Sentence of the Day: From THE GREEN ROAD

Self has loved all the books she’s read so far this year. Some are lighter reads than others, but in general she’s been really lucky in her reading choices. Here are the books she’s read so far in 2016:

  • Road Dogs, by Elmore Leonard
  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Candide, by Voltaire
  • Watch Me, by Anjelica Huston
  • My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart
  • The Green Road (currently reading), by Anne Enright

This is a sentence from Enright’s novel. Two “boys,” Dan and Billy, are walking together on a clear Manhattan night, just “after rain.” One of the boys is out of the closet, the other not really:

  • The boys’ winter coats were both open to the mild night, their long scarves hung down, blue and green.

And that’s it! There’s the sentence. Hope you like it as much as self did.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay night.

 

July in Books

July is a season all its own. Below, a list of the books self has read in July:

July 2016 (Currently Reading): Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart

  • How a feisty young woman shepherds her younger sisters to a life of independence, in 1914 rural America

July 2015

The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson

  • How an author self never read before introduced her to the splendid pleasures of The Wallace Collection in London

July 2014

The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry

  • Again, this Irish writer breaks her heart (The first time he did was in A Long, Long Way)

July 2013

The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

  • Sicily, as you’ve never seen it before

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • So meh

The Quiet American, by Graham Greene

  • Greatness

 

Female Protagonist, GIRL WAITS WITH GUN

Self had quite a tense period some weeks ago, when she began reading The Girl on the Train.

She was supposed to continue her summer reading with Savage Park, but decided to go for Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart.

Self is intrigued by the women characters (with a title like Girl Waits With Gun, how could she not be?). Three orphaned young women live on a farm. The eldest, Constance, takes care of her younger sisters, Fleurette and Norma. There is a brother, Francis, but he is pre-occupied and ineffectual. It is Constance who is the real “tender” of the family, and she proves it when an automobile crashes into the sisters’ buggy and she is left to deal with her brother’s panic attack and the rude men who are in the automobile.

Something would have to be done about the three of us. I was tired of hearing my brother’s ideas, but I hadn’t any of my own. I did know this: a run-in with an automobile was not to be taken as evidence of our inability to look after ourselves. It was nothing but a mundane business matter and I would manage it without any assistance from Francis.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Adjusting the Reading List

The Girl On the Train was a very satisfying read! She will keep her eye out for Paula Hawkins’s next book. She hopes that, someday, there will be a sequel to The Girl On the Train.

In the meantime, self got a few pages into Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk etc. and was quite surprised to find that it is mostly about a playground in Japan, one the author encountered when she accepted the invitation of a friend to visit her in Tokyo. Self doesn’t know what she was expecting, but she knows it wasn’t a meditation on a children’s playground, not with a title like Savage Park.

Since she is still so keyed up after finishing The Girl On the Train, she decides she’s in the thriller-reading mode, so she opts to put aside Savage Park and go for the next book on her reading list: Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart.

The next book after Girl Waits With Gun: The Green Road, by Anne Enright. And after that, a book called Lonely in the City: Adventures in the Art of Living Alone. And after that, a couple of travel books, starting with The Narrow Road to the Deep North: Travel Sketches, by Matsuo Basho. Will I be able to finish more by the end of summer? Hope so.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN: Train of Thought

Self wants it to NOT be Rachel.

Because Rachel evokes so many feelz in self.

And Rachel’s point of view is the one we’re inside of, mostly.

Somewhere near the halfway point of Girl on the Train, self reads an Anna point of view. Self is usually impatient with multiple point of view narratives: she thinks the switching around is really just a lame excuse for the author not to come up with a tight plot. Like the switch is nothing more than an extended tease. But self really relishes the point-of-view switches in Girl on the Train. The novel presents us with a great puzzle and a great unreliable narrator and the only way the reader can figure out what’s really going down is to hear from all the characters.

