In the inaugural Books 101 column, male award-winning writers were highlighted. This week, of course, I feel compelled to focus on current female writers. And, as my mother once again has voiced her opinion on the subject, I am equally compelled to allow her the first choice:
Nicole Krauss, The History of Love The oldest story in history, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl (sort of) but told in a very interesting way. Mom wouldn’t give me any more details so I excerpted part of Amazon’s review: “…a hauntingly beautiful novel about two characters whose lives are woven together in such complex ways that even after the last page is turned, the reader is left to wonder what really happened.” It sounds like a hard read so consider yourself warned.
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion lost her husband, John Dunne, from a coronary in 2003. To add illness, literally, to injury, his death occurred right after their only daughter became gravely ill. When some time had passed Didion was unable to have his clothes removed; all she could think of is that Dunne would need them, when he comes home. For anyone that has lost a loved one and then was told things like “Time will heal” or “Give it time” or would just like to be more compassionate, this writer really tells us what the passing of time doesn’t change.
Geraldine Brooks, The Year of Wonders This author was motivated by some true events that took place in a small village near London hit by the bubonic plague during the 1600’s. Most villagers want to flee. But their young rector, Michael Mompellion, gives one stirring sermon explaining that if they flee they may survive, but not without infecting the friends and family that provide them shelter. Why not stay and contain the plague? And, as you read you wonder, at what costs? And who besides the narrator survives?
Brooks is also known for a more recent work, March. If you are a Little Women fan then this is the golden ticket for you. What was Mr. March truly doing during the war? His letters show his interest in home but where was his heart? What, besides his duty, made him compelled to enlist? I liked the former work of Brooks a bit better but would never have read that if I hadn’t been so turned on for more of her writing after reading March. (And, at press time, come to find that she has just written a new book entitled People of The Book: A Novel. It is a fictionalized story surrounding the protection of a real and rare illustrated piece of Jewish literature.)
Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck Epron spots a homeless woman on the street and writes that she is only five beauty treatments away from looking just like her. That the new fifty looks like thirty because of the hair dyes our mothers didn’t use. She hates her purse, housekeeping, and when she said “If the shoe doesn’t fit in the shoe store, it’s never going to fit” my husband could only laugh at me while I vainly tried to hide the shoes I still hoped to wear someday! A facelift is great but it can’t fix the neck area – something we may all feel bad about at times; she makes us laugh through the process of it.
Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan You get to learn the truth about some Chinese women’s duties during the 19th-century. Arranged marriage, superstitions, foot binding, and the way out: secret female friendships carried via a secret language written on fans. Nice to know there was some comfort there. Local resident Jeannie Carpenter also thinks See’s new book, Peony in Love, about a 17th century Chinese girl/woman, is amazing. “I’m not finished with it, I’m savoring the reading time.”
Ann Patchett, Bel Canto In another work, Rhonda Fleming’s biography, she thanks author Ann Patchett. I wanted to read Flemings book only because of this work by Ann Patchett. Never before had the work of an operatic singer held any interest for me until I read Bel Canto. While being held captive, the singer, along with several international business people at a birthday party in South America, slowly find ways to continue with their daily lives. And while waiting for interminable negotiations to end, one voice must continue to practice while others are being found or silenced. Beauty and fear never mixed like this before.