Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3 Book reviews

I've been on a reading kick lately. I go in cycles - for so long, I was in a book-reading rut. I would get books from the library but never finish any of them. But I've managed to finish a few lately, so I might as well review them, right?

Sarah's Key

I think I am the last person in the world to read this book. Somehow, I got it mixed up with the book series that includes the book These is My Words. I don't know how I did this, but when I mentioned this to Amy, she chuckled and told me it was about World War 2. Okay, that made a lot more sense. I devoured this book - I got it on Saturday just before the library closed and 6 and was finished by 10 am Monday. There are two stories combined in this book - Sarah, a child during the infamous Vel d'Hive roundup of French Jews during the occupation, and Julia, a modern day American who is researching the Vel d'Hiv. The link that binds the two women is a strong one - an apartment in Paris where Sarah had lived at where Julia would soon live.

What drew me to this story was the history about the Vel d'Hiv. I didn't feel that Julia's life was realistic - she seemed to spend her time going to parties with her gay friends, running around the countryside taking photos of the concentration camps near Paris. When did she do laundry? Who took her daughter to school or made dinner for the family? Even knowing that her job as a journalist would require her to have strange hours I still felt that she was able to devote far more time than any real person would to research and coffee-drinking. I thought her husband Bertrand was an a**hole, and I didn't think that the fact that they were compatible in bed was a strong enough link for a marriage. Her daughter seemed way too grown up for 10 or 11 - I hate it when authors make the main character's children more adult than is realistic. I also thought that she did this with Sarah to an extent as well, but maybe I'm being too harsh. Wow, it sounds like I hated this book, which I definitely did not. I liked it, I just felt that the characters were a vehicle to allow de Rosnay to convey the history of the Vel d'Hiv more than real, fleshed out characters. I thought that the story of Michel in the cupboard was positively horrific (if you've already read this book you know what I mean.) Any thoughts?

The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain.

I read this book with my SDBBE group (thanks, Apryl - I loved it and will get it to you soon.) The best book review for this book can be found here. (Amy - I posted a comment but it disappeared. Operator error I'm sure.) If you aren't familiar with this book (which I wasn't) it is journal entries of Adam and Eve as they live in the Garden of Eden, fall, and then live in the world as a consequence of their choice.

I loved the discussion of why this book was banned that was written in the marginalia. From our point of view in the 21st Century, the book is harmless. But we all agreed that the 19th and 20th century reviewers of this book would have had far less of a sense of humor regarding the fall of man. Eve is a funny, inexperienced creature. She loves Adam with her whole being. Adam is less in love. He comes to appreciate his wife, but he allows her to shoulder the burden of their life outside. He fails to understand that Cain is a child - he goes through a whole list of animals he could be, never arriving at "human" until Cain is a few years old.

Things I loved about this book: Eve's humor. The fact that she trees Adam for multiple days in a row. That Satan's roll is minimized - they barely mention the snake. Adam in fact is a little relieved at his arrival because he is one animal that can talk which takes the pressure off of him having to listen to Eve. The scene of Abel dying is heartbreaking. Adam and Eve are not wise people - they don't understand death. They think Abel is sleeping. When they realize he is dead - it is more than Eve can handle. Amy wrote about this as well - that Eve lost two children that day; yes, Abel was dead, but in a way, Cain was dead to her as well. I've never thought before about how she would have felt, the love that she had poured into her little son, lost when he killed his brother. So so sad. I highly recommend this book. I read it in a day without any effort, but I've thought about it a lot since, thanks to the marginalia. I just love those girls.

The Dive from Clausen's Pier

This is my choice for our upcoming round of SDBBE. I read this back in 2003 and it's stuck with me ever since. The Dive is about Carrie, whose boyfriend Mike breaks his neck while diving into a lake. Carrie is put into an impossible situation - she had been unhappy in the relationship for months when this event, and now she must try and "be there" for her now-quadriplegic fiance. She fights for her identity as Mike fights for his life.

Carrie eventually runs away to New York where she hooks up with a character named Kilroy. I've always remembered this relationship since my first reading of the book. It is something so unique - unsappy, passionate, built on a foundation of nothing other than mutual attraction and availability. It is such a contrast to Carrie's relationship with Mike, whom she knew inside and out. Kilroy is a mystery to Carrie - she doesn't know where he grew up, she doesn't know his family or what he majored in in college or how he affords his lifestyle. She just knows she loves him and needs him in a way that she never needed Mike. From this book I learned that knowledge of a person's history is separate from knowing a person. I also found I could identify with Carrie - she is unable to do what she wants without worrying about what everyone else in her life will think about it. Her inability to chose what she wants results in her wanting others to change for her, which is something I've found myself doing over and over.

Have you read any of these books?


heidikins said...

Wait. These is my words is in a series!??!

I read your whole post, but I am still fixated on your first paragraph.


Britt said...

Maybe the reason you mixed up Sarah's Key with These is my Words is because one of the sequels is called Sarah's Quilt.

Apparently Sarah owns a lot of things. Like keys and quilts.

I have read 2 or the 3. Soon to be 3 of the 3.

Did you happen to read Amy's copy of Sarah's Key? Because if you did, you already know what I thought. Frankly, I don't remember much about it. I remember the cupboard, and I remember liking Sarah's story but not really caring for Julia. Can't remember the specifics, though.

Amy Sorensen said...

LOL Heidi! Yes, it is a series! Go forth and find the others.

I utterly LOVED the historical story in Sarah's Key and despised the contemporary one. For all the reasons you mentioned. I DO think the connection between contemporary and history was good (the body in the wall) but I think she could've told a better story.

I remember Kilroy being skeevy. I did like that book though, so I'm looking forward to reading it again!