The secret of losing yourself in a great book is to get off the internet, I learned this year. Revamp your blog, spend less time online, and you’ll find yourself reading the way you did before you clicked from webpage to webpage.
And so I am sharing my Top Five NEW Books of 2018 early, because I won’t finish any more new books this year. Those of you who know me will be surprised to learn I actually read more than five new books! Next week I’ll post a list of the other Top Five, that is, Old and Older Books. Yup, there will be Dickens.
Five Fab Fave Books of 2018
1. Conscience by Alice Mattison. Told from three perspectives, this complex lefty novel explores the ramifications of reading and rereading a novel based on the life of a friend. Olive Grossman, a feminist biographer, has agreed to write the introduction to a new paperback edition of Bright Morning of Pain, a novel written by a friend and based on the life of her best friend, Helen, an anti-war activist who became a terrorist. Although Olive’s husband has not read the book, it has been a source of contention in their marriage. The consequences of his finally reading Bright Morning of Pain are surprising.
2. Deborah Eisenberg’s Your Duck is My Duck is a wry, witty, crisply-written collection of six short stories. Against a setting of political instability and climate change, the eclectic characters attempt to find balance. An artist questions the fabric of society; doting immigrant aunts fabricate a family history to cover up traumatic roots; a spoiled young man steals $10,000 from his father, the CEO of a corporation which ruthlessly poisoned the environment; and a group of aged actors have been misrepresented in a celebrity memoir. Every sentence is perfect.
3. Booker Prize-winner Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Iliad from a woman’s point of view. The narrator, Briseis, a former princess, is Achilles’ “prize,” i.e., slave. She observes that Achilles is not a “golden, shining” hero to the women in the camp; instead, he is known as “the butcher.” Briseis muses, “What will they make of us, the people of those unimaginably distant times? One thing I do know: they won’t want the brutal reality of conquest and slavery.”
4. Rena Rossner’s The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a brilliant retelling of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, partly told in verse. Two half-sisters, Liba and Layla, left alone in their house in the wood while their parents travel to their grandfather’s deathbed, learn they have shape-shifting abilities: Liba can become a bear, Layla a swan. Rossner’s mimicry of Rossetti’s style and content is fascinating: she alternates chapters from the two sisters’ perspectives, Liba’s in prose, Layla’s in poetry. And Rossetti’s and Rossner’s goblin fruit-sellers are equally seductive.
5. THE BOOK I COULDN’T PUT DOWN: Jean Thompson’s A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl. Set in a midwestern university town, this well-written page-turner is the story of three generations of women who struggle to make a place for themselves. Evelyn, a historian, gave up working on her Ph.D. after she got pregnant and unhappily married an older professor with rigid ideas. Her daughter Laura graduated from the university but never left town. She balances her job in communications with caring for a dysfunctional family–her alcoholic husband and drug-addicted musician son constantly fight–and, as the book opens, for her dying mother as well. Laura’s daughter Grace, a college graduate who majored in English,now works at the a food co-op, desperately trying to distance herself from her family.
Have you read any of these? Do recommend your own faves!
5 thoughts on “Five Fab Fave Books of 2018”
I read the Barker and was disappointed. I didn’t think she managed to achieve what I assume she set out to do, which was make me empathise most strongly with the women. I came away with a more explicit understanding of their plight, but it was still the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, the death of Hector and the sorrow of Priam which touched me most. I’ve scheduled it for our book group as soon as it’s available in paperback because I want to see how others react to it.
I loved the book, but the one weakness, I think, is that she did not interweave the Achilles chapters with the Briseis chapters more closely.
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I have The Silence of the Girls on my TBR, and now I am tempted to try the rest on your list… 🙂 Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! The Silence of the Girls make me think about the Iliad in a different way…