Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will becomeThe Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
Pages: 314 (Hardcover)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library multiple times
Date Completed: July 20, 2012
In the spring of 2011, I attended the Gaithersburg Book Festival with my friend Karen. She had a list of authors she wanted to see and Paula McLain was on her list. I did not know anything about the author or the book, but I decided to sit in on the session. Paula McLain was a very engaging speaker and the love story she described between Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway gave me goose bumps. You can see her presentation here. She made an impression on me and The Paris Wife got a spot on my very long to-read list.
It took me over a year to begin The Paris Wife. I began reading in April; with library wait lists and life demands, I did not finish until July. While I am glad I read the book, I was not drawn into the story as much as I hoped. I liked Hadley's character and found the story of their romance nice, but also frustrating. I appreciated and related to Hadley's desire to break out of her family's protective circle. At several points in the novel, while I groaned at her situation, I was impressed with Hadley's ability to proceed as she wished. Trying to find her own way in the midst of societal expectations must have been tough. As the story unfolded, I felt better and better about not liking Hemingway's novels. He was a jerk and deeply disappointing. As an aside, I keep hoping to hear about a male artist who is able to be loyal and loving to his spouse.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
Pages: 450 (electronic version)
Rating:9 out of 10
Source:purchased to read on my Nook
Date Completed: Roughly around September 17, 2012
When the Partners and Professors book club picked Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn for our September meeting, I did not have much of a reaction. Since I am on a book buying diet, I was nervous about being able to get the book in time to read for the meeting. The wait list at the library was over 2,000. My library has a speed read option were you can check out a book for one week with no option of renewal. I took out the book and read a few chapters in the beginning. Since I was nervous about not being able to finish, I read the last chapter and was completely confused. Even though I had technically ruined the book, I was so confused that I still wanted to read from the beginning.
I had gotten a Nook as a Mother's day gift in May, but I had yet to use it. Partner gave me an ultimatum: I would either use the Nook or it would be returned. I, incorrectly, assumed that there were no wait list on electronic books at the library. When I discovered that I would have to wait for an e-version as well, I took the plunge and made my first Nook purchase. The experience of reading on the Nook was a little strange at first, but I started to enjoy it. When my family came into town for my daughter's first birthday, holding the Nook while pumping was pretty easy. I had a little bit of trouble with changing the pages-- the buttons and swipe are not my favorite. After a little while, I was completely consumed with the story and did not really notice I was reading on the Nook.
Phew--- after that LONG introduction-- here is my take on Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I felt so unsettled after I finished the book. My exact words were, "that is some fucked up shit!" The story went quickly. I stayed up way too late because I wanted to see what would happen next. I was surprised with how the story unfolded. Even though I grew to hate Amy, I still wanted to figure out what she was thinking. I have never read a book with so many characters that were so messed up. My favorite character was Nick's twin sister Go. She has her share of issues, but I really appreciate her loyalty.
Natalia Stefanovi, a doctor living (and, in between suspensions, practicing) in an unnamed country that's a ringer for Obreht's native Croatia, crosses the border in search of answers about the death of her beloved grandfather, who raised her on tales from the village he grew up in, and where, following German bombardment in 1941, a tiger escaped from the zoo in a nearby city and befriended a mysterious deaf-mute woman. The evolving story of the tiger's wife, as the deaf-mute becomes known, forms one of three strands that sustain the novel, the other two being Natalia's efforts to care for orphans and a wayward family who, to lift a curse, are searching for the bones of a long-dead relative; and several of her grandfather's stories about Gavran Gailé, the deathless man, whose appearances coincide with catastrophe and who may hold the key to all the stories that ensnare Natalia.
Pages: 338 (hardcover)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
When I was working in Atlanta, I started streaming radio. I discovered a station out of Dayton, Ohio which featured book reviews by Vick Mickunas. He had a soothing voice, asked great questions, and really loved books. I started corresponding with him and was so excited to find that he was generous, smart, and funny. With various life and job changes, I was not able to listen to him on a regular basis. However, I would occasionally listen to an interview when I had the chance. I heard his interview with Tea Obreht in which they discussed The Tiger's Wife. The interview can be heard here.
