Saturday, 29 May 2010

Recent reading

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier. Professor Joy Harkness has had a successful career so far, but her private life is so private she has very few friends in New York or elsewhere. She’s offered a brilliant job at Amherst College in the depths of the Massachusetts countryside where she rashly buys a derelict Victorian house. I liked 48-year-old Joy. Her slow transformation from dry long-divorced childless WASP professor to warm, much more outgoing woman is told in the first person with self-deprecating humour but, for me, the novel leans slightly too much towards solemn life-craft at the end. And sometimes maybe there’s a little too much detail about paint colours. Was a bit worried about the (robin's egg) blue ceilings.

So Joy is a feminist who has failed, so far, to connect to her female side and she learns it’s OK to care about clothes and wallpaper(!), and, more important, be part of a community. Against her instincts, she finds she can cope with looking after other people’s children and even a dog. As far as potential lovers are concerned, she meets some randy profs and one unusual treasure of a handyman who teaches her to value craft and style - style is a feature in the book. In turn she tries to improve his life and wrest him away from his mother. I was kind of disappointed that the novel ended so suddenly. I enjoyed it a lot though, loved the characters and setting, and looked forward to its company every evening. Here are some links. Diane Meier, Women Over 40 Rock (?)  Moral of the story is: it is never too late to bloom, but, you know, maybe I appreciated the book more because I didn't think about its earnest themes and messages while I was reading.

Cheated by posting last year's garden pics

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve.  I enjoyed the descriptions of life in Kenya in the 1970s, especially the mountain climbing, but, trouble is, I didn't much care for the rather tiresome main character nor her doctor husband.  There's a misleading quote on the back of the book which implies it has a thriller element, but it doesn't.  It's about a marriage with problems and in the end I didn't mind what happened to the protagonists.

The Chaemleon's Shadow by Minette Walters.  Picked this up second-hand.  An interesting psychological thriller.  A good read - and topical, I'm sad to say - but parts of the denouement were distressingly sordid.  Minette is bound to be gritty, of course. Here's a blurb 'Having received severe head injuries in Iraq, Lt Charles Acland cuts all ties with his former life and moves to London.  Disfigured and alone, he sinks into a private world of anger, guilt and paranoia.  But then he attracts the attention of local police investigating three murders.'

4 comments:

Talli Roland said...

Thanks for the reviews! I quite like Anita Shreve but it's been ages since I've read anything by her. I might give this one a go despite the tiresome characters.

JJ Beattie said...

I like the sound of the Diane Meier book Susie, in spite of your concerns about blue ceilings - that made me laugh.

And I'm with Talli in liking Anita Shreve - I've got several of hers waiting on my shelves.

Thanks for the reviews.

Susie Vereker said...

Talli and JJ, I didn't think this was one of AS's best. Maybe she had too tight a deadline.

Debs said...

I like the the sound of the Diane Meier book.