Fall Full of Fiction: Current Reads
Happy weekend, everyone!
Here in Southern California the weather is ideal—sunny and seventy degrees—but I’ve been sitting inside listening to an audiobook and knitting Christmas gifts. I even put a little pumpkin pie spice in my coffee to make me feel extra cozy. (Cozy is my favorite.)
Do you read books in series or parallel? I tend to read a variety of books in parallel so that I can pick the book I most feel like reading at any given time. Today I’m sharing my current reads with you, four in all.
Mark and I used to watch Netflix in the evenings to unwind, but lately we’ve switched to listening to audiobooks. We’ve gotten through the Hunger Game series by Suzanne Collins and have now moved on to the Cormoran Strike mysteries by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for JK Rowling).
First in the series is The Cuckoo’s Calling, which introduces Robin Ellacott and Cormoran Strike as they investigate an apparent suicide of supermodel Lula Landry. Lula’s brother insists that it was a murder and hires Strike to find the killer.
Strike is a serious character who endured a tough childhood followed by a stint in the army. Perceptive Robin is a quick and thorough thinker with good instincts whose bright eagerness balances surly Strike. Both the plot and the characters make this series satisfying to read.
After reading the gothic novel Rebecca, I finally picked up another gothic classic, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. The 23-hour audiobook begins grimly with Jane being bullied by her cousin and then banished to the Red Room where she is visited by the ghost of her dead uncle. An orphan since infancy, Jane was taken in by her Uncle Reed’s family, a family who seems interchangeable with Cinderella’s evil stepmother and ugly stepsisters. Aunt Reed sends Jane to the Lowood Institution, a charity boarding school for orphan girls.
The writing is bleak and Dickensian, and I’m not sure I have it in me to keep reading. Have you read Jane Eyre? What did you think? Do you recommend I stick with it?
The Secret History is a re-read for me, this time as an audiobook read by the author, Donna Tartt. Set in 1992, California native Richard Papin attends an uppity East coast college and studies Greek with five classmates. From the first page you know that his classmate Bunny dies. Richard tells his version of how it happens. He brings us into the classroom, where professor Julian leads discussions on the meaning of beauty, the appeal of Dionysus, whether psychology is science or merely a misnomer for fate. Richard also provides a picture of what it was like to be a liberal arts college student in the ‘90s, with its contrasts and similarities to my own post-Internet Big Ten university experience fifteen years later.
The dry humor comes through much better when listening to Tartt than when I first read it on my own. If David Sedaris were dropped in Richard’s place, he might make similar observations. Richard’s sardonic attitude and penchant for lying make the plot’s slow build plenty entertaining.
After awaiting this book’s release and having it on hold at the library for months, I finally have a copy of Death in Her Hands in MY hands. It begins:
Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.
The narrator finds this note on a trail (where there is no dead body) while walking her dog, pockets it, and ponders what to make of it. So far I find the prose overwritten: where one adjective would do, there are three. Yet I’m skeptical that this is imprecise writing by Moshfegh, and rather suspect it is purposeful stylizing of the protagonist’s narration. The inside flap in fact promises an unreliable narrator, which seems like great fun, but twenty pages in I’ve found my mind wandering, not yet gripped by a character who comes across such a gripping message.
I loved Moshfegh’s last novel, a satire entitled My Year of Rest and Relaxation, (truly phenomenal, and I assure you the ending is no accident—Moshfegh knew exactly what she was doing) so I’ll give Death in Her Hands another twenty pages before I decide whether to quit it or finish it.