In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.
The Fault in Our Stars
This is the kind of book you are self-propelled to read non-stop until you finish. I loved it because of the many gem-like moments that give you a wonderful, emotional feeling. But this is also a sad story, with heart-breaking moments. Seventeen-year-old Hazel is dying. She meets Gus, a bone cancer survivor, and they fall in love. They have an intense courtship and they know they are short on time.
I think John Green does a great job portraying Hazel and Gus. I have heard others say their conversations are too intellectual for teenagers. I don’t think so and I think he really captures the teenage intensity along with their heightened sense of the loss of time.
Although the story is written through Hazel’s point of view, Green also shows us what it is like to be parents of cancer patients, and how they must prepare themselves for loss. And he shows how Gus and Hazel cling to each other and their friend Isaac, and try to have normal teenage lives.
There are unexpected plot turns and surprising characters, and the story is nicely tied together, with some open endings to keep the reader thinking. I think the ending is uplifting and makes the best of tough loss.
The Silent Wife
A. S. A. Harrison
What’s beneath the surface of a seemingly happy relationship? Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert have a smooth way of being together and it’s worked for twenty-some years. They’ve never officially married, but it doesn’t matter. This is a marriage and they have a nice rhythm, live a very nice life and have everything they want.
Then we get to know them a little better. Todd is a big person with a big personality. He’s made a success of himself in real estate, flipping office buildings in Chicago. He loves Jodi, but has other relationships. Jodi works part-time as a psychologist, seeing patients in their home. She loves Todd, likes taking care of him and making their life nice and comfortable. She also likes the routine of their life and looks the other way because she’s settled.
Then things begin to happen and the balance is upset. What comes next is a look at how far a person will go to make things right and fair.
Harrison has written a great story and I enjoyed every word. Her characters are fun and, despite the dark side of the plot, strangely likable. The story unfolds in a comfortable and humorous way. I liked their life, their condo, their conversations and what they ate. I liked the nice way they had with each other. I think she does a terrific job introducing these characters.
I like the way Harrison builds suspense and then returns to the plot, giving the reader a taste of what’s to come. The story moves at a very good pace and still provides a solid background.
Through therapy sessions that are a required part of Jodi’s training, Harrison explores Jodi’s character, her childhood and the events that shape her. Harrison helps the reader understand these characters by applying psychological theory to their backgrounds. This element adds a nice layer to the story.
There are surprises and twists all the way to the end and that makes it work. I wish I could have read it in one sitting!
I thought this was a very interesting premise for a book, in which actual authors become characters in the story. Wolff’s story takes place in 1960 at an elite Eastern prep school for boys, which takes pride in its literary connections and achievements. The plot revolves around the school’s literary contest, whose winners are given an audience with famous authors.
Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway are featured and, at a reception in Rand’s honor, students and faculty participate in an extended discussion of her characters and philosophies in Rand’s novel The Fountainhead.
There are more complex parts of the story as well. The narrator, on scholarship to the school, is acutely aware of class distinction and privilege and keeps his modest background and Jewish heritage a secret. He struggles with his own self-image as he mirrors the looks and actions of his wealthy classmates, inviting the false assumption of wealth and class. The contest puts him at the center of a scandal that reveals deceptions and radiates to classmates and faculty. Its conclusion shows Wolff’s characters in their true form.
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