to read each evening before I fell asleep.
The second book about which I want to tell you is The Women by T.C. Boyle. I read reviews of this and had downloaded a sample on the Kindle, so when I saw it at the library, I snatched it up. I take real satisfaction in being the first patron to read a new book at the library. I have no idea why; am I alone in this? The subject matter--Frank Lloyd Wright's scandalous love affairs--intrigued me. Who, after all, doesn't love a bit of gossip, even if it is fictionalized.
The novel is narrated by Tadeshi Sato, an American-educated Japanese architect who pays handsomely for the privilege of apprenticing with Wright at Taliesen. Tadeshi aims to stick with the facts, but he often injects his wry humor, typically through footnotes. The novel traces the roles of Wright's women, as well as his treatment of them and their treatment of him. The reader first meets Olgivanna Lazovich Milanoff, Wright's third wife. The second part examines Miriam Noel, Wright's free-thinking, drug-using second wife who becomes bitter as she watches Wright repeat his infidelity pattern, not with her this time, but with Olgivanna. The third section looks at Mamah, Wright's mistress whom Boyle portrays as the true love of Wright's life. Even as the novel focuses on Wright's women, it manages to create a rich world in which the reader gets a real sense of the weight of Wright's transgressions.
On every level, this is a book as finely crafted as a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Boyle removes Wright from the pedastal on which his talent has placed him and allows the reader to see him as a man. His passion and moodiness both enchant and alarm. Characters are round with a depth that reaches beyond the book. On a sentence level, the complexity of language and structure invites the reader to linger, even in the saddest moments of the book.
I'm about a third of the way through Trainspotting, which I'm reading for my book group. If that were not the case, I think I'd stop. I'll let you know what I think when I finish it, though.
What are you reading this summer?