The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne

After History of Wolves I wanted a little Booker break, and I had Karen Dionne’s The Marsh King’s Daughter in my library pile. I enjoyed this thriller but it was exactly the wrong choice of palate cleanser after Wolves, because they share many elements–it made for an interesting comparison, though.

Despite the title, this isn’t really a Girl on the Train/Gone Girl kind of domestic thriller, though parts of it are certainly and oddly domestic. The Marsh King is the name the press gives narrator Helena’s father, who kidnapped her 14-year-old mother and held her captive for 15 years. Helena grew up in their isolated cabin in the marshes, adoring her father and her wild life, only gradually becoming aware that there is something wrong.

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History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund

Man Booker #2. If I read them all in 2 days, I’d actually do the longlist. I don’t anticipate that will actually happen.

I’ll never manage these Booker posts if I try to provide coherent reviews. Blurb from publisher here. Review by Jennifer Senior I’d pretty much cosign here. My random thoughts? Read on here. Continue reading

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Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

This is a book composed of fragments, woven together from many voices, some real, some invented (I wasn’t always sure which were which, but it doesn’t really matter). My thoughts about it are going to be fragmented too.

I blasted through Lincoln in the Bardo in two days. Its voices would have rewarded lingering, I think, but immersing myself in them for a few hours straight worked well too.

I’m not sure the ideas of the novel would have held up to slower reading. I’m not sure its ideas are the point. Even racing through, I felt that Saunders’ picture of the afterlife was infused with clichés. The bardo is a liminal state between life and death. Here’s Hari Kunzru’s description in his review:

Waking life, dreams, meditation and in particular the period between death and rebirth are all bardos, states of consciousness sandwiched between other states of consciousness. We are always in transition, from dreams to wakefulness, from life to death. When someone dies, Tibetan Buddhists believe that they enter the bardo of the time of death, in which they will either ascend towards nirvana, and be able to escape the cycle of action and suffering that characterises human life on earth, or gradually fall back, through increasingly wild and scary hallucinations, until they are born again into a new body.

Saunders combines this idea with elements of Christian purgatory. Is it fair to expect anyone to come up with new ideas about life and death and loss? Probably not. The vibrant voices Saunders invents often revivify the clichés, the intensity of their desires (however gross they sometimes are) and mourning are the strength of the book.  Continue reading

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Summer Reading

. . . and the trouble it gets you into.

Ana Coqui is doing weekly #RomBkLove prompts on Twitter, and this week’s is about summer reading. (I’m grateful to Ana for starting this because I have enjoyed having more book talk in my Twitter feed again). I responded that summer is when I have the time and energy for longer, more complex books and reading projects. It’s during the school year that I’m more likely to need the break of “beach reads.”

And that project reading is the trouble I’m in. Continue reading

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Rambling and/on Reading

Seattle's Space NeedleThis weekend, three of our family took an overnight trip to Seattle (leaving son in charge of the pets–everyone lived and nothing burned down! guess we did OK at parenting). Our daughter had long been hatching a plant to meet up with Twitter friends, and my husband and I decided if we both went it would be fun for the parents too. We spent a day walking around downtown playing tourist while the teens did teen things.

 

 

The best part of the trip was taking the train home: it runs right along the coast a lot of Sunset over the Georgia Strait, seen from a train window.the way, and the sunset was gorgeous. My one regret was not having time for my own Twitter meet up. Maybe next time!

My bus/train reading was Troublemaker, the third book in Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter mysteries, a ground-breaking series from the ’70s with a gay hero. I think the mystery plots are good, but I like this series most for the portrait of gay life and the complex relationships created by people forced outside the mainstream. Dave’s relationship with his father, whose insurance company he works for, is especially interesting: he can’t inherit the business, because the board will fire him for his sexuality. His father would like him to just “give up” being gay, but he also clearly loves Dave. I think part of what I enjoyed about reading this just now is the reminder that some things have gotten better. But it’s also a window into an alternative world that has been partly lost, to AIDS, certainly, but also, perhaps, to increasing acceptance into mainstream society.

Other recent reading?

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