Batch Reviews: Edition the First

You know that feeling you have when you’ve read a number of books and haven’t talked about any of them? That vaguely uneasy feeling that makes you feel kind of bad for even being online at all since you’re obviously not doing anything of value?

That’s kind of where I’ve been living in 2016. I read a bunch of books over Christmas and meant to get on here and talk about them and then I just didn’t. And now we’re in that horrible place where I read some of these books WEEKS ago and I’m supposed to discuss them in a meaningful way?

To clear the backlog (mostly of guilt) I’m going to batch them together in mini-reviews. No rhyme or reason to the groups. Random. Kind of like these posts in the first place.

nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I was not going to read this. And then I overheard someone in a bookstore mention to a customer that she had never cried so hard reading a book. My sister and a friend both had the same experiences. I got it for Christmas and it was the first book I read in 2016.

Vianne Mauriac’s husband has left for the front and she and her daughter, Sophie, are left to care for their home as best they can. Soon a German soldier tells them that he’s going to be billeting in their home, complicating all their lives. Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, has always been rebellious and more than a little bit reckless. Having been kicked out of a final school, she is at a loose end when Paris is invaded. Running from Paris, to Vianne’s small village, she meets a young man and falls in love. That’s how she becomes involved in the Resistance.

It took me ages to become invested in this book. Maybe I’ve been reading too much WWII fiction – at times it felt like we were just checking off WWII cliches from a list: forbidden love, German soldier living with you, resistance fighters, Jewish complications, harsh winters, poverty and black markets. But at some point, it becomes more than that. It’s two sisters, each fighting for their future, sacrificing almost everything in the process. As they fight for survival, they also fight each other and the relationship that has always been complicated.

In the end, I was bawling my eyes out on the bus, despite being told not to read the end on the bus. So I guess it was worth it.

ferrante

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Everyone and their mother seems to have read this story of two friends, Elena and Lila, growing up in a poor neighbourhood in Naples post-WWII. Seems like you either love it or you hate it.

Heinous cover art aside, I fall somewhere in the middle. I love that Ferrante is this anonymous person, who does not discuss the work once it is finished. I love the era in Italy and getting a chance to learn something about what it was like to be a child in an Italy freshly ravaged by war, the social structure that dictated daily life.

But mostly I found it hard going to even get through this. I wanted to give up a number of times. Lila and Elena are best friends but they also act kind of like enemies. It seems more like the accident of their having been born around the same time in the same building, meant that they were expected to be friendly. Elena ends up excelling in school, going to the high school and learning Latin and Greek while Lila is pulled out of school once elementary school is over. Yet, Lila still manages to learn Greek and Latin and accounting and design shoes in her father’s shop.

At times I wasn’t totally convinced that Lila wasn’t a sociopath. We follow the girls to the day of Lila’s wedding and then it ends. But it’s the kind of ending that is supposed to make you want to pick up the next book. I admit that I am curious. I know that IF I do pick up the next book, The Story of a New Name, it will be from the library.

OK. That’s two out of the way. There are more to come! Probably!

PS if you have a  snappy name for these, hit me up!

 

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20 thoughts on “Batch Reviews: Edition the First

  1. I’ve been feeling kind of behind lately, too. It probably seems like I’ve got reviews coming out of my ears, but it’s mostly because I got backed up from the books I read over Christmas. Last year I did a post of Holiday mini-reviews, but the books I read this year over the holidays were way better and I had more to say. Anyway, all that to say keep on with the mini-reviews, ’cause I want to hear about the books!
    I think your review of My Brilliant Friend might be the first one I’ve seen that doesn’t rave about it, and I have to say that it makes me feel better for being the only human left who hasn’t read it. I did just read her novella The Lost Daughter and liked it a lot, even though it was a little strange. And, I plan to read Days of Abandonment if I can ever get my hands on it. I put a request in for it at the library about 3 months ago now, and still haven’t heard a word. (I figured if I wasn’t reading the series everyone else is reading, I could at least try out her novellas.)

    • It does seem like you have reviews coming out of your ears! You are on it, woman!
      I wonder if it has anything to do with the translation? Maybe they just aren’t translating well for me and that’s why it felt so choppy. That was one of the issues I had – it didn’t have any flow, it took until near the end for the story to find any kind of groove. And as Lila becomes more of a sociopath, Elena becomes less interesting so there’s no one to root for.

  2. I love these batch reviews. I had to use the same format last month because, like you, I had waited so long to review books. I think it’s a justifiable way to review, though!

    No snappy name idea just yet. Last month were all YA books so it was easier to come up with a ‘group name’.

  3. I haven’t wanted to read The Nightingale for precisely the reasons you’ve listed. The clichés seemed a bit too much, and I’ve read so many war stories over the past 2 years. I think I’ll keep it for some other time, maybe when I’m ready to have a good cry. Aside from a little reading slump, I’m also in a review slump. I’ve been toying with the mini-review idea, and should I come up with a catchy title, I’ll let you know. 🙂

  4. Ha – I feel your review pain! I’ve been posting them – mostly minis – but am having a hard time getting excited about writing them or having anything I passionately want to say. And I’m also definitely feeling overkill on the WWII front. And – I thought The Nightingale was good, but nowhere near the hype its gotten.

    • I keep thinking back to the fact that I rated it as 5 stars on Goodreads – something I rarely do and am not convinced this one merited. I got swept up in the ending, despite the work it took to get me there. Might need to revisit.
      I gotta say though, these mini reviews are taking some of the pressure off which is excellent.

  5. Oh, do I know the feeling of having backlogged reviews well! This is a great way to combat that. The crier in me is really intrigued in The Nightingale now after hearing so many people have cried because of it! The most recent book that made me bawl was A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness; have you read it yet? (If you haven’t, you must!)

  6. Pingback: Library Checkout: February 2017 | The Paperback Princess

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