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Laura (lauralkeet, formerly lindsacl)'s 2013 Reading - Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Laura (lindsacl)'s 2013 Reading - Part 1.

This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2013 Reading - Part 3.

75 Books Challenge for 2013

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1lauralkeet
Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 9:40pm Top


Cincinnati Skyline at Night: my hometown
Inspired by other group members, I'm kicking off this thread with a "hometown photo". I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio from the age of 1, moving away temporarily for university and permanently in 1984. My parents still live there.


A Lorikeet: inspiration for my new username
Those who know me as "lindsacl" may be asking, where the heck did the new name come from? Now you know.

My WikiThing is where I keep an archive of links to personal threads from a variety of LT groups and group reads, past & present.

Books completed ("details" jumps to location in this thread where review & links can be found)
7. Sense and Sensibility (re-read) - details
8. Mrs Somebody Somebody - details
9. Full House - details
10. Family Matters - details
11. In the Woods - details
12. At the Owl Woman Saloon - details
13. Doctor Thorne - details
14. The Beth Book - details
15. The Dinner - details

2TinaV95
Feb 12, 2013, 5:11pm Top

OMG, did I actually make it to a thread first?? Are you done with your initial posts?

Yay for the user name and YAY for new thread so everyone can find you!

3tiffin
Feb 12, 2013, 5:33pm Top

What's that building with the neato cone on top? I like your new name, birdie!

4qebo
Feb 12, 2013, 5:42pm Top

Briefly emerging from hibernation to hail the new identity!

Cincinnati... I have a genealogical mystery there...

5sibyx
Feb 12, 2013, 5:46pm Top

I like your new name very much and I like it that you changed it - I sometimes think about changing mine too.

6gennyt
Feb 12, 2013, 7:06pm Top

Amazing photo! Sensible to put both your old and new name in this thread title, until we all get used to the new one...

7lauralkeet
Feb 12, 2013, 8:47pm Top

>2 TinaV95:: Congrats on being first, Tina! I haven't graduated to multiple opening messages yet so you didn't interfere with anything.

>3 tiffin:: That building Tui? I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea. I'm not sure of the date on that photo, but it's definitely post-1980 because it wasn't there when I was a kid. Procter and Gamble built a new HQ in the 80s or 90s, but that's not it. And Google didn't yield any quick answers, darn it.

>4 qebo:: genealogical mystery? do tell ...

>5 sibyx:: the change process was pretty easy, Lucy. The tough part was deciding what to change it to.

>6 gennyt:: thanks Genny, I was a little anxious about people recognizing the "new me". The thread continuation feature helps a lot, and by the next thread I won't need the "formerly" bit in the title anymore.

9lauralkeet
Feb 12, 2013, 9:01pm Top

WELL DONE TUI!

10drachenbraut23
Feb 13, 2013, 3:44am Top

Hi Laura, just reserving a place on your new thread. Loooove your new username, also I never had a problem with your old one *smile*.

11PaulCranswick
Feb 13, 2013, 5:27am Top

New moniker Laura but still the same delightful thread. Love the Cincinnati skyline up top.

12DorsVenabili
Feb 13, 2013, 6:10am Top

I got the story behind the new name on the previous thread. Well done!

13tiffin
Feb 13, 2013, 9:28am Top

>9 lauralkeet:: Cincinnati Ohio buildings got it but Cincinnati Ohio skyscraper with dome did not!

14Donna828
Feb 13, 2013, 6:29pm Top

The name has changed but still the same Laura, reader and reviewer of too many books I want to read! I guess people will stop calling you "Linda" now! Love the Lorikeet picture. Lori is my daughter's name so we have known about these beautiful birds for some time.

15qebo
Feb 13, 2013, 6:54pm Top

7: Genealogical mystery is described here. Ohio is more precisely Cincinnati and vicinity. I’ve found some information in Hamilton Co records, but alas the combination of the destroyed 1890 US census and fire/flood damage to local records seems to doom further efforts; I’ve inquired everywhere I can think to. I should work on the Pennsylvania end, but it’s on the other side of Pennsylvania from me, not a place I can easily visit in person. So anyway, this all makes Cincinnati a location of interest; I may wish to go there one day out of curiosity.

16lauralkeet
Feb 13, 2013, 9:36pm Top

>14 Donna828:: glad to see you here Donna, thanks for stopping by.
>15 qebo:: wow, that's a cool story Katherine.

17alcottacre
Feb 13, 2013, 9:40pm Top

Love the new name, Laura! It may take me a bit to get used to it though :)

18vancouverdeb
Feb 13, 2013, 9:44pm Top

Nice new name Laura, but I must confess I rather liked your other one! In my mind I pronounced it Lindsicle - like it rhymed with Popsicle! :)

19TinaV95
Feb 13, 2013, 10:32pm Top

Back for a quick check in ;)

*waving as I run through on the way to bed*

20ChelleBearss
Feb 15, 2013, 10:33am Top

Love the new name! :)

21thornton37814
Feb 16, 2013, 9:43am Top

Your photo is making me want some Skyline Chili, Graeter's Ice Cream, La Rosa's Pizza, and Sebastian's Gyros!

22drachenbraut23
Feb 16, 2013, 12:02pm Top

Just stopping by to wish you and your family a wonderful weekend Laura *smile and a wave*

23lauralkeet
Feb 16, 2013, 12:10pm Top

Hi Tina, Chelle, Lori & Bianca! Hope you are all enjoying your weekends.

>21 thornton37814:: Lori, are you a Cincy native? I'm heading there in just over a month to see my parents. They live in a retirement community within walking distance of the Hyde Park Square Graeters, so that''s one of my regular stops when I'm in town.

24lauralkeet
Feb 16, 2013, 12:15pm Top

Sweater Knitting Update
My "Fibonacci Sweater" is coming along nicely. I've knit 6.5" of the yoke, just 2" more to go. This is probably the "exciting" part because the body & sleeves will be a medium gray color until the very end, when you knit in a few rows of color at the waist & cuffs. Click to enlarge:


Meanwhile, I am about halfway through a re-read of Sense and Sensibility. It's been a crazy week at work because I'm picking up some new responsibilities and feel like I'm drinking from a fire hose. Austen is perfect for unwinding at the end of a long day, but I've also been tired so I haven't read as fast as usual.

25drachenbraut23
Feb 16, 2013, 12:26pm Top

Your knitting looks very interesting Laura! I am very curious to see how the finished Sweater will look like.

I am glad to hear that Austen helps you to unwind from a stressful day at work. Hopefully your new responsibillities will settle nicely for your soon. Well, if I am really stressed from work I need "extreme" fluff which usually presents itself in form of paranormal romances *grin*.

26LizzieD
Feb 16, 2013, 12:37pm Top

Happy New Thread, Laura, and sort of "uh oh." For me Austen was the final retreat from work-related stress before I lost it completely. I had lots of layers of fluff before I reached her. In fact, I could tell that it was time to stop my world when I reached for dear Jane. I hope you're not similarly afflicted.

27lauralkeet
Edited: Feb 16, 2013, 12:49pm Top

>25 drachenbraut23:: Bianca, if you go to this message on my previous thread you will see what a completed sweater will look like (albeit in different colors). I think you were on your sickbed when I posted it.

>26 LizzieD:: oh dear Peggy! No, I don't think Austen is that kind of read for me. Thank goodness! I'm actually excited about the new stuff at work. It's energizing but tiring.

28souloftherose
Feb 16, 2013, 1:04pm Top

Belated congratulations on the new LT moniker! Cincinnati is one of the very few places in the US I've been to. I found the history fascinating and I'd like to go back one day as I didn't get to spend nearly enough time in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre (embarrassingly, before visiting I was expecting a literal underground railroad...)

Sorry to hear work has been stressful - glad S&S is helping.

30gennyt
Feb 16, 2013, 2:47pm Top

#29 Wonderful! I believe these days there is a crochet or knitting pattern for just about anything, but I had never imagined one for a lorikeet - not least because I had not heard the name lorikeet until Laura changed her name...

31laytonwoman3rd
Feb 16, 2013, 3:38pm Top

#24, 26 I, too, am retreating into Jane Austen during a period of heavy stress...and I'm somewhat ashamed to admit this is my first acquaintance with the lady and her world. I'm nearly finished with Pride and Prejudice, and cannot imagine why I waited so long to get to it.

The sweater is looking simply beautiful...quite appropriate for a lovely bird like yourself! (Or is it destined for one of your chicks?)

32lauralkeet
Feb 16, 2013, 4:11pm Top

>28 souloftherose:: Heather, how did you come to be in Cincinnati? I wouldn't say it's a destination for the European leisure traveler :) And you have one up on me -- I haven't been to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre! It opened in 2004 and I haven't made it there on any of my recent visits (note to self...)

>29 tiffin:: OMG. I just saw a pattern for hedgehogs the other day, so I guess why not lorikeets?

>30 gennyt:: Hi Genny! Glad to expand your knowledge of the world's avian population :)

>31 laytonwoman3rd:: The sweater will be mine! I didn't want anyone to feel obligated to wear it if it turns out wrong. Thanks for the compliments though !!

33qebo
Feb 16, 2013, 5:04pm Top

29: Oh, so cool!

34brenzi
Feb 16, 2013, 5:17pm Top

I also had never heard of lorikeets until Laura changed her name. Wow! The crocheted ones are cool.

Funny Laura, I'm planning to read Sense and Sensibility this year too. And I'm not even under any stress! Ever:-)

35scaifea
Edited: Feb 16, 2013, 5:22pm Top

Oh, yes! Graeter's and Skyline! I miss those (which have been imported to Columbus). Cincy is a cool town, and I very much enjoy my visits there - when in grad school and then teaching at Kenyon, I went there for weekend trips and for a couple of conferences, and now we get there just once a year when visiting Tomm's brother.

And your sweater is coming along so beautifully! Exciting!

36tiffin
Feb 16, 2013, 5:26pm Top

>32 lauralkeet:: catnip lorikeets! hehe

37lauralkeet
Feb 16, 2013, 9:13pm Top

36 messages and I haven't even finished a book. I'm enjoying all the chatter though! Greetings to Katherine, Bonnie, Amber, and Tui.

