Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Published by Random House
From the publisher:
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.
As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life-sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition-its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.
I read Olive Kitteridge after thoroughly enjoying Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, The Burgess Boys. The two books are so different that it is difficult to compare them, and I believe I did them a disservice by attempting to do so. Olive Kitteridge is fascinating, the linked stories an intriguing way to get at who Olive is. It was hard for me to come into the linked stories after the more cohesive The Burgess Boys. It is a brilliant book, I just wish I had read it at a time when I could better appreciate it.
Confessions of Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey Published by Ballentine Books, an imprint of Random House
In this, the last book of the Marie Antoinette trilogy (see my reviews of Becoming Marie Antoinette and Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow), Juliet Grey covers the well-worn territory of the last days of the French monarchy, beginning with the march on Versailles and the family’s imprisonment in the Tuileries.
Despite the fact that Marie Antoinette’s life has been written about so often, Grey’s series continues to be immensely compelling – partly because she is taking the time of three books to tell the queen’s story and thus can delve deeply into her life.
If you have a decent background on pre-Revolutionary France, you could pick up any one of these books separately for a more in-depth look at a given period of Marie Antoinette’s life, but taken together they provide a great deal of insight not only into the queen herself, but also into France and the genesis of the Revolution.
Very highly recommended, but take the time and read the whole series, they are all worth it.
The Village by Nikita Lalwani
Published by Random House
After a long journey from England, Ray Bhullar arrives early on a winter morning at the gates of a remote Indian village called Ashwer which will be her home for the next three months. The door of the hut she will share with Serena, her English co-worker, is a loose sheet of metal, the windows simple holes in the walls. Beyond the lockless door, village life goes on as usual. And yet, the village is anything but normal. Despite the domestic chores being carried out, cooking, fetching water and sewing and laundering linens, Ashwer is a village of murderers, an experimental open prison. And when Ray and her crew take up residence, to observe and to make a documentary, it seems that they are innocent visitors into a violent world, on a mission to hold the place up to viewers as the ultimate example of tolerance. But the longer Ray and her colleagues stay and their need for drama intensifies, the line between innocence and guilt begins to blur and an unexpected and terrifying new kind of cruelty emerges. A mesmerizing and heartfelt tale of manipulation and personal morality, Nikita Lalwani’s new novel brilliantly exposes how truly frail our moral judgment can be.
This is a really fascinating novel and now, in the wake of my Orange is the New Black obsession, I find myself thinking about it even more. The main character is a BBC producer of Indian heritage visiting this open prison in India, and the ways she interacts with the prisoners, is fascinating, with both their cultural and class differences. Ray finds herself in the middle between her white BBC colleagues and the Indian prisoners. In addition to issues of race and culture, Lalwani also examines different approaches to justice. If you’ve already finished binging on Orange is the New Black, check out The Village for a prison story with a totally different approach.
For more information, please see the publisher’s page. Source: Publisher.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Published by Random House
I can’t do this one justice, you guys. It is complex and crazy and omgwtfbbq1!1, so here’s the publisher’s description:
On a damp October night, beautiful, young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her death is ruled a suicide, but veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding her death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of Ashley’s father: cult horror film director Stanislas Cordova. Rumored to be shuttered away in a remote Adirondack estate, Cordova remains an enigma. Though much has been written about his unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself. With the help of two strangers, McGrath is slowly drawn into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world as he pieces together the answers: What really happened to Ashley? Who is Cordova? And once we face our deepest fears-what lies on the other side?
The farther I get from this book, the more impressed I am. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it when I was reading it, but it is not every author who can write a book of over 600 pages and have it be such a tight storytelling experience. Scott is a sympathetic main character, and Ashley’s death is a great and believable motivating factor for the hunt that Scott and his compatriots embark upon. The whole thing is immaculately constructed, just a really well put together novel.
There is one odd thing, though, and that is the proliferation of phrases in italics. I couldn’t entirely figure out what the italics were representing, initially it seemed to perhaps be Scott’s internal monologue, but that didn’t seem to be the case. At the beginning it bothered me enough that I thought I might switch to audio, but I was concerned about how the audiobook would handle all the documents and other ephemera Scott collects during his investigation, which are presented as black and white illustrations. Eventually, though, Pessl’s storytelling took over (I read the last 1/3-1/2 of the book in a single sitting!) and I barely noticed the italics.
Night Film is a fabulous book and one that I think would likely be best enjoyed in printed due to the extensive illustrations that Pessl uses to tell her story.
The Water Witch by Juliet Dark
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House
This is the second book in the Fairwick Chronicles series. I have previously reviewed the first book, The Demon Lover. This review may contain spoilers for The Demon Lover.
From the publisher:
After casting out a dark spirit, Callie McFay, a professor of gothic literature, has at last restored a semblance of calm to her rambling Victorian house. But in the nearby thicket of the honeysuckle forest, and in the currents of the rushing Undine stream, more trouble is stirring. . . .
The enchanted town of Fairwick’s dazzling mix of mythical creatures has come under siege from the Grove: a sinister group of witches determined to banish the fey back to their ancestral land. With factions turning on one another, all are cruelly forced to take sides. Callie’s grandmother, a prominent Grove member, demands her granddaughter’s compliance, but half-witch/half-fey Callie can hardly betray her friends and colleagues at the college. To stave off disaster, Callie enlists Duncan Laird, an alluring seductive academic who cultivates her vast magical potential, but to what end? Deeply conflicted, Callie struggles to save her beloved Fairwick, dangerously pushing her extraordinary powers to the limit—risking all, even the needs of her own passionate heart.
I don’t really have ALL THE THINGS to say about The Water Witch, it is definitely the second book in a trilogy, more bridge than anything else. The events of The Water Witch pick up right after those in The Demon Lover and, honestly, not a whole lot of new stuff happens for much of the book and, when things do start happening, they seem to be more a set up for the third book than anything else.
That being said, The Water Witch is still totally engaging and if its purpose is to make me want to read the third book in the series, coming out in September, then it did its job well. Recommended.
For more information, check out the publisher’s page. Source: Publisher, via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.