Reading down the house – March

Three books this month – two from my list to read of books that have been hanging around the house for too long and one newish book for my book club.

And an enjoyable month of reading it was!

First book off the shelf: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I loved the movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. But not so the novel. The central character frustrated me. He was very socially inept. Maybe a non-comic Aspie, not at all like Sheldon in The Big Bang or Don in The Rosie Project. But without enduring empathy, and without the humour, I just felt he was a pompous fool who placed work above life. I didn’t get a sense of duty or of a flawed but basically honourable man from the book. I also didn’t feel the deep sadness as I did in the movie. I will watch the movie again and see if I think differently about it.

Midwives by by Chris Bohjalian. What rock have I been hiding under? I didn’t know this was an Oprah Book Club choice. As a result it obviously was a best seller. I enjoyed a later book of Bohjalian’s, Skeletons at the Feast, about the last days of WWII on the Eastern front.

OK, so Midwives was also made into a movie. As a dramatic tale, it is easy to see it would make a melodramatic movie.

It was a great read, thrilling, thought-provoking and suspenseful. Though I did pick the hints dropped, and it did seem a bit Jodie Picoulty to me, with the final twist.

Last was Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. What a brilliant read! This gets my pick of the month. Actually a young adult novel, it is a cross-over to adult reading. A mix of myth of the selkies (seals that shed their skin to be human) and Stepford wives/feminist tale, it was compelling. Set in the isolated northern Scottish islands, the isolation is as much a presence as the characters.

Why do men want compliant, happy (even if they know the happiness is false), beautiful wives? And do all men actually want this? What would you forgo for an attractive partner? Honesty? Denying your partner’s true feelings? Hide their escape, even if you knew they wanted to leave and were desperately unhappy staying? And what role was sex in this? How much of yourself, your values, would you put aside to satisfy desire?

The novel suggests there was not true freedom of choice – magic may have over-ruled free will. Still, the men knew what they were doing. Well, maybe. Were the men bewitched or the women captured? But one thing fixed causes another complication – a betrayal, an enchantment.

The different narrators gave a strong narrative structure. I loved how we got a whole different perspective on how animals may see the world – very interesting. The prose is also very beautiful.


5 thoughts on “Reading down the house – March

  1. I *loved* Sea Hearts! I think your review is wonderful. As much as I try to declutter books, I’m going to have to buy that one. I love the way she writes and it’s just such a lyrical, haunting, beautiful book. And of course I loved the feminist sub-text.

  2. A good selection of books! I will add Sea Hearts to my reading list. I have read some selkie tales before. I haven’t seen the movie Remains of the Day, but the way you describe the character reminds me of Albert Nobbs (also not entirely sympathetic). I will have to add Picoulty to my vocabulary 🙂

  3. I read one of Chris Bohjalian’s other books, The Sandcastle Girls, and it seemed unnecessarily cruel (the ending especially). I’ve avoided reading his other books because of it. There’s nothing wrong with a sad book, but I don’t like feeling jerked around for a plot device. Maybe I judged too harshly and should give him another try?

    Sea Hearts sounds very different than what I normally read – I’ll have to check it out! (and google selkies because now I’m intrigued . .)

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