>35 scaifea:: Skyline: boy did I love it in my carnivorous days. Last summer my brother and I were both in town and we escaped some parent-related stress by visiting Skyline. They have a black beans and rice thing that was OK, but bore absolutely no resemblance to Cincinnati Chili. Bummer.

I've tried to convince my Kenyon student to try Skyline (you can buy frozen microwave entrees at Kroger these days), but she hasn't done so yet. Graeters, now that's another story.

38scaifea
Feb 17, 2013, 8:35am Top

>37 lauralkeet:: Kenyon and food reminds me - if you haven't done so already, I would suggest that you try the Kenyon Inn's Sunday brunch sometime. They're brunches are *amazing*.

39lauralkeet
Feb 17, 2013, 1:18pm Top

>38 scaifea:: good to know Amber. We'll have to make a point of staying longer on a Sunday sometime. It's usually a travel day home (8 hrs), but perhaps we should leave with a full stomach!

40lauralkeet
Feb 17, 2013, 1:24pm Top

7. Sense and Sensibility ()
Source: Kindle
Why I read this now: Because it was time for my annual Austen re-read.

This week I've been re-reading Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I've made it a tradition to re-read an Austen novel every year. In 2011 it was Pride and Prejudice , and last year I re-read Emma.

I first read Sense and Sensibility in 2007, and it was my personal tipping point in becoming a Janeite. My review appears on my old LiveJournal blog, here, but I have to admit it doesn't say much. Or maybe I'm just catching more details this time around. I know the basic plot already, so I can focus more on Austen's characters and wit.

The men seem to get short shrift. Elinor and Marianne's brother John falls victim to his manipulative wife and fails to provide for his mother and sisters, then makes nice later, probably realizing what a jerk he's been. Willoughby is a cad, and we know it, but much of his bad behavior occurs off-stage. And Edward Ferrars: what does Elinor see in him, anyway? He's just sort of "there," someone Elinor has pined after for some time. But why? Colonel Brandon is one of the few men with depth, although honestly I'm not sure if that's because of Austen's writing, or Alan Rickman's portrayal in the 1995 film adaptation.

The women fare better, although my imagination is once again enhanced by memories of Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Elinor is a rock, almost too much so. She is entrusted with a secret that is actually devastating news to her personally, and yet she sucks it up and keeps the secret for four months. She doesn't even tell her mother or sister. I could not do this. And while she's dealing with that, Marianne experiences personal trauma of her own, and there's Elinor at her side providing comfort.

If Elinor is one of those common-sense, no-nonsense women, Marianne is her opposite. Emotional and somewhat frivolous, Marianne goes where her mood takes her. Left to her own devices, she would fail to check herself in conversation, and blurt out whatever comes to mind. When Marianne is dealing with trauma, everybody knows it.

And then there are the ancillary female characters. My favorite is Mrs Jennings, a busybody who gets it wrong more often than not. Austen sets up a hilarious moment in chapter 30-something, where Mrs Jennings overhears half of a conversation between Elinor and Brandon, and jumps to conclusions. Mrs Jennings attempts to discuss what she thinks she heard, and Elinor answers based on what really happened. Hilarity ensues. This type of comedy is Austen at her finest.

As I write this, I'm actually only about 80% of my way through the novel, about to begin Chapter 41. I know the ending will be satisfying, as Austen's novels always are. So I think I'll brew a cup of tea and get back to it!

41tiffin
Feb 18, 2013, 12:02am Top

I usually do an Austen reread in January every year but things went awry with my January plans for a heavy reading month. Maybe I can slip a reread in before the end of January, inspired by Ms. Keet here.

42alcottacre
Feb 18, 2013, 6:41am Top

Happy Birthday, Laura! I hope you have a great one!

43lauralkeet
Feb 18, 2013, 7:20am Top

>41 tiffin:: Tui, I do my re-read in February as a birthday gift to myself!
>42 alcottacre:: thanks Stasia!

"Ms Keet" -- Ha!

44tiffin
Feb 18, 2013, 10:18am Top

Many happy returns, Laura! Hope your day is a lovely one.

45bell7
Feb 18, 2013, 10:51am Top

Happy birthday!

46Donna828
Feb 18, 2013, 5:02pm Top

Laura, a little birdy, a Lorikeet of course, told me today was your birthday. I hope you are having a FUNtastic day!

47katiekrug
Feb 18, 2013, 5:50pm Top

Happy birthday, Laura!

48brenzi
Feb 18, 2013, 6:09pm Top

Once again, happy, happy and many, many more Laura:-)

49qebo
Feb 18, 2013, 6:26pm Top

Birthday? Did you get the day off work?

50TinaV95
Feb 18, 2013, 7:49pm Top

Happy birthday, Laura! I hope it was & is wonderful!

51lauralkeet
Feb 18, 2013, 8:27pm Top

Thanks everyone! Despite it being a public holiday, it wasn't a holiday where I work, but I took the day off as a vacation day. So there. And I had a nice day!! I appreciate all the good wishes from my LT pals.

52scaifea
Feb 19, 2013, 7:16am Top

Happy Day After Your Birthday!! These things should be week-long events, at any rate, no?

53ChelleBearss
Feb 19, 2013, 11:05am Top

Happy belated birthday!!

54phebj
Feb 19, 2013, 9:24pm Top

Hope you had a wonderful birthday, Laura. Your sweater looks great!

55drachenbraut23
Feb 20, 2013, 4:56am Top

Hi Laura, I missed your birthday *shake head* Therefore, a belated Happy Birthday! and that it was a great day for you *smile*

56lauralkeet
Feb 20, 2013, 8:34am Top

Hello Amber, Chelle, Pat & Bianca ... thank you for the birthday wishes! We had our family birthday celebration (dinner, presents) Tuesday night instead of Monday so your wishes were well timed!

57SandDune
Feb 20, 2013, 10:00am Top

I missed your birthday as well - hope it was a good day!

58markon
Feb 20, 2013, 10:18am Top

Belated birthday wishes Laura, and congratulations on starting your first sweater!

59cushlareads
Feb 20, 2013, 12:21pm Top

A very late happy birthday from me too!

60sibyx
Feb 20, 2013, 8:43pm Top

Happy late birthday!

I am very much enjoying your comments on Sense and Sensibility as you (re)read.

61DorsVenabili
Feb 21, 2013, 6:35am Top

Happy Belated Birthday, Laura!

#40 - I like that you re-read a Jane Austen every year. I certainly don't do enough re-reading and would like to change that. I've also never read a Jane Austen novel, which is rather silly and embarrassing.

62lauralkeet
Feb 21, 2013, 8:02am Top

I love this never-ending birthday party! Thank you Rhian, Ardene, Cushla, Lucy, and Kerri!

>60 sibyx:: Lucy, I've finished S&S now and don't have a whole lot more to say ... but I certainly enjoyed it!
>61 DorsVenabili:: Kerri, you can thank Tui (tiffin) for inspiring my annual Austen re-read thing. A few years ago she mentioned it somewhere and I thought yeah, why not? And I do it every February as a birthday present to myself. :)

Last night I finished my second short story collection of 2013, Mrs Somebody Somebody. Good stuff, and better than the Munro I read last month. I've decided I really like connected stories. Lots of subtle ones in this book. Review soonish.

63tiffin
Feb 21, 2013, 9:29am Top

I got about half way through that one and set it aside for some reason, Laura. Must finish it off because it WAS good!

64lauralkeet
Feb 22, 2013, 8:18pm Top

8. Mrs Somebody Somebody ()
Reviewed on LibraryThing & on my blog
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: It's part of my 2013 short story project, where I'm working my way through several short story collections on my shelves.

Mrs Somebody Somebody reminded me how much I love connected stories. Set in Lowell, Massachusetts, the book begins with the arrival of unions in Lowell's textile mills. Several years later, industry has died and the town's demographics have changed dramatically. Characters wander through multiple stories. Children reappear as adults. A girl who featured prominently in one story is identified later only by the color of her shoes. But the reader knows who she is. These are gritty stories of life's hardships: a man returns from the war and has trouble reconnecting with his wife. Over the course of three stories, a little boy grows into a troubled man. Immigrants struggle to make their way in American society. The first and last stories are both about Stella, a mill worker turned hairdresser. They wrap around the entire collection, providing a surprising but somehow fitting conclusion.

Mrs Somebody Somebody is an impressive debut effort. If you liked Olive Kitteridge, you'll like this book (and if you haven't read Olive yet, then read that one too!)

65phebj
Feb 22, 2013, 8:27pm Top

Ooh! This sounds good. I love linked short stories and Olive is one of my all time favorite books.

66laytonwoman3rd
Feb 22, 2013, 9:52pm Top

So glad you enjoyed that one, Laura...I thought it was especially fine, too.

67tiffin
Feb 22, 2013, 11:07pm Top

So did I.

68cushlareads
Feb 23, 2013, 7:34pm Top

Sounds like I'd really like it - thanks, Laura. I'll see if the library has it.

69sibyx
Feb 24, 2013, 9:07am Top

Mrs has gone on the WL - our local library has asked me (!) to give them a list of 5-10 books a month that they ought to buy, this might be a good one - I do keep in my mind what I know the local readers like, not always just what I like. Olive was a big hit here.

70BLBera
Feb 24, 2013, 9:39am Top

Hi Laura: Happy birthday. Great review of Mrs. Somebody Somebody.

71lauralkeet
Feb 24, 2013, 2:17pm Top

Hello Pat, Linda, Tui, Cushla, Lucy & Beth! I love the way we all get book recs from each other. Lucy, this would be a good library book up your way, what with the New England connection.

72souloftherose
Edited: Feb 24, 2013, 3:10pm Top

#32 Mmm, Cincinnati was lovely but it's probably not second on most people's lists of 'places I'd like to visit in the US'! The trip was a choir tour for my university choir (it was quite small - only about 10-12 people). I think the choir director had a friend who was the music director at a church in Cincinnati and so families from the church put us up for a week whilst we did various concerts. My other American trip had been to Disney World in Florida so I really appreciated being able to see normal America on my second trip! All the families were so welcoming.

And belated happy birthday!

