November 2017 books read


  • H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald, 2014
  • Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature – Margo DeMello and Susan E. Davis, 2003 (mostly skimmed)
  • Goodnight, Mr. Tom – Michelle Magorian, 1981 – A modern classic children’s book I had never heard of and picked up at a tag sale. Good not great.
  • Dombey and Son – Charles Dickens, 1848 – Since I got my first smartphone, I’ve kept a new-to-Dickens to read  if I don’t have anything else around; it takes me a very long time to get through them. I started this one probably 3? years ago. The death of Paul (Chapter 16, What the Waves were always saying)—wow wow wow, the “golden water” foreshadowing Proust’s “petit pan de mur jaune” (I didn’t realize there was controversy about which part of the Vermeer painting that refers to!) Now up is The Uncommercial Traveller.
  • The Given Day – Denis Lehane, 2008
  • The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot, 1861
  • The Stand – Stephen King, 1978. Yet another re-read (of the original, not the misbegotten rewrite). This time around it was the evolution of Larry Underwood’s character from “you ain’t no nice guy” to a real hero that particularly grabbed me.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne-Jones, 1986 – Because I saw the Miyazaki movie again (love it!) and wanted to compare to the source. Good in its own way, but it was interesting to see, for example, that the classic Miyazaki transformation of the Witch of the Waste was entirely his.
  • Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words – Boel Westin, 2014 (mostly skimmed)

The Given Day – Dennis Lehane, 2008

I’d never read any Lehane but had heard good things about him, so I wanted to like this. Maybe the contemporary ones are better—this was a very tin-eared historical novel, set in 1918-1919 with characters who don’t feel of then. A couple of nice images–a dying man “probably slipping across the river right at this moment, climbing the dark shore into another world,” a baby “warm as a kettle wrapped in a towel;” some flashes of humor—“The Bolshies? … I’m not sure they have the capacity to blow up anything outside of their own chests.” “How could you fight righteous rage if the only arms you bore were logic and sanity?” But people shocked at houses that still don’t have indoor plumbing? Getting IVs in a hospital? Citing “a six percent drop in violent crime”? And those are just the irritations I can put my finger on; overall the actions and perspectives of the characters just didn’t convince me. 700 pages too! It’s a Second Monday book group book or I wouldn’t have persevered, and I’m looking forward to hearing other people’s thoughts.