“What should a woman read in May?” I asked myself, sitting cross-legged in bed and gazing at a pile of books.
This is a tough question, since I have so many books on the TBR, but I’ve been reading widely and wildly lately, so here are four quick recommendations.
First up, there’s T. C. Boyle’s comical, sad, satiric novel, Blue Skies, which centers on a family dealing with climate change on both coasts. Cat, a hard-drinking young woman whose fiancé constantly travels for his job, lives a lonely life in a rickety beach house in Florida, where the sea is rising and the streets are usually flooded. Her parents and brother live in idyllic California, which is not idyllic anymore: it is on fire all the time. Boyle has a flamboyant imagination but this novel is disturbingly realistic, and what has not happened seems likely to happen soon. This is a fast read – one for the dystopian novel collection.
And then there is Sarah Caudwell’s witty, smart mystery, Thus Was Adonis Murdered, first published in 1994 and recently reissued by Bantam. Caudwell was famous for never revealing the sex of the narrator, Hilary Tamar, an Oxford don and amateur sleuth who applies scholarly methods to solving crime.
In this comic novel, the scatterbrained Julia Larwood, a London barrister who shares an office with Hilary’s friends, has gone to Venice on an Art Lovers’ tour, hoping to meet an attractive man. She writes very funny letters about her dream man to her friend Selena, which Hilary and the others chortle over at lunch. But then there is a disaster: Julia is accused of murdering the man. Her friends know that clutzy, disorganized Julia could never have committed a murder, but proving it is problematic.
Have you heard of the 19th-century writers, E. O. Somerville and Martin Ross? These two Anglo-Irish women co-wrote novels under the above pseudonym. I recently read The Real Charlotte, a disturbing novel about the dangers of jealousy. Charlotte Mullen, a clever, unkind, middle-aged, well-to-do spinster, is extremely jealous of her much younger second cousin, Francie Fitzgerald, who has come to live with her. The lively Francie attracts every man in sight, including Mr. Lambert, an estate manager on whom Charlotte has a crush. What horrors Charlotte manages to accomplish are almost beyond imagination.
I am thoroughly enjoying The Essential Peter S. Beagle, a two-volume collection of the award-winning author’s short stories. As a child I loved his novel, The Last Unicorn, and am delighted to find the same feats of imagination in his short stories. In “Lila and the Werewolf,” a young man, Farrell, is distraught to learn that his new girlfriend, Lila, is a werewolf. Farrell’s gift is for acceptance, but the problems of lycanthropy multiply speedily. In a sweet, comical story, “Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros,” a rhinoceros follows the professor home from the zoo. The animal insists he is a unicorn, which the professor tells him is impossible. The two live together for years and argue constantly about philosophy. Is the rhinoceros/unicorn real? Yes, I believe ! More on the stories when I get to the second volume.
And what are you reading? Anything I should add to the TBR?