73lauralkeet
Feb 24, 2013, 3:37pm Top

>72 souloftherose:: oh, I see. I went on several choir trips like that in high school, performing in churches and staying with families. They are fun, if not quite Disney World. :)

74brenzi
Feb 24, 2013, 6:39pm Top

Lovely review Laura and thumb from me. Now you need to read Bonnie Campbell's American Salvage which is another kind of gritty and very, very good.

75lauralkeet
Feb 24, 2013, 7:30pm Top

9. Full House ()
Reviewed on LibraryThing & on my blog
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Why I read this now: I like to read one Virago per month.

Lady Olivia Bird is the family matriarch, ruling over husband Julian, sons John and Mark, daughter Sheena, and their estate, Silverue. Lady Bird is domineering, cruel, insipid and self-centered. She is focused more on her garden than on any aspect of family life. She has a near-oedipal relationship with John, who has just returned home after being treated for a nervous breakdown, and practically ignores everyone else. Sheena is in love with a young man named Rupert; Mark is still young enough to spend most of his day with his lonely governess, Miss Parker.

Eliza, a family friend, visits Silverue just as John returns home. Eliza has long loved Julian, although it's not clear whether their relationship ever went beyond the platonic. Eliza is a keen observer of the family dynamics:
Eliza said, "Dear, but it's lovely for me," and she went away leaving Julian to everything that was more important than she was. To dressing flies for his mad son. To waiting for his faithless, cruel wife. To his Life in which he had no smallest part. Well, so long as one knew where one was, nothing hurt one. Only unexpected wounds and defeats. (p. 39)

Whoa! Molly Keane does dysfunctional Anglo-Irish families in large country houses very, very well. As Caroline Blackwood wrote in the afterword to my Virago Modern Classics edition:
Molly Keane "really knows" the shallow, sheltered world of Anglo-Irish gentry which has provided her with so much excellent material. She knows the facade of the beautiful romantic houses that her characters inhabit, and because she knows that facade so well she can make us see it.

Full House unfolds with a series of character studies, entire chapters focused on Lady Bird, Julian, Sheena, John, and sad little Miss Parker, who is waging a fruitless war against her facial hair:
Nor, when one is Miss Parker's age, does one expect great results from any depilatory. However largely advertised. However highly paid for. Used with whatever trembling of the soul and carefulness. Still one does not hope too much. One does not dare. (p. 90)

The children all despise their mother, and Olivia is oblivious to it. Julian is ineffectual, enabling his wife's behavior. John is simply taking one day at a time, pretending life is completely back to normal. Sheena hopes to escape through marriage, but the relationship is threatened by advice from a not-so-kindly relation. Only Olivia can help her, but has to be able to see beyond her own needs. In the end, Eliza makes it all turn out right for both Sheena and John, even though she knows there will be no reward for her in doing so.

This is my fourth Molly Keane novel, and I can now see themes common to her novels: the Anglo-Irish gentry in decline, horrible mothers, weak men, and biting satire. Altogether, they make for a very good read indeed.

76msf59
Edited: Feb 24, 2013, 8:52pm Top

Hi Laura- Good review of Mrs Somebody Somebody. I've had this one on my WL, since Bonnie sold me on it. It sounds like just my cuppa.

77tiffin
Edited: Feb 24, 2013, 9:35pm Top

Oh my, I wonder if I have "Full House" sitting in my unread Viragos? That sounds good!
ETA: your first thumb.

78laytonwoman3rd
Feb 24, 2013, 9:51pm Top

I just checked my shelves, too! It's there, all right. "dysfunctional Anglo-Irish families in large country houses" sounds delicious, if you don't actually have to live with them. I think I'll move Full House up the pile. Thanks for the review, Laura.

79The_Hibernator
Feb 25, 2013, 10:01am Top

I enjoyed your comments on Sense and Sensibility too. I love that book! :)

80lauralkeet
Feb 25, 2013, 12:55pm Top

>76 msf59:: Mark, I agree, it sounds like your cuppa. Go for it!

>77 tiffin:, 78: well if you have a copy, by all means read it! If you own others by Keane, there's a good chance they too deal with "dysfunctional Anglo-Irish families in large country houses" so read them instead! I enjoyed every one I've read so far and intend to work my way through them all.

>79 The_Hibernator:: thanks Rachel!

81tiffin
Edited: Feb 25, 2013, 9:19pm Top

I'm already reading Full House, Laura, because yes indeedy, I did have it!

82LizzieD
Feb 25, 2013, 8:30pm Top

I don't really have anything to say out of the ordinary. I'm glad you've been doing such happy reading lately. I do love Molly Keane and have read one a year since joining LT although she was a Virago author whom I already knew and had read. Full House isn't one I've read though, so I'll look forward to it with thanks for your good review.

83lauralkeet
Feb 25, 2013, 9:29pm Top

My goodness Tui you don't let moss grow under your feet do you?

Peggy I love your Molly Keane reading method. What a great idea. I'm definitely giving her priority in my Virago reading.

84sibyx
Feb 25, 2013, 11:19pm Top

I'm going to have reread all of Molly Keane, she is just so good and your review is making me want to go back to them all.

85gennyt
Feb 26, 2013, 4:17am Top

I don't think I have yet read any Molly Keane, although I have memories of stories set in big houses in the Irish countryside with dysfunctional families... I think maybe I heard a radio play based on one of her books. That's often been the way I get introduced to new authors, via BBC Radio 4's book of the week readings or regular dramatisations.

86TinaV95
Feb 27, 2013, 8:13pm Top

I've fallen behind on my favorite threads again and I missed your birthday! Shame on me! I hope it was a good one!!

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY!!!

87lauralkeet
Feb 28, 2013, 6:25am Top

Hi to Lucy, Genny and Tina! I'm glad my Molly Keane love is spreading. And hey Tina, thanks for keeping my birthday going!!

88lit_chick
Mar 2, 2013, 2:29pm Top

Hi Laura, lovely reviews of Mrs Somebody Somebody and Full House. You had a good time with Sense and Sensibility, too!

89lauralkeet
Mar 3, 2013, 7:49am Top

>88 lit_chick:: thanks!

Well, it's March, a new month, and I find myself slightly over-committed in my reading. I'm close to finishing Family Matters, my last February read. Back in December I committed to a couple of group reads, and more recently signed up for two other reading events this month. What was I thinking? I will begin the month with three concurrent reads (I don't often read more than one book at a time ... again, what was I thinking?):
- At the Owl Woman Saloon: for my short story project
- Doctor Thorne: the third in Trollope's Barsetshire series, and OMG, it's over 900 pages in print. I'm happy this is on my Kindle. I'm also pretty sure I'll end up extending my reading into April
- In the Woods: for a blogger's group read. It's been on my shelves a while and, I don't know, it just seemed like good idea to read it now. Or at least it seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago!

Wish me luck folks. The concurrent reading thing means reviews will be less frequent but I will post about my progress. Meanwhile, allow me to brag a little bit while providing you with some visual entertainment. My 20yo daughter Kate is taking a stop motion animation class and this is her latest project. Enjoy!

Knitting Machine

90tiffin
Mar 3, 2013, 10:02am Top

You may need the literary equivalent of a lifejacket and a ring buoy. Gardening season is coming...hold off for April!

91laytonwoman3rd
Mar 3, 2013, 10:08am Top

Ooh...I think In the Woods will grip you. And it is Mystery March, after all, so a good time for French.

92qebo
Mar 3, 2013, 10:23am Top

89: Knitting Machine
Cute!

93tiffin
Mar 3, 2013, 10:28am Top

>89 lauralkeet:: I loved the knitting machine! Brilliant, Kate! Whatever will your girls get up to next, Laura?

94lit_chick
Mar 3, 2013, 11:27am Top

Love love love the Knitting Machine. Kudos to Kate!!

95scaifea
Mar 3, 2013, 1:00pm Top

Aw, that's an adorable video! Good for her!

96lyzard
Mar 3, 2013, 4:42pm Top

That's a great video!

the third in Trollope's Barsetshire series, and OMG, it's over 900 pages in print

Mine's only 550, so you can imagine the size of the font!

Remember - no hurry, at your own pace... :)

97lauralkeet
Mar 3, 2013, 7:09pm Top

I'm glad y'all liked the video!
And ... erm ... I feel a bit silly because I was waaay off on my Doctor Thorne page count. I'm not sure what I was looking at originally but I checked again, and the Penguin Classics edition is 592 pages. Still long, but not as bad as I feared.

98lyzard
Mar 3, 2013, 7:31pm Top

Read the numbers backwards? I do that all the time. :)

99lauralkeet
Edited: Mar 3, 2013, 7:58pm Top

>98 lyzard:: I wondered about that, it's definitely possible! But after a bit of investigation (because yes, it WAS bothering me!), I found my mistake: I was looking at The Last Chronicle of Barset. Must have just clicked on the wrong book.

100LizzieD
Mar 3, 2013, 8:11pm Top

Nifty video! Kudos to Kate!! And I'm glad that I didn't commit to 900 pages of the good doctor either!

101msf59
Mar 3, 2013, 9:01pm Top

Laura- I hope you like in the Woods. I think it was an excellent introduction and if you like it, there are three others to follow.
At the Owl Woman Saloon sounds really interesting. I'll have to add that one to the WL. And she was married to Raymond Carver? Wow!

102brenzi
Mar 3, 2013, 10:07pm Top

Great video Laura! I've read the first 4 chapters of Dr. Thorne and I'm glad it's not as long as you thought but so far it's not drawing me in the way the last two did. It's a slow read and I ended up reading parts of chapter two three times to try to understand what was happening. Hopefully it picks up from here.

103tiffin
Mar 3, 2013, 10:39pm Top

My Folio edition of Dr. Thorne is 507 pages. Mediumish font size.

104gennyt
Edited: Mar 4, 2013, 4:00am Top

Last Chronicle is definitely a longer one... You have that still to come if you continue through the series.

I've just started Doctor Thorne too; I'm reading a Kindle edition for convenience (600+ pages), my other edition is a Folio (maybe the same one as Tiffin's). I'm also reading Can you forgive her?, the first in Trollope's Palliser series, in an omnibus kindle edition which doesn't have page numbers and which tells me the percentage completed for the whole volume, not that particular book only, which makes my progress feel very slow indeed.

