Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Books

Bodily Harm - Margaret Atwood
fiction, (c)1981, 301pp
rating: ***

Maragaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. Ever since I read The Handmaid's Tale for the first time as a sophomore in high school, I have been a big fan and have read her novels avidly. Bodily Harm is one of her earlier works and this one definitely does not stand up to her later novels. The book is about Rennie, a fashion/travel writer. Following a bout of breast cancer, she travels to the fictional Caribbean Island of St. Antoine which is on the brink of revolution. There, she gets involved with Paul, a mysterious man with shady credentials. Mayhem and self-discovery ensue.

What I found most disconcerting about this novel is that it lacked Atwood's poetic style of writing. Usually, when I've finished one of her novels, I have a list of quotes to write down and keep and savor later. But this one was completely without that and I felt like it could have been written by anyone. Like many of Atwood's later characters, all of Rennie's relationships with men are self-destructive in different ways, but there is no sense that she learns anything from most of these encounters. The non-linear storytelling works to a certain degree, but also is distracting at times. The character of Lora (an island ex-pat) is more irritating than tragic.

I found this book to be more disappointing than the Penelopaid.

Light on Snow - Anita Shreve
fiction, (c) 2006, 288pp
rating: ***

I ran out of books in English about halfway through my time in Venezuela, so I had to read books that people had left at the resort. Sadly, the most common nationality of resort-goer was ... German. So the english selection was sad. That is my only excuse for some of the next few books. Desperation will drive a person to read anything (witness my Dan Brown reading extravaganza when I was in Ethiopia).

Light on Snow is a short book that deals with a week in the life of Nicky and her father. Nicky's father is a recent widow. On a walk through the woods, they find an abandoned baby in the snow, which they take to the hospital and save. A few days later, they are visited by the mother of the infant and the real story of what happened that night is told. It is a simple plot, but poignant in its own way.

I freely admit that I am not an Anita Shreve fan. She's a little too angsty, a little too Oprah, a little too trendy for me to really enjoy any of her novels. But Light on Snow manages to be good snapshot of two weeks in the life of this family. The contrasts between Nicky and her father's family before the accident, as it as after the accident, and Charlotte's makes for interesting ideas about what really makes a family. The writing was good. I can see how a lot of people would really enjoy this book - it just wasn't really my kind of book.

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