Thursday, June 21, 2007


I have written several posts with the label of TERRIFIC READS. And I always list what I am currently reading in the side column of my blog. I have just finished a book that I would call a terrific but difficult read.

Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things is a marvelously crafted novel. It won the Booker Prize several years ago and I have decided that if a book wins the Booker Prize, I will no doubt love the work. I have yet to read a Booker Prize winner that I didn't like, though I would be quick to add I have not read them all.

The God of Small Things is not, however, an easy read. Roy sets this novel in relatively contemporary India. The pivotal event of the novel is the accidental drowning of a little girl whose English mother has brought her to India to visit with her Indian father, from whom the mother is divorced. There, she meets her Indian twin cousins, a boy and a girl, who are throughout the novel referred to as the two-egg twins. They are, however, a blended personality.

The novel follows the family fortunes, moving back and forth in time. The time sequence can be a bit confusing because the reader is not always sure if this is the present or the past.

What is so elegantly exquisite about this novel is Roy's command of the English language and her sheer descriptiveness. The book shimmers with descriptions. Settings are described, people's appearances, motivations of characters--every detail is both essential and ephemeral. Here's one marvelous description of futility--"It was like polishing firewood." I thought about that description for a while. What better way to describe something as being futile than to say it is like polishing firewood.

If you want a breezy summer read, don't try this novel. If you want something to sink your mental teeth into, and you want something that will stay with you a long while, then DO try this novel.

I am now re-reading Drowning Ruth. I read this novel several years ago, and decided I wanted to read something to refresh my recollection. I loved this work when it first came out. It ended up being an Oprah book club pick (remember--don't tell me what Oprah is reading?). BUT when I bought this in a local book store, that pick had not been announced. The store clerk said to me--oh, good choice. Tomorrow Oprah is announcing this as her next pick.

Well, I bought it anyway. Here's a the description from the Barnes and Noble website:

Deftly written and emotionally powerful, Drowning Ruth is a stunning portrait of the ties that bind sisters together and the forces that tear them apart, of the dangers of keeping secrets and the explosive repercussions when they are exposed. A mesmerizing and achingly beautiful debut.

Winter, 1919. Amanda Starkey spends her days nursing soldiers wounded in the Great War. Finding herself suddenly overwhelmed, she flees Milwaukee and retreats to her family's farm on Nagawaukee Lake, seeking comfort with her younger sister, Mathilda, and three-year-old niece, Ruth. But very soon, Amanda comes to see that her old home is no refuge--she has carried her troubles with her. On one terrible night almost a year later, Amanda loses nearly everything that is dearest to her when her sister mysteriously disappears and is later found drowned beneath the ice that covers the lake. When Mathilda's husband comes home from the war, wounded and troubled himself, he finds that Amanda has taken charge of Ruth and the farm, assuming her responsibility with a frightening intensity. Wry and guarded, Amanda tells the story of her family in careful doses, as anxious to hide from herself as from us the secrets of her own past and of that night.

Ruth, haunted by her own memory of that fateful night, grows up under the watchful eye of her prickly and possessive aunt and gradually becomes aware of the odd events of her childhood. As she tells her own story with increasing clarity, she reveals the mounting toll that her aunt's secrets exact from her family and everyone around her, until the heartrending truth is uncovered.

All set now with your summer reads? You could tell me what you are reading this summer?


Cathy said...

Summer Reading. Nice thought. I've been so blinking busy getting ready for 'summer' it's pleasant to think of sitting - of reading.

Our Short Story Group selects books that we'll read and discuss in the fall when we meet again. They've selected:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Girls by Lori Lansens

I personally look forward to Annie Dillard's May Trees.

I've missed keeping up with your posts Donna. When we're settled on Cape Cod I'll be catching up.

Pam said...

I have always loved to read and now it has become a refuge. Friends and family continue to bring books, I will add these to my list. Your critiques on books are most helful and interesting.

LauraO said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I don't read much fiction, and when I want to, I have a hard time finding something that sounds interesting. These do.

KGMom said...

Cathy--I have missed you. Enjoy your summer on the Cape. And I will look up THE GIRLS. I have not read it. I did like THE KITE RUNNER very much.

Pam--well, if you read all the books I have talked about in TERRIFIC READS you will have quite a lot to work through. Books are always a refuge.

LauraO--I tend to vary between reading non-fiction then fiction. My last non-fiction was a huge tome called BIOGRAPHY OF LONDON. Told me more about London than I ever knew. I tend to pick historical non-fiction. Of the fiction you have read, I trust one of them is Barbara Kingsolver's PRODIGAL SUMMER? About a woman biologist who lives alone in W. Va. working on observing coyotes. Wonderful book!

Mary said...

I'll be reading KGMom Mumblings and other BLOGS :o)

I appreciate your take on Drowning Ruth. I'll remember that next time I get to Barnes & Noble.

Dorothy said...

Donna, I am enjoying a book of Mary Oliver poems at the moment. I wish I had more time to devote to reading. I used to be influenced by Oprah's book list, until I decided that her selections were way too dark for me. And the James Frey incident clinched it for me. I read his book and had a hard time believing most of it...and that was before the truth came out.

Trixie said...

I hope to be reading Michael Gruber's "The Book of Air and Shadows."

Sorry for not underlining, I don't know how. ;-)

Also, how do you get the covers of your book on your blog sidebar? Do you scan it or do you grab the artwork from somewhere?

KGMom said...

Mary--you are right--reading blogs has now become an important part of my daily reading: books, NYTimes, and blogs! Then there are the magazines too--e.g. Vanity Fair, a must read for me.

Dorothy--Mary Oliver is a favorite of mine, although I have not bought any of her books. I should.

Trixie--don't worry about the underling--the blogger note says you can use HTML tags, but I don't know those.
As for the image of the book--I go to Barnes & Noble, copy their photo, put it in my pics folder, compress it for webpages, then put it out as an image using Blogger's edit function (the little wrench icon). You can pick--change image. Make sure it is compressed otherwise it will be HUGE. For books, I choose the smallest compression possible. I should mention, I am doing all my photo editing on Microsoft's built-in image Picture Manager.

KGMom said...

Trixie--make that underLINING, not underling. Actually makes it funny with the mistake.

Mary said...

Donna, I can't wait to hear about your Saturday!

Laurie said...

I'm currently reading A Century of Jazz, by Roy Carr. I'll add your current reads to my shopping list. Thanks.

Lynne said...

I just came home with a bag of new books from the bookstore! In the bag were:

Fahrenheit 451/ Ray Bradbury
Romeo and Juliet/ Shakespeare
(these 2 from the 9th grade lit. list for my daughter)

For Whom the Bell Tolls/ Ernest Hemmingway
(always wanted to read it)

Anansi Boys/ Neil Gaiman
(suggested by a friend)

Invisible Prey/ John Sandford
(murder mystery by a terrific local author)

Owls and Other Fantasies, Poems and Essays/ Mary Oliver
(I've wanted on of her poetry collections for a long time)

Wooeee I love having a pile of new books waiting for me!

Cathy said...

I just finished The Maytrees. I've posted a link on my blog. This was astonishing.
I'm going for a second read. There were so many words I didn't know and didn't want to take the time to research during the first read.

Rhonda said...

So you also read "The God of Small Things"? I had to read that for one of my book clubs. It was NOT my favorite. I just didn't "get" it (the same way I don't "get" Beloved by Toni Morrison, I'm ashamed to say). Interesting to hear someone else's take on it, anyway.