105lauralkeet
Edited: Mar 4, 2013, 7:57am Top

>100 LizzieD:: Hi Peggy! Come on, it's only 576 pages ... does that tempt you?!

>101 msf59:: Mark, I read the first 15 pages or so of In the Woods and ooh, very interesting. Completely different from Doctor Thorne too. At least I won't get the characters and story lines mixed up!

>102 brenzi:: Bonnie, I hope to start the book at lunch today so we'll see how it goes. Someone commented on my blog that it was a fast read for them, but you and I usually see eye to eye ... oh dear.

>103 tiffin:: Yeah Tui, that sounds more accurate.

>104 gennyt:: an omnibus kindle edition which doesn't have page numbers and which tells me the percentage completed for the whole volume, not that particular book only, which makes my progress feel very slow indeed.
Genny, that's exactly my problem with Chronicles of Barsetshire. I've been looking up page counts on Amazon, using the Penguin Classics Edition for each volume just for the sake of consistency. And that gives me a relative idea of length and how long it would take me to read a print edition. But while I'm reading the only meaningful way to monitor progress is to know that I'm on Chapter 1 of 49, or whatever.

106gennyt
Mar 4, 2013, 8:20am Top

#105 - yes it is tricky. I have now read just 2% of the Pallisers volume, but I reckon that is about 12% of the book I'm reading, as there are 6 books in total in the series - and that just about fits with the number of chapters read too (I think I've read 8 out of 80, so roughly 10% of the book).

It's tricky with omnibus print editions too. I am keeping multiple bookmarks in my omnibus of the first three books of Dance to the Music of Time to mark where the particular book I'm reading starts, where it finishes, and where I'm up to in reading, so I can do my usual visual quick estimate of how far through I have got, and not be deterred by the vast size of the whole volume!

107NanaCC
Mar 4, 2013, 10:41am Top

Laura, I believe I read that you listen to books while knitting. The Tana French books are great reads, and they are also wonderful in their audio versions. (I am a sucker for an accent) Either way, I think you would enjoy the series.

108lauralkeet
Mar 4, 2013, 11:52am Top

Thanks Nana! Actually I haven't tried listening while knitting yet -- I tend to knit in front of the TV though, it helps me stay awake! Glad to see an endorsement for the Tana French books.

109brenzi
Mar 4, 2013, 12:12pm Top

To be fair Laura, I haven't been able to really get in some concentrated reading time until this morning and now it's starting to click. The part I had to reread posed problems for Heather too as you will see on the Dr. Thorne thread.

110TinaV95
Mar 5, 2013, 7:52pm Top

Dang it, I can't get the youtube video to load on this computer!

111tiffin
Mar 6, 2013, 8:02pm Top

Laura, I have been reading Gillespie and I for the last two days. I think there's something nasty in the woodshed. I keep hearing the theme from Jaws in the background.

112lauralkeet
Mar 7, 2013, 5:46am Top

As well you should, Tui! :)

113lauralkeet
Mar 7, 2013, 1:14pm Top

10. Family Matters ()
Reviewed on LibraryThing & on my blog
Source: Public library
Why I read this now: It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2002. I've now read the winner and all 5 shortlisted novels from this year.

They continued to cope, poorly, with the excretions and secretions of their stepfather's body, moving from revulsion to pity to anger, and back to revulsion. They were bewildered, and indignant, that a human creature of blood and bone, so efficient in good health, could suddenly become so messy. Neither Nariman's age nor his previous illnesses had served to warn them. Sometimes they took it personally, as though their stepfather had reduced himself to this state to harass them. And by nightfall, the air was again fraught with tension, thick with reproaches spoken and silent. (p 68)

Nariman Vakeel is an elderly, retired English professor suffering from Parkinson's Disease. He lives in the family home -- ironically named Chateau Felicity -- with his middle-aged step-children, Jal and Coomy. Nariman married their mother Yasmin when Jal and Coomy were children, after his family forbid him to marry his true love, Lucy. He raised them along with a younger half-sister, Roxana. Coomy is filled with resentment; everyone else walks on eggshells to avoid her bitterness. Jal feigns obliviousness, tinkering with his hearing aid when tempers flare.

When Nariman falls while out on a walk, Jal and Coomy are quickly overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for him. Coomy wastes no time tricking Roxana into taking him in. Roxana and her family live in a smaller flat and struggle to make ends meet, but they are blessed with a more positive outlook on life. Even Roxana's young sons take things in stride:
The balcony door framed the scene: nine-year-old happily feeding seventy-nine.

And then it struck her like a revelation -- of what, she could not say. Hidden by the screen of damp clothes, she watched, clutching Yezad's shirt in her hands. She felt she was witnessing something almost sacred, and her eyes refused to relinquish the previous moment, for she knew instinctively that it would become a memory to cherish, to recall in difficult times when she needed strength. (p. 98)

But as weeks pass, the strain takes its toll on everyone. Coomy takes dramatic steps to keep up the illusion she is unable to care for Nariman. Jal is silently complicit. Roxana tries, in vain, to stretch Yezad's salary to cover the cost of Nariman's medication. And Yezad responds to the financial strain through a series of progressively destructive acts aimed at improving their financial situation. Eventually they hit rock bottom in ways both inevitable and shocking, and are then faced with the challenge of rebuilding what they hold most dear.

I put off reading this book for some time, thinking it might strike too close to home. My father has Parkinson's, and last year a medical incident set in motion a series of events culminating in my parents' long-overdue move to a continuous care retirement community. Family Matters was indeed painful to read, although I could distance myself from it because the Vakeel family's situation was very different from mine. And yet there are valuable messages in this book about the importance of family, and living for today, that are still with me days after finishing the book.

114phebj
Mar 7, 2013, 5:41pm Top

Great review of Family Matters Laura. I have a copy of it but haven't read it. So far all I've read of Mistry's is Such a Long Journey which I loved. I believe Mark is going to do a mini-group read of A Fine Balance later this year so that's probably the one I'll try next.

It's such a traumatic time when your parents all of a sudden really need more care. I went through it with my father first and luckily when my mother needed it, she was already in a good place. How are your parents doing these days?

115lauralkeet
Mar 8, 2013, 8:28am Top

A Fine Balance is fabulous. You'll love it, Pat.

My parents are doing quite well now thank you. Dad's health has stabilized and they both are very happy with the community they're in now. It seemed like a very long 6 months to get to that point, but for now things are stable and that's a good thing.

116phebj
Mar 8, 2013, 9:40am Top

Laura, that's great news about your parents. I think the hardest part is the transition but once it's made it's often a very happy time for everyone.

117Donna828
Mar 8, 2013, 9:49am Top

Stability is a very good thing, Laura. Thanks for the update on your parents. Family Matters sounds like a somber but good read. I'll have to see if my library has it.

118ffortsa
Mar 8, 2013, 11:54am Top

I'm glad to hear your folks are settled and happy in their new environment.

119qebo
Mar 8, 2013, 12:51pm Top

99: a bit of investigation (because yes, it WAS bothering me!)
Of course it was, Ms OCD.

Glad your parents are settled.

120lauralkeet
Mar 9, 2013, 6:57am Top

Happy Saturday Pat, Donna, Judy & Katherine! Thanks for the support concerning my parents. I'm heading to Cincinnati later this month to check up on them, and also do a little business related to preparing their house for sale.

>119 qebo:: Of course it was, Ms OCD.
There's a whiff of pots and black kettles in that statement ....

121msf59
Edited: Mar 9, 2013, 7:24am Top

Morning Laura- Great review of Family Matters. I am planning on reading A Fine Balance in July. I have put off reading this author for far to long. Have a good weekend.
ETA- How is the Gallagher coming?

122tiffin
Mar 9, 2013, 9:51am Top

I felt the same way about the subject matter of Family Matters, Laura, but his writing is so fine that it overcame those qualms. So glad you liked the book. A Fine Balance is splendid too. Glad to hear your folks are doing so well.

123kidzdoc
Mar 9, 2013, 10:45am Top

Great review of Family Matters, Laura. I had already planned to read it this year, and your review makes me want to get started on it now.

I'm glad to hear the good news about your parents.

124sibyx
Edited: Mar 10, 2013, 9:31pm Top

Very glad to hear your parents are settling in and feeling contented and cared for.

125lauralkeet
Mar 9, 2013, 5:03pm Top

Oh hurrah, more visitors! Big waves to Mark, Tui, Darryl and Lucy. I hope you are all enjoying the weekend.
Mark - I've only read one story in the Tess Gallagher book. Bad Laura. I reserve short stories for bedtime reading, but this past week I have either a) been too tired to read just before bed, or b) read one of the two other books I have on the go (Doctor Thorne and In the Woods). Maybe tonight.

126brenzi
Mar 9, 2013, 6:03pm Top

So glad to hear that your parents have settled in nicely Laura. At least you can rest easy with that. Selling their house is another headache though. I am trying to get our house cleaned out of unnecessary junk (gradually) so that our kids will have an easier time than my sister and I did with our parents house. Excellent review of Family Matters.

127DorsVenabili
Mar 11, 2013, 6:23am Top

Hi Laura!

#64 - This sounds like it would be a great addition to my working-class fiction category. Nice review.

#75 - This was one of the VMCs I picked up at Powell's last month. It's good to hear you enjoyed it. I do want to read Good Behavior before I pick up anything else by her.

#115 - Glad your parents are doing well!

128lauralkeet
Mar 11, 2013, 7:29am Top

>125 lauralkeet:: Update on "maybe tonight" -- nope. Forgot I was going to lose an hour of sleep and it was already late when we went to bed! I managed to read a story on Sunday though. Glad to be back at it, I was feeling bad about ignoring them.

>126 brenzi:: Bonnie, since this all began with my parents, I've been paying a lot more attention to the junk accumulated in our house. Not that I've done anything about it, but just being aware of what "should" be done is a step in the right direction.

>127 DorsVenabili:: Hi Kerri! Yes, Mrs Somebody Somebody fits that category. Good idea! I loved loved loved Good Behaviour, it was my intro to Keane and I'd say you can't go wrong starting with that one. Thanks, too, for the kind words of support.

