I have been known to cheat. In fact, this tendency is somewhat of a joke within my family--because the subject on which I am cheating is reading. Many times, when I first begin a book and have met the characters, I am overwhelmed with a curiosity--will this character still be here at the end of the book?
So, I cheat--I skip to the end and read a page or two. Not a pretty habit, but there you have it--one of my weaknesses. In no way does this habit ruin books for me. I keep reading through to the end to see HOW the ending comes about.
Now, with the Kindle, my habit has been reined in. Tough to skip to the end when you are reading a book on an electronic reader. Add to that the fact that Kindle does NOT use page numbers, and I am really foiled.
No matter--I love reading so much I keep reading whether I know the ending or not.
I have just finished, in relatively short order, three books--all of which I commend to you. I will not award my label of "terrific reads" to all, but maybe to one. Herewith the three.
I first read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The literary device that tells the story in this book is a series of letters between Juliet Ashton, an author who was writing light literature during World War II, and her publisher and also various friends. The novel is set in London and on Guernsey immediately following World War II. England is emerging from the ravages of war, as are the Channel Islands--English possessions dating back to the time of William the Conqueror. The Channel Islands, of which Guernsey is one, were the only "English soil" occupied by Hitler's troops.
As you read the work, you learn of the great deprivation people on Guernsey suffered. That is what I enjoyed most about the book. I found it a bit difficult to keep track of all the characters--most of them letter writers. I also was not as invested in them as people as I sometimes am. But I loved the historical aspects, and kept running to the Internet to look up this or that item.
The next book I read was one I downloaded on to my Kindle--hence the inability to thumb through to the end to "see how it turns out." Probably a good thing--this books is a definite page turner (er, page clicker). Titled People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, this novel creates a fictional back story for a real object--the Sarajevo Haggadah.
A Haggadah is "...a book that Jews read on the first night of Passover - and on the first two nights outside of Israel. It tells about our slavery in Egypt and the miracles God did for us when freeing us. The word haggadah means "telling," which comes from the Biblical command: "And you shall tell your child on that day, saying: 'God did (miracles) for me when I left Egypt so that I would fulfill the Torah's commandment." (Exodus 13:8 and Rashi)" (from Ask the Rabbi).
When the Germans marched into Sarajevo in 1941, German officials visited the museum there and demanded the Sarajevo Haggadah be turned over to them. What makes it so unusual is that it is a 14th century document written in Hebrew and illustrated with marvelous lush jewel-like illustrations. Quick thinking on the part of museum officials saved the document--I will let you read how. One of the wondrous things is that along the way, Muslims and Christians played a part in helping to keep this Jewish book from the flames of the Inquisition and from the covetous hands of the Nazis.
The novel tells the story of Hanna Heath--a rare book expert--who is invited to examine the book in the mid-1990s when it came to light, after having been "missing" for decades following World War II. Rumors were flying that the Nazis had spirited it away, or that it had been destroyed. In her examination, Hanna finds various small items within the book that help to tell its history and its long journey from 14th century Spain to modern Sarajevo.
Geraldine Brooks is a marvelous writer--and I had previously read her books Nine Part of Desire, The Year of Wonder, and March. I loved these three books and entirely expected to love People of the Book. I was not disappointed. An extra plus is that this book has been picked for our church book club, and also for a two county wide event where I live--One Book, Two Counties.
And, I simply can't resist a book that features a map like this on the inside cover--remember, I read the Kindle version. I found the map on the Internet and saved it. I also liked the double play on words in the title--the novel tells about the people of THE book, i.e. the Haggadah, and it interweaves characters from the three religions generally called the people of the book--Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
The final book I read I just finished today. I have picked this book up on a whim from the Costco book table. I didn't know a thing about it, except what the cover announced--that is had been short-listed for the Booker Prize. I have previously mentioned my penchant for seeking out Booker Prize winning books, as a kind of short hand recommendation system.
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry is told first person by two people--switching back and forth between Roseanne Clear, a 100 year old patient in a mental institution that is slated for destruction, and her doctor, Dr. Grene, whose job it is to assess all the remaining patients to determine their fitness to be set "free." In assessing Rose, he slowly learns her life's story.
The book goes back and forth between the past--Ireland in the years around the world wars--and the present. Roseanne, despite her symbolic last name, is anything but forthcoming in telling her tale. She hides her history, so that the good doctor has to extract it slowly and lovingly. His name--Grene--takes on significance by the time the reader reaches the end of the book. You learn that his greenness--naivete--has kept him from understanding a critical piece of information.
Oh, for the record--I was absolutely good and did not cheat on reading this book. So the ending, when I got there, came as a complete surprise to me.
Would I give any of these book my "terrific read" award. Yes, People of the Book. The Secret Scripture is close, but not quite--rather like the Booker Prize panel which twice has bypassed Sebastian Barry.
I know summer is almost over, but do add any or all of these books to your reading list.