Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 6: Saturday Night Catch Up!

Beautiful Lies Beautiful Lies, by Clare Cook

Well. My overall impression is that it is a carefully written book with a heavily historical "feel", but one that ultimately lacks a powerful plot or final impression at all. I expected that the story would revolve around the terrible newspaperman's threat to reveal Maribel's background OR something about Maribel getting involved in spiritualism, but it didn't. I'm not 100% sure WHAT it revolved around: Maribel's discovery of photography as a medium? Her husband's battle for human rights in England? Her realization that her memory of her family was not shared by the rest of her family? Many interesting characters and bits surface--even Oscar Wilde gets mentioned several times!--but ultimately, the book ends up feeling disjointed and uneven. And. . . what IS it with Clark and cigarettes? Nicotine and its effects and the smell, appearance, rituals, etc., of smoking are practically characters in the story. Clark mentions in the post script that the historical character that inspired the novel was known to smoke, but her fictional version really does nothing else but, it seems!

So: B-, I'd say. Lots going on but doesn't live up to its full potential, unfortunately.


The Enchanted AprilI've read Enchanted April at least twice and seen the film a number of times--actually saw the film first. Amazingly, our library has a large print edition of EA and when my book club decided to read it for April 27, I went right after it. 

What a light and pleasant book with great descriptions and a surprisingly important message about love and relationships! Von Arnim takes a lots of risks in this novel, and chief among them is making her main character, Lottie Wilkins, a ditz who delivers embarrassingly honest observations in neo-Flower Child language at the drop of a hat. The risk, however, pays off--Lottie's annoying qualities fit perfectly with her role in the plot and in the novel as  whole: her message about the need for people (women, particularly, but people over all) to make themselves happy in order to be good, loving individuals is naive but important, and her determination to announce it repeatedly forces us to confront that fact. Rose Arbuthnot is nearly as annoying in her self sacrifice, and, once again, von Armin uses her tiresome determination to reveal its own shortcomings as the story progresses. The weakest plot line is the one involving the lovely Lady Caroline, which is resolved neatly in the movie--a deft editing choice that I wish someone had suggested to von Armin!

However, it's a good novel for a February or March day when it's sneezing sleet outside and life feels depressing. It's more than just a travelogue, touching on some real truths about human nature and relationships, and I recommend it highly!

Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh

I think it's time for a different rating system: I keep running into books that aren't "I really liked" but are memorable and well-written. . . Well, maybe that's why we write the reviews! Anyway: Telling the Bees is a carefully crafted, well written, devastatingly sad book. I read it VERY fast, skipping a lot of the details of philosophy and bee lore to get to the heart of the story and to realize that yes, it is very sad: two families end, essentially, in the course of it. There are no pretty little resolutions. But the bees go on. 

Once again, as Elisabeth Von Armin did in Enchanted April, which I just reviewed, Hesketh takes a risk by having a challenging narrator: he's Albert Honig, an old bachelor who talks and thinks like a 17th century scholar--people are always telling him to keep to the point, to answer just their questions, and I felt exactly the same way, but since I could skip or skim, I did. As an audiobook, Telling the Bees might have enchanted me by its deliberate pace, or it might've driven me around the bend. As a "real book," it was haunting, memorable, informative, and very sad. I wish Hesketh could've seen her way towards changing the story's arc--but even though she didn't, she wrote a powerful book.


Well, I have walked to the high school and back twice, walked Z, walked to the Y for a 2000 yd swim, and I am tired! Nate's show choir went well, and they made night finals, so are either state champs or runners-up; his jazz choir came in 3rd, which is great. I also saw MDIHS's "Salaam Bombay" show, which brought down the house. It's amazing--and if they don't win their division of states, I'll be amazed. It's been nice to have Mom here, and to ignore my fairly bulging end of term 3 correcting bag, but tomorrow I'll be back at it. 
Bed first, though! 

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