129tiffin
Mar 11, 2013, 11:49am Top

Funny you should mention that, Laura. I was just looking at my mother's old tennis racket that I've moved for 40 years and thinking I could get rid of it now, as she's 92 and can't see. We did get rid of the life jackets the lads wore when they were 3, just last week. So progress gets made as a result of being aware...sort of.

130sibyx
Mar 11, 2013, 7:16pm Top

You had me laughing, tui - the racket and the jackets.....

131qebo
Mar 11, 2013, 7:27pm Top

My parents spent a year decluttering before they moved to a retirement community. Or rather, my mother spent a year decluttering my father. Periodically we'd get invited over to look at the array of stuff on its way out, and claim anything we cared about. Also, for items they kept, there is a list. It has been sent around for all of us to initial what we want, and for decisions to be made now, so there will be no squabbling later. Not that we are a squabbling sort of bunch. One might from this get a hint of where my flavor of OCD came from...

132brenzi
Mar 11, 2013, 9:56pm Top

>128 lauralkeet: I loved loved loved Good Behaviour, it was my intro to Keane and I'd say you can't go wrong starting with that one.

And I own that particular VMC and I can only think I do because of you. Now I can't wait to read it Laura.

133lauralkeet
Mar 12, 2013, 8:27am Top

>131 qebo:: My parents spent a year decluttering before they moved to a retirement community.
That's the way to do it, if you can i.e.; if you aren't suddenly surprised by a health care issue that changes the whole game. However, said parents need to be a) planners, who think about these things and b) aware that it's time to take action. I come from similar OCD stock, so a) was a given. But b) didn't happen, despite conversations initiated by their children, and it took Dad being sent to hospital to finally make it happen.

I hope my husband and I are smart enough to declutter rather than saddle our daughters with it.

Not that it bothers me or anything ... :)

>132 brenzi:: Ha, yeah, probably because of me Bonnie. I gave it 5 stars and you know how rare that is!

134SandDune
Mar 12, 2013, 12:27pm Top

My mother has supposedly been decluttering for years. But her idea of decluttering is to persuade other people to take the clutter and put it in their houses. If we suggest that some of it might be best taken to a charity shop or just thrown out she gets very hurt. For the last four or five visits she has been trying to persuade me to take my Dad's old briefcase, but firstly I do not want or need a briefcase and secondly it was old and pretty battered when my Dad retired in 1988, and the 25 years since haven't made it any more desirable. Last time I went I had to come away with the ugliest candle ever that I apparently bought for my Grandma when I was 10: I 've tried to convince her that maybe my tastes have changed in the forty-two years since but no success!

135lauralkeet
Mar 12, 2013, 12:59pm Top

>134 SandDune:: oh, I completely understand. My brother and I were talking the other day about items we know are still in their house, and "fighting" over which one of us would get them. He's pretty sure Dad will foist old clothes on him, which don't fit and are definitely not stylish (similar to your briefcase story). They also have an ugly candle. Wait: are we related, Rhian?!

136tiffin
Mar 12, 2013, 8:04pm Top

Himself threw out several ugly candles when we moved my parents from their home of 30+ years into an apartment (we hired a dumpster and pitched and tossed for two solid weeks). My mother still talks about those blessed candles. You just have to soldier on.

137LizzieD
Mar 12, 2013, 8:37pm Top

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. I'm a pack rat married to a pack rat in a long line of pack rats. We sort of float on the surface over Mr. D's dead sister's stuff, his parents' stuff, and his grandmother's stuff. When we die, the nieces and nephews can just torch the place. (I think I've said this before other places.) Their only salvation will be if I can throw out his stuff and he can throw out mine. Yikes! That means books! Not happening!
Anyway, I also am glad to hear a happy update from your parents. I'm not sure that I can read that particular Mistry although I loved A Fine Balance. One thing that I'm reading is my ER ARC, Life After Life by Jill McCorkle, from my hometown, whose mother is in the same nursing care facility where my mother recuperated from her fall last year. I'm the least bit leery of the book, but so far, good enough.

138sibyx
Mar 13, 2013, 10:41am Top

Just take the stuff and quietly dispose of it...... that makes everyone feel good.

Q - that is exactly how we did it and there are seven of us and my mother had some very nice things. We identified the things that had potential for squabbles by sending around a list by email - anything that more than two people thought they might want went on the 'master list' - anything nobody else wanted was all yours. Then we sat around the table and did the rest together with my bro who lives in Oz standing by on the phone. We did the system where first picks, then moves to last, etc. There was a bit of horsetrading here and there, and the only tears were when my youngest sister thought my oldest sister was being cold and bossy (which she was being) and then my oldest sister cried too, because she is actually very kind, but forgets when she's excited..... so it was all good. Your family is Quaker in background too, isn't it? I wonder. We all like making decisions in this communal way.

139qebo
Mar 13, 2013, 10:52am Top

138: Your family is Quaker in background too, isn't it?
My father's family, but not my mother's. And my mother is the organizer. My father is organized about theory and construction, but not so much about RL practicalities. The divvying of items is less communal than meticulous fairness.

140markon
Mar 13, 2013, 11:20am Top

I was lucky - my mother spent years sorting/decluttering before she and Dad downsized, asked us all which pieces of family furniture we wanted and there were only two things we "couldn't" negotiate on. The clock my Dad & his sibs bought for their parents my sisters got because of proximity; my Dad is still using the dining room table we ate around, but at this point I don't want to do the work of hauling it to Georgia, so I'll relinquish it to someone else without fuss. As I get older, the things matter less than the memories associated with them. I do have a piece of furniture from each side of the family - a china cabinet from my Dad's side, and a rocking chair from my Mom's.

Family Matters sounds interesting Laura, but I'm putting it in the black hole for awhile as it's probably too close to home right now - my Mom has Parkinson's.

141lauralkeet
Mar 13, 2013, 11:36am Top

Well, at least the "who gets what" process is simplified by two things: a) my parents aren't collectors, so there's very little to squabble over, and b) I only have one sibling. Also, most of the nicer stuff has moved -- or will soon move -- from their house to their current living quarters, so at this point we are dealing with "who wants this blender from 1980?" kind of stuff.

>140 markon:: Ardene, I completely understand about it being "too close to home", it's the same reason I put off reading it for a while. I couldn't have handled it 6-9 months ago, it's OK now, and probably sometime in the future it would again be a tough read.

142TinaV95
Mar 16, 2013, 10:34am Top

I'm heading off to thumbs up your review of Family Matters and add it to my WL !

143lauralkeet
Edited: Mar 17, 2013, 7:02am Top

>142 TinaV95:: yay! Thanks Tina.

In the absence of any reviews I thought I'd weigh in with a mid-month reading update.

Now that we're halfway through the month I can say with complete certainty that I will not make it through everything I hoped to read this month. I committed to several group reads and events, and it turns out that nearly every book is 400-500 pages long. It's more than I can handle!

I have three books on the go now: one for my short story project, another for a LT group read, and a third for a group read hosted by a book blogger.


From left to right: At the Owl Woman Saloon, Doctor Thorne, and In the Woods

Tess Gallagher's stories are poetic and beautiful. Doctor Thorne is typical Trollope and good fun, and In the Woods is a gripping crime novel. The vast differences between these books make it somewhat easier for me to read them concurrently, but I can't help feeling frustrated that I haven't finished a book yet this month. I still hope to read The Beth Book by Sarah Grand. But I'll have to defer The Word Child, by Iris Murdoch and The Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner. The latter is also a LT group read, but it seems like a lot of folks are slow to start. With any kind of luck, the group read will still be going when I get to this book.

144msf59
Mar 17, 2013, 8:24am Top

Morning Laura- I hope you are continuing to enjoy In the Woods. And I hope you can jump onto Candy Mountain with us. Most of us didn't start until recently. It's very good so far and I am sure you will like it. Good luck with your current reads.

145tiffin
Mar 17, 2013, 9:55am Top

A thumper month. I've been light on the ground since January this year, for some reason. Too many other distractions. I've been eyeing that Owl Woman book.

146lauralkeet
Mar 17, 2013, 4:33pm Top

>144 msf59:: thanks Mark. In the Woods is good fun, I'm about 3/4 of the way through and it's getting exciting as the various threads come together. I'm looking forward to Big Rock Candy Mountain, and it's still sitting on my March reading stack. It's just that stack is likely to become the April reading stack!

>145 tiffin:: Tui, I'd be happy to pass the Owl Woman on to you when I'm finished!

147Donna828
Mar 17, 2013, 5:15pm Top

I'm one of those slow starters in The Big Rock Candy Mountain, Laura. It's a big book that reads surprisingly fast. I love Stegner's writing and he can tell a good story. I want to complete either Doctor Thorne or The Acceptance World this month. I looked at the Powell and it is fairly short so maybe I can do both. I'll just let the visiting grandkids later in the week and the Easter celebrants at the end of the month fend for themselves!

I must be thinking "declutter" after reading Homer & Langley. I recycled three bags of clothing and 20-some books last week. It's a start!

148sibyx
Mar 18, 2013, 11:26am Top

What a terrific set of books to be reading - are you finding any of those odd connections? That's one reason I love reading more than one book at a time, how they react with each other.

You go, decluttering, I am so not inspired to clean or organize anything. But spring is far off yet here, despite the calendar spring. We're awaiting a huge snowstorm tomorrow and it was 1 degree F this morning and I am very very grumpy.

149lauralkeet
Mar 19, 2013, 7:44pm Top

11. In the Woods ()
Reviewed on LibraryThing & on my blog
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: A blogger was sponsoring a group read, and that seemed like a fun way to clear this one off my shelves.

This was a thumping good mystery. Well, 3/4 of it anyway, until it fell apart. Here's the premise: 12-year-old Katy Devlin is found dead, the apparent victim of foul play. Detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox are assigned to the case. It just so happens that twenty years earlier, two of Rob's 12-year-old friends disappeared from the very same housing estate. Rob was found, bloody and alone. The others were never found; the case was so notorious Rob changed his name and went to boarding school. Rob remembers nothing from that horrible day, but can't help wondering if the two cases are linked in some way. He begins a parallel investigation, without revealing his personal interest to his superiors. And there's one more angle: a land use dispute over a new motorway, with a barely perceptible whiff of corruption.