Because I am on a book buying diet and my reading schedule is sporadic, I read through the book slowly. Because the story is so rich and layered, I think I enjoyed and understood it more. One of my favorite things about the story was the connection of Natalia with her grandfather. Their shared secrets, outings, and conversations reminded me a lot of my relationship with my own grandfather.
In addition to rich and complex family relationship, I also appreciated the themes of war, public health and aging. Of course, I also liked learning more about the grandfather. At times, I did get lost because of all the different story lines. Overall, I liked all the stories and the richness of the characters.
When I finished reading the book, I was in an airplane bathroom on my way from Honolulu to Baltimore on a red eye flight. Since the flight was so long and I am still giving my child breast milk, I had to pump. The only space to do it was in the bathroom. Let me say that it is truly a humbling experience to be topless with terrible light in a small bathroom while trying to make milk for your child. Fortunately, I was able to bring in a book with me and get lost in a really good story. I wish I had a rating system that included a rating entitled, "Wonderful for distracting while pumping breast milk in a cramped space with poor light."
Counting this book for the following challenge:
2012 Global Reading Challenge: I am counting this for the continent of Europe
Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
Pages: 391 (hardback)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Source: Checked out of the library
Earlier this year, the Professors and Partners book club selected the first book in the Hunger Games series as our selection. I devoured and enjoyed the book so much that I knew I needed to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, my sister-in-law did not have her copy of the next book and the other connection I had was impatient to get her copies back. I put myself on a very long wait list at the library and just waited.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins came into my hands at the beginning of July, just before we were going on vacation. I was going to have extra help with my daughter which meant that I could read while pumping. This book went as quickly for me as the first. I was less surprised with the violence and the intense premise, but still completely absorbed. Some of the plot twists were unexpected and others were just disturbing. I continue to like Katniss and found myself wanting to start the next book as soon as this one finished.
Random note about this note: I am only about to count this book towards my personal goal of reading 12 books this year, not for any other challenges.
The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott's account of her son Sam's first year. A gifted writer and teacher, Lamott (Crooked Little Heart) is a single mother and ex-alcoholic with a pleasingly warped social circle and a remarkably tolerant religion to lean on. She responds to the changes, exhaustion, and love Sam brings with aplomb or outright insanity. The book rocks from hilarious to unbearably poignant when Sam's burgeoning life is played out against a very close friend's illness. No saccharine paean to becoming a parent, this touches on the rage and befuddlement that dog sweeter emotions during this sea change in one's life
Pages: 251 (paperback)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library multiple times
The first night I was with my daughter in her room during one of her sleepless nights, I felt so lonely. I could not figure out what she needed or why she was upset. Partner and I had decided to take turns, so that everyone could sleep at some point. Not to brag too much, but I have three degrees. I have worked with people for whom communicating clearly is a work in progress. Our house was flooded and infected with mold three weeks before my daughter arrived. I was laboring for over 24 hours. None of that compares to the feeling of inadequacy that comes from trying to determine why your infant is upset.
I was so lucky to have family and friend support. People stayed with us and supported us by cooking, cleaning, and snuggling with our baby so that we could rest and be nourished. From the day she was born, my daughter (and my Partner and I) have been surrounded by love. In the middle of the night, the world looks different. All these feelings of self-doubt creep in-- am I good enough? What am I doing? Am I the only parent EVER to not know what to do?!?!? The confidence that the crying will pass is replaced with tremendous fear-- will she ever stop crying? Will I ever sleep?
I started to long for companionship--in the form a best friend who would cheer me on, share her story to make me feel better. However, I did not want to worry about the fact that I looked like crap or have to make a polite exit when the baby finally fell asleep and I could go nap. Operating Instructions by Anne Lammott was just what I needed. On the surface, I wondered if I would be able to relate to anything she wrote given the differences in our circumstances. I soon learned that love, struggling to do right by your child, and marveling at the mess parenthood has made of your sanity are universal.
The book is divided into easy to read chapters. I kept the book in the nursery and read a few sentences when I had a chance or needed a pep talk. I felt like I made a new friend. The book made the experience of being a new mom less lonely and much more bearable.
I am counting the book for the following challenges:
- What's in a Name Five: a journal is something I would carry in my backpack or purse.
- What's in a Name Four: the first year is certainly a life stage