End of Summer Reading

tumblr_mofeghPx5z1rv2dfko1_500“Vilma Reading on the Sofa ” by Tavik Frantisek Simon, 1912

Hello there book loving friends– One (of the many) reasons I love summer is all that unfettered time to lounge around with a book in hand.  I was able to tear through a few this summer and here are my faves:

I ran across this title when we were planning our travels in New York in July.  I had read a few of Rutherfurd’s other books, London, Moscow, Sarum and my favorite, Paris!  And so I knew this would be a perfect to tuck into my suitcase for a read along.  As in this other books, Rutherford writes across generations and centuries, starting with Indian fishing villages on Manhattan and moving through Dutch and British colonists, the Revolutionary War, the excesses of the guided age and the explosion of immigrations… on to nearly the present day.  The stories are centered around one main family with a varied cast of supporting characters.  Each chapter pulls you in to a new tale of people shaped by this city and it’s events– a wonderful way to pick up a little New York history while you are fascinated by the people who built this grand city.

Ever since I read Mrs. Dalloway, I’ve been curious about Virginia Wolf.  And this book explains a lot. This gossipy historical novel was just what I was looking for to fill me in– on Virginia and the whole Bloomsbury group early in the last century.  The group centers around Virginia and her siblings, Vanessa, Toby and Adrian and their outrageous band of companions made of artists, critics and writers.  The story is told in the form of a diary written by Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister and a gifted painter.  When Vanesa falls in love and marries, Virginia feels abandoned, losing her sister’s constant ministering care, she careens on the edge of madness.  The group centers around fragile Virginia and her privileged life.  The book seems to be meticulously researched and pulls you along with each twist and turn of the many varied relationships in this talented, bohemian circle of friends (and sometimes enemies).  If you love historical fiction (like I do) I think you’ll find this fascinating.

Our Lit group couldn’t wait to get our hands on this book once it was announced, months before it was available.  We (like so many) had loved To Kill A Mockingbird.  But it was inevitable that this book could scarcely live up to the earlier books high bar.  I found the first half of the book pleasant as Scout returns home to Alabama from New York and chafes at the cultural differences of her hometown.  But the characters so admirable in To Kill a Mockingbird lost their luster and seemed a bit like caricatures.  And the second half of the book became bogged down in tedious conversations, trying to resolve disappointments.  I slogged through to the end, but as my book buddy,  Jenni said– this is probably one of the most purchased books that will not be read completely though.

Anna Quildlen is the perfect author for summer reading.  Interesting involving characters and a story with enough heart and twists and turns to see you through.  I think I may have liked this book because the protagonist, Rebecca Winter was about my age.  A well known photographer, a bit past her peak and with a declining bank account to match.  She rents her NYC apartment and lives in a woodsy cabin on the proceeds.  Here she meets Jim Bates who rescues her from a raccoon in her attic. Her son, and parents also figure into the story as she cares for them through family crisis. It’s a story of a woman coming to know her own heart and mind and a book about starting over– and has that unexpected romance.  The telling details give you a true feel for the time and place and keep you hoping it will all turn out well for Rebecca.

8 thoughts on “End of Summer Reading

  1. Loved loved loved Still Life. I won’t read Go Set a Watchman because all of the reviews have panned it and I love TKAM too much. Vanessa seems like a good one for book club and I must get my hands on a copy of NY! Thanks for the great suggestions. Our book club just read Someone by Alice McDermott. Slim little novel but a is very well written and nuanced. -Kat

    • Hi Kat– good choice on Go Set a Watchman. There are only so many reading hours in a year and you don’t want to waste them! Thanks for the Alice McDermott endorsement– I’m putting it on my list of books to track down at the library. Happy reading!!

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