With three concurrent investigations, the reader meets a myriad of characters and joins Rob and Cassie in poring through forensic evidence. As with any good mystery, we begin making connections and we develop theories. And we come to like Rob and Cassie: they make a great team on the job, and have an unusually deep friendship.

But there are a couple of things that go wrong in this book. I will describe them without spoilers, although it's difficult to convey their full impact. The first problem is Rob. My husband and I have a recurring and inconclusive conversation about whether authors can write authentically about a character of the opposite sex. I suspect this book is one where most men would say about Rob, "guys aren't like that." It's not that he had a highly developed feminine side, he just did and said things a typical guy wouldn't do, especially with Cassie (I'm sorry I can't be more specific). Second, there was a character whose true self was revealed when the case was solved, but their voice wasn't authentic, and they had improbable traits given some basic facts we already knew about them.

Lots of people would probably disagree with me about this. The mystery was realistic, and the book was a page-turner from start to finish. I enjoyed reading it. So if you're intrigued, I say go ahead and read it. And then let's talk about it!

150rosalita
Mar 19, 2013, 11:20pm Top

Nice review of 'In the Woods', Laura. I liked it a bit better than you did, but I agree the ending was a bit problematical. Have you read any other Tana French books?

151lyzard
Mar 19, 2013, 11:25pm Top

My husband and I have a recurring and inconclusive conversation about whether authors can write authentically about a character of the opposite sex

They can; but you notice when they don't. :)

152brenzi
Mar 19, 2013, 11:37pm Top

My husband and I have a recurring and inconclusive conversation about whether authors can write authentically about a character of the opposite sex

They sure can; ever read Memoirs of a Geisha? ' Nuff said.

Thumb for that intriguing review of In the Woods Laura. And I have that one and the third one in the series sitting on my shelf so I could pick it up any day now.

153lauralkeet
Edited: Mar 20, 2013, 3:38pm Top

>150 rosalita:: Julia, I haven't yet although my copy of In the Woods includes the first chapter of her next book and it looked good!

>151 lyzard:: so right Liz!

>152 brenzi:: I agree with you about Memoirs of a Geisha, Bonnie. Now the corollary question is, is it easier for men to write women characters than for women to write men? This is the crux of my debate with the DH, although I'm making him out to have stronger opinions than he really does. We just like to over-think things like this. :)

154drachenbraut23
Mar 20, 2013, 8:07am Top

Hi Laura,
I see you read quite a few interesting books. In the Woods was on my wishlist for quite some time, but now I am not sure if I really would like to have 3/4 of a good mystery and 1/4 well "nope". I think I would become to irritated by it.

I very much enjoyed your discussion on decluttering parents homes. I remember, that we couldn't do anything until my grandmother died and my mom's older sister was organizing who wanted particular items to keep, even us grandchildren. I only wanted my grandmother's battered, old bible in which she read everyday and one particular clothing item. As none of my other aunts, cousins and siblings objected I received them and still cherrish them.

I wish you a great week ahead Laura :)

155vivians
Mar 20, 2013, 3:36pm Top

Hi Laura - just wanted to agree with you about the In the Woods. I've never been a big mystery reader but enjoyed reading this one until what seemded to me to be a contrived ending. However, I went on to read the next two in the series: The Likeness, told from the perspective of Cassie Maddox, and Faithful Place, in the voice of yet another character. Both were terrific page-turners and I'd highly recommend them.

156sibyx
Mar 20, 2013, 6:04pm Top

That's a very good review of In the Woods Laura. Her next book was even more problematical for me, although it was readable enough that I stuck with it - but I loved the third one. For me that one really worked.

157TinaV95
Mar 20, 2013, 7:51pm Top

I have In the Woods sitting on one of my bookshelves somewhere in my house. Hmm... I'm intrigued.

158lauralkeet
Mar 20, 2013, 9:12pm Top

Hi vivians, Lucy & Tina. All this talk of Tana French's books has me intrigued too! I am sorely tempted to read the next one.

159Soupdragon
Edited: Mar 21, 2013, 6:00am Top

Laura, I usually sit and nod quietly in agreement when I read reviews you've written, of books I've already read. However...I loved everything about In the Woods even the ending! The issues you had with the book do sound exactly like the sort of things that usually annoy me but maybe I was lucky enough to miss them with my reading!

I don't really remember the details and can't recall the character whose true self was later revealed but I do remember Rob seeming psychologically convincing at the time. The aspect of the book I loved most was the vague, dreamy, evocative way that Rob's memory of his childhood was portrayed. I was pleased that the mystery there was never explained, as it would have felt at odds with that.

Edited to add: Ooh, I've just remembered that character and that I did have a bit of an issue there! I think I deducted half a star for that, actually!

160DorsVenabili
Mar 21, 2013, 7:22pm Top

Hi Laura - I certainly never get to all of my planned reads. It's actually turned into kind of a joke.

Anyway, sorry In the Woods was a bit disappointing. I do want to try her at some point.

I hope you're having a lovely week!

161LizzieD
Mar 21, 2013, 7:41pm Top

I'll add my kudos for your review of In the Woods. It's been so long - 4 years! - since I read it that I can't remember the character who was misrepresented, so I'm good.

162lauralkeet
Mar 21, 2013, 10:11pm Top

Hello Dee, Kerri & Peggy! Thanks for visiting.

Dee & Peggy, I love comparing notes with others who've read the same book. I'm not sure why the character issues bugged me so much, because I was really quite taken with the book most of the way through.

Kerri, I don't mean to warn you off In the Woods at all. It was really gripping just not superb. I've enjoyed other crime/mystery/suspense novels more than this one, but it was still a nice balance to Anthony Trollope, which I'm also reading right now.

163Donna828
Mar 24, 2013, 12:29pm Top

Tana French's books aren't my favorite mysteries but I've enjoyed the first three for various reasons. I think I remember your problem with a certain In the Woods character. inconsistencies bother me too. I need to get to Broken Harbor.

164souloftherose
Mar 24, 2013, 1:02pm Top

Hi Laura. I enjoyed your review of In the Woods; sorry you were disappointed with the ending. I think it's one I'll still try one day but probably as a library book.

165susanj67
Mar 24, 2013, 1:18pm Top

Hello Laura - I think this is my first post on your thread, but I wanted to say you've got some great books on here!

The discussion about decluttering is also interesting. My grandmother was forever asking the family what we would like of hers to remember her by, and then labelling it to avoid family squabbles later. One day when my brother and I were youngish teens she asked us. I said that I would like a small painting that she had done (which I now have). My brother said he'd like the TV.

166Deern
Mar 24, 2013, 2:27pm Top

I missed over 100 posts - and your birthday. So with more than a month delay: all the best for you, Laura, and a happy week!

167NanaCC
Mar 25, 2013, 1:34pm Top

Laura, I loved all four of Tana French's books. The third is still my favorite.
I think that the endings of her books all leave a little for you to wonder about.

168lauralkeet
Mar 25, 2013, 1:39pm Top

Hello everyone! I've been out of touch for a few days -- reading threads but not saying much. I was visiting my parents and work is also busy. Anyway, I'm very happy to have visitors and just wanted to let you know I'm still here! :)

169AMQS
Mar 25, 2013, 5:54pm Top

Hi Laura! I am embarrassingly overdue for a visit to your thread. Wow -- a lot going on! Love your new name, and the story behind it:)

I loved your thoughts on Sense and Sensibility. I don't plan any Austens or anything -- sometimes I just need them:) I've been listening to Jane Austen on audio, and I LOVE them in that format. I actually look forward to my commute. I'm thinking about buying the audio CDs so I can share them with the girls. I might consider reading them aloud, but I could never bring them to life like my favorite narrators.

After I read Sense and Sensibility I saw the movie at the library. It sat around the house for a few days while I tried unsuccessfully to get someone to watch it with me. Finally I just put it on (we only have one TV) and soon enough had the undivided attention of both girls and my husband. The girls then spent the weekend watching it two more times, and Marina (11) is reading it on an iPad. Normally I'm not wild about movie adaptations of books, but I think Emma Thompson did a great job writing the screenplay with this one, and I think Edward improves considerably in the movie (he definitely has more personality, though Hugh Grant's portrayal of Edward is also pretty faithful to Ms. Austen's). I love Colonel Brandon AND Alan Rickman's portrayal of him:)

Hope you're having a great day!

170lauralkeet
Mar 25, 2013, 9:26pm Top

Anne, I love the idea of putting the movie on and letting it work its magic.

I just dropped in to report that I FINALLY finished Doctor Thorne. I liked it, but it also took over my reading for nearly the entire month so I was ready to be done! I should have a review up in the next couple of days.

171sibyx
Mar 25, 2013, 9:26pm Top

I'm so out of it I didn't know that there is a fourth French..... oh dear..... but it's a good thing as Mr. Sib's birthday is coming up.

172lauralkeet
Edited: Mar 28, 2013, 9:08pm Top

12. At the Owl Woman Saloon ()
Reviewed on LibraryThing & on my blog
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: It's part of my 2013 short story project.

At the Owl Woman Saloon has 16 stories set primarily in the Northwestern United States. Some deal with people who work in logging, a major regional industry, but themes of aging and widowhood a paramount. Like most short story collections, some stories spoke to me in very direct ways, and stood out from the rest:

  • The Leper: this story recounts everyday events for a couple living in a seaside village. Gallagher captures a moment in time without attempting to tie up loose ends. The woman takes a phone call from a distraught friend. Funeral flowers are mistakenly delivered to her home. She watches horses swimming in the sea. Small, ordinary and yet extraordinary occurrences all beautifully portrayed.

  • Coming and Going: Emily, recently widowed, is visited by a deputy Marshall looking for her husband regarding a legal dispute. She directs him to where her husband has "relocated." I could feel her pain while also laughing out loud at her deception.

  • Mr Woodriff's Neckties: A man observes his neighbors as one of them declines and eventually passes away. A good deed brings a sense of calm. I loved this story; it made me think about mortality and the importance of enjoying today because you never know what the future holds:

  • On Sundays I see her gathering these same roses, now that they've bloomed, to take to the cemetery. It makes me wonder if they both knew while they were planting them that this was out there in the future. Or maybe they were so involved with earth and root balls and whether the holes were deep enough that they didn't trouble to think ahead, except that eventually there would be roses. Maybe their minds were mercifully clear of the future. That's what I hope, anyway. (p. 148)

  • The Woman who Prayed: the book ends with this powerful story of a woman who discovers her husband is having an affair, and handles the situation in a unique and admirable way.

