Archive for July, 2022

Hamnet

Tuesday, July 26th, 2022

Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell

By Maggie O’Farrell

The Short Take:

This book is widely acclaimed and the recipient of several awards. And while the writing is lush, with lavish descriptions I kept wanting the author to get on with it. Her fictionalization of the death of Shakespeare’s young son is long on atmosphere but somewhat short of plot.

Why?

The main focus of this book is not the famous playwright (whose name is never mentioned) but his wife, Agnes–as she was named in her father’s will. Independent and willful from birth, her nonconforming behavior distances her from others, except her future husband.

The book follows several story lines, jumping back in forth in time. While I am truly tired of this device it seemed especially bothersome here when one easily knows where the story is headed and what is going to happen.

However who am I to whine where others have praised? and the emotional strengths of this book are remarkable.

A Little Plot:

Agnes is attracted to a man who is attracted to her and anxious to leave the household where she is barely tolerated. However, heartbreak is in her future.

Sea of Tranquility

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

By Emily St. John Mandel

The Short Take:

Beautifully written book with time travel, mysterious visions, and interesting characters–one of whom seems to be a veiled portrait of the author. It transports you from early 1900s British Columbia, to lunar colonies, to a distant future. And every page is a delight.

Why?

Like Station 11, pandemics figure into this book: the author of a novel focused on a pandemic is on a book tour promoting her book and a new pandemic seems to be threatening Earth. But that is where the similarity ends. Different people through time experience the same “hallucination” of eerie violin music playing in some massive structure. In addition, a stranger shows up in connection with each incident, asking questions.

The experiences of Mandel’s four main characters bring questions about what constitutes reality and how memoire can shape–or mis-shape–the present.

It’s hard to say much about this book without damaging the experience for the reader. The stories in it are so strongly interwoven that to pluck one strand out can unravel the whole.

Just know it is a glorious read.

A Little Plot:

A young English aristocrat who embarrassed his family is banished to Canada in 1912, aimless and without ambition, he crosses the continent to British Columbia where a disturbing experience changes his life. The book then moves forward to present 2020 and a theatrical presentation.

For more about this author and her excellent books, click here.

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