- Kateri Kramer
MOST RECENT BOOK REVIEWS
I've been reading A LOT lately in order to make my goal of reading 50 books this year. Instead of putting these reviews on different posts, I figured I'd combine them all together!
I want to start out with "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy. I've had this book on my shelf for ages, and have even started it a few times. When my friend Kimberly picked it for Book Club it was the perfect opportunity to actually read it.
The writing was beautiful and lyric and melodious, Roy has truly mastered the art of description. It is a haunting story that follows a multi-generational family in southern India. The story is heartbreaking, the kind that seeps into your bones without really realizing it. I read it about a month ago and I am still thinking about it often.
"The God of Small Things" gives readers a really interesting look into the caste system in India, but it's about so much more than that. It's about the complexities of politics and race, it's about loss and separation and revenge. But maybe most importantly, it's about the ways that love can (or cannot) conquer all of those things.
There were certainly mixed reviews with my book club, many people not getting through the book all the way, but I loved it. It won the Man Booker Prize for a reason, and Roy deserves that honor. It is elevated, melodious literary fiction that is very much worth a read.
After reading "The God of Small Things" I picked up "The Hundred-Year House." This was my first book by Rebecca Makkai, who I've heard writes beautifully. Unfortunately I didn't love this book though.
What worked? I think the part of the book that looks back at the artists who lived in the house was really well done. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing, particularly if it's part of a time period I'm already interested in.
What I didn't love: I didn't feel much emotional connection to any of the characters. And the only character I felt remotely connected to, played a very, very minimal role. The premise of the book, if I gather, is that it's a ghost story, but it doesn't have any undercurrent of that. It's just kind of a side story that isn't fully developed. Finally, I thought the sections didn't wrap up very nicely. I don't necessarily want a everything tied in a nice bow, but the end of each part felt unfinished.
I recently finished “Vesper Flights” by award-winning author, Helen MacDonald. If we’ve ever talked about books together, I’ve probably blabbered on and on about “H is for Hawk” and what a glorious masterpiece it is. Well, “Vesper Flights” certainly didn’t disappoint.
This collection of lovely, sensitive, poetic essays explore the complexities of the wild world and our relationship to animals, the environment, and climate change. She posits that so often we interact with animals and birds through our own human experience, choosing what is and is not acceptable. She writes ““When we meet animals for the first time, we expect them to conform to the stories we've heard about them. But there is always, always a gap… Animals are.”
This thread and line of questioning continues through the book as MacDonald continues to explore how and why humans view the natural world as a mirror to ourselves. She uses bits of science, philosophy, religion, and her own personal experiences to search for those answers.
Whether it is the multitudes of swifts making their vesper flights, or the dwindling population of cukoos, MacDonald’s essays are thoughtful weaving throughout, literature and politics (much like “H is for Hawk”).