Summer is finally here, my daughter's A levels have finished and she is now a'school leaver'...gulp!
'The Interestings' by Meg Wolitzer was one of those books I didn't want to end. Six teenagers meet in an American summer camp in 1974, they dub themselves ' the interestings' as they feel they will never be boring but all have dreams and promise. The novel then traces their lives which are intertwined, until the present day. Wolitzer writes beautifully and all the characters feel so well rounded. I really identified with Jules, who always felt like the uncool outsider. I shed a tear at the end, but this was not an overly sentimental story, in fact it was very believable and realistic. It described the inevitable slide into compromise ( in relationships and careers) we all tend to share as we grow into middle-age, and how friendships are tested by envy and betrayal. I highly recommend it and am now eager to read some more of Wolitzer's books.
I bought 'The Financial Lives of the Poets' by Jess Walter after his, 'Beautiful Ruins' was one of my favourite reads of last year. This is a very funny book that has shades of 'Breaking Bad' about it. Matthew is in all sorts of financial trouble, in danger of losing his home and family, after he loses his job as a financial journalist. After a random meeting with some youths, he gets hold of some dope and is soon hatching a plan to restore his finances. Of course, things do not run smoothly and what happens next is very entertaining. Matthew's father has dementia and his character in particular, is drawn with great bathos. Jess Walter is a very gifted writer, very contemporary and his characterisation is wonderful.
Our book club read this month was 'And the Mountains Echoed' by Khaled Hosseini. I did enjoy his previous two books, but I was a little underwhelmed by this one. It begins in Afghanistan in 1952 as brother and sister Abdullah and Pari, are separated when their father agrees to let Pari be adopted by a rich couple. The story then encompasses many characters in many countries, up to the present day. I won't give away the ending, but I was disappointed with it, I thought, 'was that it'? I thought the story was diluted by too many sub-plots, themes and characters. It might have read better as a series of short stories. Hosseini does write beautifully and his descriptions of Afghanistan's countryside are quite lovely. Maybe because I loved his first two books so much, I'm being rather unkind, most of the book group really enjoyed it!
Finally, I thought 'Big Brother' by Lionel Shriver was excellent. Pandora's brother, Edison, comes to stay with her family as the jazz pianist is down on his luck. She hasn't seen him for a while and when he arrives at her home in the Mid-West, he is morbidly obese. How everyone reacts and deals with this situation is written about with huge skill and wit. It made me laugh and cry and has a real 'Atonement'-like twist to it that made me gasp. Apparently Shriver's real-life brother died of an obesity related condition, she really writes from the heart at how helpless Pandora feels as Edison refuses all help and is eating himself to death. I really couldn't put this down and I think this is Shriver's best book to date.