Thursday, January 26, 2017
I was gifted this book for Christmas, but it was the paperback Target Club Pick edition with a cool looking trailer on the cover. The best sentence in the whole book is the first one - "Every night, Frank played harmonica for the cats". Except Frank doesn't make it past the first chapter! The trailer park neighbor kid, Jake, is told he shouldn't be seeing this, as they haul Frank's body out, but Jake takes the harmonicas and keeps them under his bed.
What happens in the rest of the novel which is set in Quinn, Montana - population 956? Rachel Flood, the town home wrecker returns after a self-imposed leave to sober up. She tries to make amends with her mother who runs the local bar, The Dirty Shame. Rachel ends up paying her dues by being forced to tend bar AND play on her mother's soft ball league.
Unfortunately, I found the book to be flat. I kept waiting for a big thing to happen that would propel me through the rest of the book. Bar night, followed by bar brawl, followed by too much drinking, followed by hungover softball game - repeat.
My favorite character was misunderstood and neglected Jake, who drew his understanding of life from Jackie Collins novels and Rocky Horror Picture Show. He had a sewing machine that was his source of solace. What happens with him at the end of the novel made me want the throw the book across the room. I guess the dilapidated trailer on the cover should have been enough warning.
Sunday, January 01, 2017
Even though we have basically sworn off getting books for each other, this book was a very welcome Christmas gift from David. I have been a relatively big fan of Ian McEwan since I read Atonement back in 2004. Nutshell borrows heavily from Hamlet, a play I taught so many times I guarantee I caught all of the subtle nods. As for the not-so-subtle stuff - the main character named not Gertrude but Trudy, and her lover, her husband's brother Claude, not Claudius - it was pretty contrived. But nothing was as contrived as the narrator, the unborn fetus who "sees" the whole drama unfold. His mother is having an affair with his father's brother and this fetus is able to describe every sexual encounter between the two like he is there - because he is. He even describes it as he feels it from the womb. Couldn't teach this book - no siree! Because Trudy and Claude want to be left alone, there is plotting, there is intrigue, there is murder (wouldn't you guess).
It is a slim novel. McEwan's language is lovely. But the only character who I even wanted to like wasn't even born yet. I read almost the whole book on New Year's Day with a large glass of left over Champagne by the fire, so that part was delightful. But the book isn't one I will be passing to all my friends anytime soon.