Gallagher is first a poet, which is clear in her beautiful prose. More than characters or plot, her stories are best appreciated by letting her words, imagery and metaphor wash over you.

173tiffin
Mar 28, 2013, 9:45pm Top

And of course I want to read this one now! Lovely, Laura.

174drachenbraut23
Mar 28, 2013, 9:49pm Top

Hello Laura, don't work to hard!
I hope you will have a wonderful and relaxing Easter weekend *big smile*.

175brenzi
Mar 28, 2013, 10:01pm Top

Ohh that does sound good Laura. And I'm a short story lover. Thumb and onto the WL it goes.

176lauralkeet
Mar 29, 2013, 6:15am Top

Hi Tui, Bianca and Bonnie. I found that to enjoy this book I needed to step away from thinking about plot and character development, not worry about where each story was going, and just appreciate the writing. It was an interesting experience.

177TinaV95
Mar 30, 2013, 1:57pm Top

Wonderful review of At the Owl Woman Saloon! Thumbs up for you!

178rainpebble
Mar 30, 2013, 3:55pm Top

Happy Easter Laura. He has risen!
Wanted to pop over and check out your reads. Some interesting stuff going on
over here.
hugs,
belva

179lauralkeet
Edited: Mar 30, 2013, 5:43pm Top

I promise that soon I will have a review of Doctor Thorne. It's been a busy week. And I got distracted by a little project. My husband built some new bookcases and we reorganized things. This left me with an entire bookcase devoted to my Virago Modern Classics (I have 215 of them according to LT). We bought this in an antique auction several years ago. Usually the doors are closed but then you can't see the books quite as well. The books are shelved alphabetically by author, and there's plenty of room for more:

180DorsVenabili
Mar 30, 2013, 5:50pm Top

#179 - That is beautiful! Also, I'm terribly jealous of your 215 VMCs.

#172 - Nice review! I'm the worst at reading short story collections. I want to do better, but fear I never will. Sigh.

181rosalita
Mar 30, 2013, 5:52pm Top

That is a beautiful showcase for your Viragos, Laura!

182drachenbraut23
Mar 30, 2013, 6:15pm Top

That is indeed a wonderful showcase for your Viragos and you have read already 215! That"s very impressive. Well, I just checked my books and if I am not mistaken I read about 10 Viragos so far. *smile*

183lauralkeet
Edited: Mar 30, 2013, 7:02pm Top

Hello Kerri, Julia and Bianca, thank you very much!
>182 drachenbraut23:: you have read already 215! Now that's funny Bianca! Read them?! Heavens no! I've read about 60. I enjoy finding them in bookshops and I hope to get to them all someday.

And hey guess what? I just wrote my promised review!

184lauralkeet
Mar 30, 2013, 7:06pm Top

13. Doctor Thorne ()
Reviewed on LibraryThing & on my blog
Source: On my Kindle
Why I read this now: It was a group read here on LT.

In this third volume of the Chronicles of Barsetshire, Anthony Trollope leaves behind familiar characters from the first two novels, and introduces his readers to an entirely new cast. The eponymous Doctor Thorne serves an area of Barsetshire that includes Greshamsbury and the Gresham family, which includes Frank, who has recently come of age. Thorne lives with his niece Mary, who is about Frank's age. Can you see where this is going? Of course, but that's not the point. It's the journey to the inevitable ending that makes reading Trollope so much fun.

In Doctor Thorne, Frank's father has fallen into debt, and the family's only hope is for Frank to marry money. Mary is of humble birth, or so everyone believes. But Doctor Thorne has a long-held a secret about her origins, and he is far too ethical to spill the beans. Besides, if he did there would be no novel! Frank loves Mary and cares nothing about her class, but Frank's mother, the haughty Lady Arabella, is constantly scheming to keep Frank and Mary apart and introduce Frank to wealthy women. Doctor Thorne stays out of it, trusting everyone to do the right thing but defending Mary when her honor is challenged:
"Why should I object? It is for you, Lady Arabella, to look after your lambs; for me to see that, if possible, no harm shall come to mine. If you think that Mary is an improper acquaintance for your children, it is for you to guide them; for you and their father. Say what you think fit to your own daughter; but pray understand, once for all, that I will allow no one to interfere with my niece."

Trollope infuses this novel with his trademark wit. For example, he lets us know early on just what sort of woman is Lady Arabella:
Of course Lady Arabella could not suckle the young heir herself. Ladies Arabella never can. They are gifted with the powers of being mothers, but not nursing-mothers. Nature gives them bosoms for show, but not for use. So Lady Arabella had a wet-nurse.

Trollope guides us through several twists and turns, over more than 500 pages sprinkled with quips like this, before Frank and Mary are finally united. It's all good fun making for a very pleasurable, satisfying read.

185ChelleBearss
Mar 30, 2013, 9:50pm Top

I LOVE those bookshelves! So classy looking!

186Mercury57
Mar 31, 2013, 6:20am Top

>179 lauralkeet: you are way too organised. my bookshelves are such a mess.

187lauralkeet
Mar 31, 2013, 7:13am Top

Thanks Chelle! And Karen, we have messy bookshelves too, and lots of other messy things. I just choose not to photograph them. :)

188msf59
Mar 31, 2013, 8:31am Top

Morning Laura- Happy Easter! Love those bookshelves. Green with envy. I hope you have a nice day with the family.

189scaifea
Mar 31, 2013, 9:21am Top

Wow! Beautiful bookshelf, and all those green spines look so lovely in there! *sigh*

190sibyx
Mar 31, 2013, 10:29am Top

What perfect shelves for your Viragos - both worthy of each other. I can't help but be a bit greenish.

I think a few of Gallagher's stories turned up in the NYer and I thought highly of them.

191AMQS
Mar 31, 2013, 3:59pm Top

Hi Laura! LOVE your bookshelves, and their organization is impressive!

192lauralkeet
Mar 31, 2013, 5:09pm Top

Hi there Mark, Amber, Lucy and Anne! I hope you've had a great weekend and a nice Easter, if you celebrate it. I'm loving my bookshelves, I keep wandering over to look at them.

193cushlareads
Mar 31, 2013, 5:34pm Top

I love your Virago bookshelves, Laura! And great work on finishing Doctor Thorne. I'm still keen to get to it, just not right now - but I might start it in the April holidays when I can read more than 10 minutes at a time. Are you going to read Framley Parsonage soon or have a break from Trollope?

194lauralkeet
Apr 1, 2013, 7:33am Top

Cushla, the Trollope Group Read Gang is looking to read Framley Parsonage in June and I'm planning to join in. That gives me just the break I need. I'm more concerned about the last volume in the series, which is 900-some pages. I may want to spread that one over two months.

195souloftherose
Apr 1, 2013, 12:40pm Top

#179 That's lovely Laura and I'm impressed with your 215. I just counted (via my tags) and I have 55 of which I've read 26 - nearly half, I'm quite impressed with myself! I think more of mine are the newer Viragoes without green spines though.

196tiffin
Apr 1, 2013, 2:10pm Top

I had to go check too: you have exactly 100 more than I have (115). It is such a beautiful bookshelf.

197Mercury57
Apr 4, 2013, 5:06pm Top

>194 lauralkeet: I would have loved to join the Dr Thorne read but couldn't make the timing work.

198lauralkeet
Apr 5, 2013, 7:19pm Top

14. The Beth Book ()
Reviewed on LibraryThing & on my blog
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Why I read this now: I read one VMC per month -- this was my book for March and I'm annoyed I wasted 5 days in April reading it.

What do you do when you realize you're reading a book only because you "should"? I had high hopes for The Beth Book, a Virago Modern Classic first published in 1897 and billed as "the story of all Victorian women who rebelled against the conventions imposed upon their sex." Oh yeah, that's right up my street. Bring it on!

Sadly, this autobiographical novel suffered from a dialogue-heavy style that insisted on telling, not showing. The story opens the day before Beth's birth, and author Sarah Grand wastes no time showing her reader the reality of women's lives in the late 19th century. Of Beth's mother, she writes:
She was weak and ill and anxious, the mother of six children already, and about to produce a seventh on an income that would have been insufficient for four. It was a reckless thing for a delicate woman to do, but she never thought of that. She lived in the days when no one thought of the waste of women in this respect, and they had not begun to think for themselves. (p. 1)

Later, when Beth is old enough for school, Grand tells us how society felt about women's education:
The education of children was a more serious matter, however -- a matter of principle, in fact, as opposed to a matter of taste. Mrs. Caldwell had determined to give her boys a good start in life. In order to do this on her very limited income, she was obliged to exercise the utmost self-denial, and even with that, there would be little or nothing left to spend on the girls. This, however, did not seem to Mrs. Caldwell to be a matter of much importance. It is customary to sacrifice the girls of a family to the boys; to give them no educational advantages, and then to jeer at them for their ignorance and silliness. (p. 114)

At each milestone in Beth's life, Grand makes points about societal conventions, the constraints women faced every day, and the views men held about women. This was probably revolutionary in its day, but oh my, it just took her forever to tell a story. Notice in the quotes above, that after 100 pages Beth is only just starting school. The "blurb" on the back cover promises a romantic story of a bad marriage and Beth's eventual escape to "a room of her own, a career of her own and to a man who loves her for the New Woman she becomes," but first we have slog through a narrative describing "this happened, and then this, and then this." After 300 pages the bad marriage is finally upon us, but there are still 225 pages to go before the book delivers the promise on the back cover.

When I realized the writing wasn't working for me, I tried to focus on the message, and the courage that writing and publishing The Beth Book required. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to turn this novel into a pleasant reading experience.

199Mercury57
Apr 6, 2013, 4:18am Top

>198 lauralkeet: I'm amazed you had the patience to even finish this Laura. Sounds such a slog.

200Soupdragon
Apr 6, 2013, 5:59am Top

Great review, Laura. That's the first time I've felt relieved that a particular VMC isn't on my shelves.

