I am overdue writing a book review. Even taking my 6-month hiatus from writing into account, it’s been almost one year. My last review was in May 2015. Because I’ve read many books in the past year, I’ve decided to write on a few of them in list form, instead of writing a post per book. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to write on anything else for a few weeks.
The list is in alphabetical order (of course) and not in the order in which I read the books. It is a list of opinions, so it is what I call an opinionlist, more precisely, a book opinionlist. Enjoy it.
Adultery: I picked up this book because I have fond memories of reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist many years ago. I had found it to be well-written and spiritually fulfilling. Adultery is neither. Unlike some reviewers who had a problem with the main character’s infidelity and found her unlikable (she has everything and is depressed about it), my main problem with the book is the bad writing, mostly the bad character development (or none at all). But the actual development of the story, how she goes from depression to happiness (or less depression), through a demeaning first sexual encounter with her lover, psychiatrists’ visits, a spiritual guide, and a skydiving experience, leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, my desire is that I had never wasted my time reading the book.
Big Little Lies: If you look through the Book section in this blog, you will find a review post on The Husband’s Secret, another Liane Moriarty’s novel. Big Little Lies was the first book I read by Moriarty and I liked her writing style so much that I’ve read several of her books since. However, this one is the best, in my opinion, perhaps because it is her latest one and she has really perfected the genre. Moriarty is a keen observer of human nature and all its glaring flaws. But she delivers her judgment in a light, breezy package that is both highly entertaining and frightenningly accurate. I loved this book. Don’t miss it.
Defending Jacob: I liked this book even as I found it horrifying. I kept wondering what I would do if my teenage son would be accused of murder as is the case with Andy Barber’s son in this legal/psychological thriller written by William Landay. Barber is a district attorney and deals with the murder accusation as a father and as a lawyer. The book is told in Barber’s voice, and we can “hear” his anguish. How far does one go to protect one’s child? Without revealing too much, there is a shocking twist at the end of the book. Almost a year after reading it, I’m finally free of the voice that kept asking me for months “what would you have done?”
The Girl On The Train: I know that this book by Paula Hawkins is a bestseller and a movie will be released later this year. However, I did not like it. I had zero empathy for the main character and less for all the others. The premise is interesting, but because I cared so little for the characters, I really didn’t care where the story went as long as it got there quickly, so that I could finish the book. I’m surprised about the hype. It felt like a book I would’ve read in high school, at least in terms of reading level. That said, I’m glad I read it, only because this is the type of book that I read to be culturally correct (my term). So many people have read it, that it’s an ice-breaker at a party, and nothing more.
The Japanese Lover: The most recent novel by Isabel Allende was also a letdown for me. Allende is such an incredible writer and this book felt amateurish. It is very possible that it is a problem more with the translation than with the writing itself, but this is definitely not up to her usual standards. However, even with the flaws, this is a better book than The Girl On The Train on any day.
A Little Life: I haven’t been able to get this book out of my mind since reading it a few months ago. Written by Hanya Yanagihara, it is the story of four male friends. It is not an easy book to read and not just because of its length of over 800 pages. Some of the scenes in the book dealing with the abuse of one of the characters when he was a child, and his own self-abuse when he’s an adult as a result, are very painful to read. However, it’s impossible not to be immersed in the lives of these characters. I was amazed how the writing was simple and straightforward, yet so devastatingly powerful. I was also floored by one of the character’s definition of love. In fact, the book shows what friendship and love, in their purest form, should be like. If you like deep, complex, characters and long fulfilling reads, do not miss this book. A Little Life is grandiose.
Orphan Train: I was very hesitant to read this book, as I am particularly sensitive to stories where children, and especially abused children, are involved. Orphan trains were a reality of American life for 75 years ending at the start of the Great Depression. The trains would stop at several stations, where families would come to select a child. Many were handed over to families who treated them as unpaid servants, preventing them from attending school. But, I’m glad I read this novel by Christina Baker Kline. While the children in the book go through some hardships, the story is mostly an uplifting one. It fluctuates between a current-day foster child and a rich old lady who was herself an orphan on a train.
The Secret History: Is the first book written by Donna Tartt, who won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch. When I told a friend that I was reading this book, she commented that Tartt is the Queen of Bleak. She’s not wrong. But, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. At 592 pages, it is another long read that I didn’t want to put down. As, in The Goldfinch, Tartt is excellent at character development. However, in this book, I found that she really dug deep into the psyche of her main character, revealing truths about human nature and how it can be affected by the dynamics of a group.