Harold Fry, The Goon Squad and the Goldfinch.
I love time off. Time off from all expectations. And recent events in my life have led me to want to take a lot of time off from socialising and generally being out in public. I love having a day free of all commitments, because it means I can read a book in a single day.
Most recently I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and A Visit From the Goon Squad. I devoured both of them in a day each.
Harold Fry was a very enjoyable story. While I felt the ending was a tad predictable, it was a sweet journey to observe and follow, and did make me reflect on my personal relationships as well. The other characters were well written, and while they may be slightly stereotypical, most people we meet are stereotypical until we get to know them deeply, and even then they often remain shallow. I felt the book could have been the future lives of the main characters in On Chisel Beach by Ian McEwan, if they had have stayed together rather than breaking up – i guess it is further exploration of the same theme, that theme being communication. Communication has such value in our lives, it is fraught with danger and the potential to be misunderstood… anyway I won’t go on about that too much.
It took me three chapters to figure out what A Visit from the Goon Squad was really about. If you haven’t picked this book up yet, or don’t know why people have raved about it, it’s an interesting idea… and I don’t want to give too much away! Egan examines the effect of time on people, individuals and on relationships, on dreams and ideas and our faults. Her characters are seriously flawed people, in a realistic way, and while I didn’t particularly like any of them, I was hoping for redemption for most of them. Egan’s language and style work wonderfully in this book and it is incredibly easy to read and I didm;t really put it down. Coming to the end of it was exhilarating.
My favourite chapter was the one on ‘slides’. Brilliant stylistically, interesting plot and characters, and while the slow self destruction of people is usually something I avoid, I really enjoyed this book. I was left with the desire to know more and to spend more time with most of the characters, which is a sign I really liked the book. It was a very quick read for me. I didn’t want to put it down.
I have since moved onto The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Not a one day read by any means, and I had to stop a few days ago because I was gapsing aloud and jumping out of my skin if someone spoke to me and I wasn’t aware of them. I am going to go back to it this evening, but starting this book caused me to experience a minor epiphany.
I am not a book snob. I try to read from a range of genres and styles. I really like genre fiction; Marian Keyes is one of my favourite writers. But what I have discovered is that I really like ‘literature’ because it demands all of my attention. I don’t casually pick up my phone and check twitter or facebook midway through a paragraph when I read Tartt or Dickens or Winton. And I don’t always when I am reading genre fiction either. Maybe it’s not actually a sign of ‘literature’ – writing this very post has made me realise its the sign of a good writer. When I don’t look for a distraction from my phone, the TV or another person…
After The Goldfinch I am planning on reading the first book in the His Dark Materials series. I am dying to start those!