201qebo
Apr 6, 2013, 8:32am Top

198: dialogue-heavy style that insisted on telling, not showing
Oh, what a slog, and sorry it seeped into April.

202sibyx
Apr 6, 2013, 10:54am Top

How sad that Grand told instead of showed her story - I admire you for finishing it. Lately I've had trouble with the heavier forms of 19th century prose - only seem to have patience for the masters (male and female) of it. I never would have lasted in my current mood, that is for sure. I don't have this one.

On the other hand, do you think Virago is right to have published it?

203tiffin
Apr 6, 2013, 2:37pm Top

You are nothing if not determined. I don't think I'll be picking up that little Virago.

204lauralkeet
Apr 6, 2013, 5:10pm Top

Hello Karen, Dee, Katherine, Lucy & Tui! It's been a beautiful Saturday here, sunny and 50ish and the second weekend I've been able to get out in the garden. Most of the work is just soil prep but we planted a few things in little seed pots last night.

About The Beth Book. I'm going to come clean and admit that I didn't read the last 100 pages or so. I knew from the blurb it all ends happily ever after, and I didn't need to know the details. Lucy, I do think it's one of those "important" books and if I wasn't already familiar with the plight of the Victorian woman, I might have found it more stimulating.

As for the rest of you, I'm happy to have spared you this one -- if you come across it you can just keep walking, and spend your pennies elsewhere!

205Donna828
Apr 6, 2013, 5:25pm Top

Laura, good for you cutting your losses on The Beth Book. There have been a couple of times in the past few months when I wish I had done just that!

Your new bookcase is a beauty. It's good to have room for more books, too.

I'm going to start Dr. Thorne next week. I'll check in with the group read as I go along. I want to be up-to-date when the group reads the next Trollope book. I'm so glad you encouraged me to read them. Thank you.

206lyzard
Apr 6, 2013, 5:48pm Top

Hi, Laura. I confess I've so far steered clear of The Beth Book; it always seemed that Grand was too close to her material in that one. I do have a copy of The Heavenly Twins (in which she takes on sexually transmitted diseases), which sounds as if it might be more of a novel and less of a polemic. Only less, though: I'm not sure she was ever not polemical. :)

207lauralkeet
Apr 6, 2013, 6:54pm Top

Donna, thanks for the compliments on my Virago bookcase. That reminds me, I published a blog post this week with a virtual bookshelf tour. Click here to see more pix. I'm also delighted you're going to read Doctor Thorne and join the June read! Thorne is a much easier read than the first two books so I think you'll zip right through it.

Liz, I doubt I'll be seeking out more of Ms. Grand's work but I applaud her for taking a stand at a time when women didn't usually do so.

208TinaV95
Apr 9, 2013, 7:02pm Top

Catching up Laura! Sorry it's been a while since my last visit...

209phebj
Apr 9, 2013, 9:26pm Top

Hi Laura! Just catching up. I absolutely love the bookcases your husband built. You are one lucky girl. I also saw that you recently rated The Dinner 3 1/2 stars which is what I gave it too so I was stopping by to see if you had reviewed it yet. I will check back later but in the meantime was interested to read you latest reviews. The short stories sound interesting and I'm going to see if my library has the book.

210lauralkeet
Edited: Apr 9, 2013, 9:34pm Top

Hi Tina!!

Pat, I zipped through The Dinner in just a couple of days and am pondering my review.

Meanwhile I just started The Great Gatsby...

211lauralkeet
Apr 10, 2013, 8:52pm Top

15. The Dinner ()
Reviewed on LibraryThing & on my blog
Source: Public library
Why I read this now: I gave into the buzz on LT and the interwebs

Two Dutch couples meet for dinner in an expensive restaurant: Paul and Claire, Paul's brother Serge and his wife Babette. Their meeting at first seems purely social, and something they do together from time to time. But from minute details strategically placed in the narrative, the reader begins developing a different picture. Just before leaving the house, Paul discovers disturbing content on his son Michel's phone, but chooses not to mention it to Claire. Paul detects signs of distress when Serge and Babette arrive at the restaurant. We learn their son Rick was involved in a crime, as was Michel. But what do the parents actually know? What will they do about it? And how did two boys from "good families" get into this situation?

Paul narrates the events of that evening, filling in family history along the way. The result is a kind of cross between We Need to Talk About Kevin (troubled teens committing horrific acts) and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (disturbing scenes unfolding over a meal). Neither family is what they seem at the outset. Paul is an unreliable narrator, failing to see the damage resulting from his behavior over the years.

None of the characters are likeable; in fact, they are all pretty horrible. And the story is unpleasant, too. Normally that would be enough to make me hate a book. Why didn't that happen this time? Because I was really intrigued by Koch's writing. I liked the way he meted out relevant details, first in tiny fragments and then in increasingly obvious chunks. He deftly showed us not only the nature of the boys' crime, but events that directly and indirectly made it possible, and made me question who really was the guilty party in this case. The book was hard to put down and I finished it in just a couple of days; however, its dark, disturbing nature means it's one I cannot recommend unequivocally.

212phebj
Apr 10, 2013, 9:38pm Top

He deftly showed us not only the nature of the boys' crime, but events that directly and indirectly made it possible, and made me question who really was the guilty party in this case. The book was hard to put down and I finished it in just a couple of days; however, its dark, disturbing nature means it's one I cannot recommend unequivocally.

Great description of the good and the bad aspects of The Dinner Laura. I generally like unreliable narrators and stories about how people deceive themselves but I usually develop some sympathy for those narrators. In this case, that proved to be impossible and I was surprised by how unsettled the book left me feeling.

I actually think it would be a great book for a book club discussion but I think you'd need to allow for some time between finishing the book and discussing it to let people calm down after reading it.

Off to give your review a well-deserved thumb!

213msf59
Apr 10, 2013, 9:49pm Top

Hi Laura- Good review of the Dinner. I should wrap it up tomorrow. I like it so far but it is unsettling and you definitely dislike Paul more and more as it goes along. I like your comparison to Kevin but nothing I have read so far can top that book, in gut-wrenching intensity.

214brenzi
Apr 10, 2013, 10:01pm Top

Nice review Laura. I think I was as sickened by Claire's behavior as Paul's. That was the thing for me----too many sleazy characters.

215scaifea
Apr 11, 2013, 7:00am Top

Hm. That one sounds both really interesting and not my thing at all. Dang.

216lauralkeet
Apr 11, 2013, 7:58am Top

Pat, I share your unsettling feelings about the book. That's one reason I waited a couple days to review it -- I wanted to see how my thoughts evolved. I agree it would be a really good book club book.

Mark, Paul is a real jerk isn't he? Kevin is a far superior novel -- the "big reveal" was way more shocking -- but the themes are similar i.e.; what makes good kids go bad?

Bonnie, I liked Claire initially too. But this is part of what I liked about Koch's writing. You eventually realize every character is a jerk but it happens through small gestures, facial expressions, and even the silent communication between husband and wife. It's like water dripping from a faucet, rather than a bucket being poured on your head.

Amber, you nailed it. I don't think it would be your thing.

217NanaCC
Edited: Apr 11, 2013, 8:09am Top

Laura, Have you read Defending Jacob? I read it last year, and enjoyed it. May be a similar story line as We Need To Talk About Kevin, which I have yet to read.

218lauralkeet
Apr 11, 2013, 12:49pm Top

Nana, no I haven't, but the LibraryThing gods recommend it to me as well, so I may have to keep my eyes open for it.

219tiffin
Apr 11, 2013, 12:55pm Top

>215 scaifea:: that sums it up nicely, Amber. Can't read this kind of stuff. It haunts me for days and rearranges my brain cells.

220lauralkeet
Apr 11, 2013, 12:59pm Top

I admit I had some rather strange dreams over the 2-3 days I was reading this book. The kind of dreams that made me glad to be done with it.

221sibyx
Apr 12, 2013, 5:37pm Top

The Dinner sounds intriguing, but I doubt I will read it!

222Mercury57
Apr 12, 2013, 6:47pm Top

Sounds an intriguing book. Just wish I had time to read all these ........

223msf59
Edited: Apr 12, 2013, 8:29pm Top

**possible spoilers for The Dinner. Okay, more than possible.

I finished the Dinner and I am glad to leave these horrid people behind. You asked: "what makes good kids go bad?" Ah, bad fathers? Question: Why wasn't Paul locked up? The guy was a menace and don't get me started on Claire. That did catch me by surprise.

224souloftherose
Apr 13, 2013, 4:51am Top

#198 Sorry to hear The Beth Book was a disappointment Laura.

#211 And a very good review of The Dinner. I don't think it's for me though.

225lauralkeet
Apr 13, 2013, 7:11am Top

Greetings to Lucy, Karen & Heather! Hope you are all enjoying your weekend.

I hope the same for you of course Mark, but also wanted to respond to your comments on The Dinner.
**spoilers for The Dinner**
I was as surprised by Claire as you were. Because Paul narrated the story we learned much more about his past and could see the cumulative effect of events in his life. We have no idea whether Claire has a troubled past, or any history of mental illness. What frustrated me most was Paul's refusal to treat his depression/anxiety symptoms. Koch doesn't say that's what it was, that's just my theory, but anyway, it seemed the treatment was effective and he was a better person when he was taking care of himself. When he stopped, he fell apart. He had a condition that can be managed and his refusal to do so had disastrous consequences. For some reason, I found that rather chilling.

OK, time for coffee, breakfast, and happier thoughts!

226drachenbraut23
Apr 13, 2013, 9:09am Top

Hi Laura, just checking how are you doing.

After reading your review on The Beth Book I really thought - Oh mei did she really finish it, even so that she disliked it so much? - Well a few posts later I saw you didn't - Good on you. I used to finish books whether I liked them or not, I stopped doing it several years ago because I felt I am missing out on too many good ones that way *smile*.

However, I saw that you started on The Great Gatsby what do you think so far?

Wish you a great weekend :)

227lauralkeet
Apr 13, 2013, 6:36pm Top

Hi Bianca! I hope to finish Gatsby tonight, I have only about 50 more pages. It's very good!!

This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2013 Reading - Part 3.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2013

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