Anna (Tom’s current wife) describes seeing Rachel. It’s a scene that we’ve seen earlier, narrated from Rachel’s point of view. All along, self has thought of Rachel as a well-meaning, deluded drunk. Just your typical messed-up anti-heroine. Self absolutely loathes Tom. His diatribes, his abandonment of Rachel. Of course, we aren’t that sympathetic with Anna, Tom’s current wife.

Then, suddenly, we’re inside Anna’s head, Anna watching Rachel. And it is a little un-nerving to read Rachel as giving a sort of sneer at Anna. The sneer of a woman who is absolutely in control of her actions, if not of her emotions. Could Rachel be pulling a fast one on the reader? (And how on earth is Emily Blunt going to play this character, Emily Blunt who is so immensely likeable even when bitchy, as she was in The Devil Wears Prada?)

What’s really interesting is that, despite the fact that Anna is the Other Woman, and of course we would not expect her to have a sympathetic view of Rachel, when she describes sneering Rachel, it makes the reader question her liking of Rachel, instead of making us dislike Anna more.

Why does this happen?

Each switch in point of view is a surprise. In other words, the patterns are unpredictable: we don’t have a uniform order for the switching. It’s not Anna, followed by Rachel, followed by Megan, then back to Anna, followed by Rachel, followed by Megan etc etc

But each switch does carry the story forward. And readers find themselves becoming detectives, constantly testing new theories of who did what.

And such is self’s curiosity that she sometimes cannot wait to resume reading, she grabs the book (which is always in her tote) even if it only means reading a few paragraphs more.

She thinks her seatmate on the plane who much preferred Daniel Silva to Paula Hawkins was so, so wrong.

The Girl on the Train resembles The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, another mystery that asks: Who did it?

The central character has some flaw that makes it difficult for her/him to be taken seriously. In TCIOTDITN, it’s the narrator’s Aspergers. Here, it’s the fact that Rachel is alcoholic and depressed and given to mood swings. Yet, they doggedly persist in their “investigations.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Babysitting: “The Girl on the Train”

This trope has been done before: babysitter develops crush on employer’s husband and it’s all yada yada yada.

Self began reading The Girl on the Train. She likes it, so far, even though the woman she sat next to on the plane said, “Didn’t like that one so much. Disappointed, after all the hype.”

Self was on page 6. The woman raised her book: a paperback by Danielle Silva.

She decided she’d stick with The Girl on the Train. It couldn’t be as bad as the other book she bought in London: Grey. At least, there’s psychological depth to Paula Hawkins’ narrator. She’s no Ruth Rendell but there is no Ruth Rendell except Ruth Rendell. Self would settle for a few nights of cheap thrills.

Here is the babysitter coming to work, on p. 38:

Today she doesn’t open the door, it’s him, the husband, Tom, suited and booted, off to work. He looks handsome in his suit — not Scott handsome, he’s smaller and paler , and his eyes are a little too close together when you see him up close — but he’s not bad. He flashes me his wide, Tom Cruise smile, and then he’s gone, and it’s just me and her and the baby.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, pp. 256 – 257

I traced lines between moments and events distant from one another, I established convergences and divergences. In that period it became a daily exercise: the better off I had been in Ischia, the worse off Lila had been in the desolation of the neighborhood; the more I had suffered upon leaving the island, the happier she had become.

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

Further Additions to the Reading List

All Jane Austen:

  • Lady Susan
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Mansfield Park

New Adds to Reading List

  • The Course of Love, a novel by Alain de Botton
  • Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, a novel by Ramona Ausubel
  • Swimming Studies, a memoir by Leanne Shapton

Girlhood in Elena Ferrante Time

I could sit on the terrace and read with the sea in front of me, or walk along a steep white road toward a long, wide, dark beach that was called Spiaggia dei Maronti.

In the beginning, after all the fears that my mother had inoculated me with and with all the troubles I had with my body, I spent the time on the terrace, dressed, writing a letter to Lila every day, each one filled with questions, clever remarks, lively descriptions of the island.

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

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