Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Green Road

This is a great book. Not a beautiful book, not a 'nice' story or an easy read, in some ways, but it's a great book.

Depressing as hell though.

It's extremely character-driven, and these characters aren't super likeable. The central problem of a woman who pushes away her children and then complains that they're gone, is so ubiquitous as to be boring...but I was so interested in the children, that the mother just seemed like background noise to me.

Man, I really don't like Rosaleen.

There is a moment at the end of the book, where one of the sons is walking through his childhood home, taking pictures of small features of the place where he grew up. A photo of the bathroom tap. A photo of a doorknob, of wallpaper, of a banister. This scene really struck me. It made me realize how all of the small details slip away as we age - all those tiny critical things that we associate with our childhood.

Close your eyes and think for a second...can you recall what the bathroom tap looked like, from your eye level when you still had to stand on tiptoe to reach it? Do you still remember how the screen on the back door smelled when you pressed your nose against it? Can you picture the print on your grandma's kitchen curtains, or remember what it felt like to open that old-fashioned fridge?

It seems Anne Enright can. And that's why I kept reading, almost without stopping, all the way to the end.

Monday, May 04, 2015

At the Water's Edge

Today I finished "At the Water's Edge". Sara Gruen, the author, also wrote "Water for Elephants", which I read not too long ago.

In this novel, set in early 1945, the main character is an American woman visiting Scotland with her husband and his best friend. Back in Philadelphia, they are socialites with more money than direction or purpose, and their trip to Scotland in the middle of World War II is more of a frolic than anything else.

They are after a sighting -- and hopefully photographic proof -- of the Loch Ness monster. This fact, coupled with their truly awe-inspiring rudeness toward everyday, working-class people, alienates the sympathy of the local populace with surprising speed.

Mild hijinks ensue and our heroine, frequently abandoned at the inn while the men go adventuring for days at a time, winds up interested in, attracted to, and understanding of the hardworking locals.

I have to admit, here, that I didn't feel captivated by this book. The conflicts seemed overly contrived, and because the villain spent so much time off-stage, I didn't feel very invested in or concerned about the threat to our heroine. I never really believed she was in any danger -- certainly none that a bit of stiff upper lip couldn't prevent.

With all its faults I preferred "Water for Elephants" to this one. Still - I'm glad I read it and it was a nice way to pass a few hours over the last week or so.

Up next -- Kazuo Ishiguro does it again!