Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn: A Novel

Keeping with the Irish books challenge just a while longer, I finished Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. It is a nice story - that seems to be the best word - just nice. Young Eilis Lacey from Enniscorthy, Ireland finds herself following the promise of a job and a new life in America. Her adventure is fraught with the stereotypical obstacles - a manipulative landlady, various gentleman courters, and alarming news that sends her back to Ireland where everything seems - is it too cliche to say, greener! Aside from the fact that her last name is a letter off from mine and I now must find Enniscorthy on the map, it was just a pleasure read.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier

The Illumination: A Novel

I am a big fan of Carmichael's independent bookstore in Louisville, KY.  Every year when we go to Louisville to do AP grading, we make a stop at Carmichael's and, since I certainly don't need any books, I only buy one if the store employee can convince me to buy a title I have never heard of.  This year's suggestion from Jenn Watson, the Carmichael's clerk, was The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier.  The book is a series of inter-locking stories connected by a mysterious outbreak of physical pain made visible called "the Illumination" and the talisman seems to be a journal of daily love notes left behind after it's owner perishes in a car accident.  As the journal falls into different hands, various character's lives are changed. The book is a subtle celebration of the connectedness of our lives.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin: A Novel/a>

Confession. David and I started this book last summer on our long road trip to Vermont, and although we were both enjoying it at the time, I didn't rush to complete it UNTIL I realized that it qualifies as another Irish challenge book. I shouldn't have waited so long. Let the Great World Spin is a series of interrelated observer viewpoints of the famous tightrope walk between the Twin Tower by Phillipe Petit in August of 1974. Each story is compelling - the Irish priest who befriends a group of local prostitutes, a group of women meeting to mourn sons lost to the senselessness of war, a hippy artist couple, some cell-wave hacking techies and a New York city judge. More compelling is the kinetic thread of connection between them. Frank McCourt - the Irish literary hero of recent tines - reviewed the book with the promise that this is a book you will take off your bookshelf to revisit time and again. I agree.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

The Solitude of Prime Numbers: A Novel

This book reminded me a little of last summer's read, One Day, in the way that Mattia and Alice connect as teenagers but live apart - as prime numbers - destined to be alone.  I suppose some of the mathematical metaphor was wasted on me, but I love the prose and Giordano's tenderness toward his fragile and flawed characters.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

The Borrower: A Novel

After the long week of scoring AP essays, I can usually barely get my eyes to focus on the page, let alone read for pleasure, but I had started Rebecca Makkai's The Borrower while my students were testing on the last day of finals and I couldn't wait to get back to it. It is a literary kidnapping novel. Lucy Hull, a 26 year old librarian takes Ian Drake, 10 year old, book-craving library patron on a spontaneous road trip when he runs away from home and she finds him hiding in the library. The writing is clever, the references to beloved children's literature are plentiful, the story is sweet and it can't be the best book I read this summer already - but I have a feeling it might be.