Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Reading Update

I've read a few books recently that I don't feel too inspired to review at length. I'm not sure why except that maybe I don't feel I have a lot to say about them so I'll do a quick round up and leave it at that.

I read The Point by Australian author Marion Halligan partly because it is set in Canberra and partly because I enjoyed her earlier novel, Lovers' Knots. There aren't many novels set in Canberra. It's such a new city and so carefully planned that it feels soulless at times. My theory is that literature is one way to give a city colour and a sort of cultural 'texture'. While it is fascinating to see how Halligan sees Canberra, unfortunately I don't feel it's the book that will bring the city to life. She manages to capture Canberran light and weather, and includes some really interesting descriptions of Lake Burley Griffin, but the characters bored me and the dialogue was annoyingly stilted. So my search for the classic Canberra novel continues.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson was an addictive read. I really couldn't put this book down until the last page. Unfortunately I found that it didn't stay with me and now I find it really hard to think of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much. I might have to read more of her work and see if there is something meaningful to get out of it for me.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka is a light hearted look at the immigrant experience. Nadezhda is the grown daughter of Ukrainian immigrants in England. She and her sister Vera are dealing with their father's relationship with a much younger, brash and manipulative Ukrainian woman, Valentina. I found some of the Ukrainian history in the book heartbreaking and the clash between the new and the established immigrants in the novel is interesting. I felt that some of these issues deserved more examination than they are given here but I still enjoyed Lewycka's book.

Philip Roth's American Pastoral, which I'm about a third of the way through, looks like providing a more thoughtful analysis of immigrant communities and their assimilation into their adopted country. So far I'm really loving this book- structurally it is really interesting and I'm really curious to see where Roth takes the reader. So far the narrative has unfolded in unexpected ways, jumping between times and events and between the real and the imagined. There are lots of interesting comments on the way characters are created by writers and how much we can really know another person.

Anyway, best go actually do some reading...

3 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

I have Case Histories on my shelves; I'm glad to know it's so entertaining. One of these days I'll get to it ...

Smithereens said...

I've been afraid to tackle Roth's American Pastoral, it seems so complex and heavy. I'll be interested to read what are your conclusions before I make a second try.

jess said...

Dorothy, I hope you enjoy Case Histories.

I didn't find American Pastoral too complex or heavy, Smithereens. The ideas are big but the writing is very accessible. In fact I really liked this novel- will post a review soon after I've let it sink in for a bit.