Welcome to Wednesday, friends! I meant to show up on Monday for a post but didn’t have much to say, so I spent my writing time catching up with all of you. It was a lovely substitute for what I had planned to do! It seems that so many of us in the northern hemisphere are settling into the season and, for most of us, that includes reading more books. I have had an incredible week of reading and can’t wait to share my thoughts with you, so let’s get to chatting.
BOOKS FINISHED THIS WEEK:
The Wild Hunt is Emma Seckel’s debut novel and is perfect for the spooky season. Leigh returns to the Scottish Isle that she grew up on after her father’s unexpected death. October is the time of the sluagh – when an incredible number of crows arrive on the island. Some say that the crows arrive in October every year because it’s a part of their migration pattern; others say that they carry the souls of the dead and they have become more unhappy since the second world war. This book is full of legends and and traditions and is an interesting pairing with The Colony by Audrey Magee, which is set on an Irish island that is steeped in its own traditions. And I have to share that I haven’t looked at a murder of crows the same way since finishing this book!
I finished Lonesome Dove! I intended to keep up my slow and steady pace of 4 chapters a day, but at a certain point I just needed to know what was going to happen. I won’t say too much about the plot because I’ve been writing about it each week as I update you on my progress, but who knew a cattle drive from Lonesome Dove, Texas to Montana could have been so interesting? This saga was full of the most interesting characters, the most unforgiving settings, and the most heartbreaking tragedies. Larry McMurtry told a beautiful story that was worth the heft of this book and the time it took to read. And now I’m interested in the sequels and the prequels because I’m so curious about the backstories of the characters and what their lives were like after the book ended. I doubt that I’ll continue the series right away – maybe these will be summertime reads for me?
I started The Painted Drum back in July but couldn’t settle into it. I picked it up again at the end of last week because I wanted to get caught up with the Erdrich-Along and friends — this time I couldn’t put it down! We finally get Fleur’s origin story, as tragic as it is. And we meet new characters in New Hampshire, a mother and daughter who are distantly related to the Ojibwe tribe we’ve been learning about through the whole Love Medicine series. They are antique dealers and appraisers and the daughter, Faye, finds an incredible painted drum in one of the houses she is inventorying. Knowing that it’s special, she eventually finds its rightful owners: members of Fleur’s ancestral line. I’m so glad I decided to try again with this book because it was definitely worth finishing.
A small group of Fiction Matters members decided to read Beloved this month and I jumped in on the chance to read with them. It’s been in the back of my mind ever since Barack Obama recommended it in 2019 and I knew I needed to finally read it. Friends, this isn’t a book to step into lightly. I’ve written and rewritten this paragraph, trying to explain Beloved in a way that is easy to follow and shows what a compelling novel it is, but I can’t figure out how. To put it as simply as possible: this is Sethe’s story. She’s being haunted by her daughter who died in the most tragic way after Sethe managed to find a way for her and her children to escape from slavery. This book shifts between timelines and characters with ease and requires careful reading, but is worth the effort. After finishing it, I’ve fallen through rabbit holes while finding articles to help me unpack what I just read and I’m still trying to understand it all. But I will say that Toni Morrison was an incredible writer and we were lucky to have her tell a part of the American story.
Bronwyn and I finished the second Kirsten book this week. Kirsten starts school and is nervous because she’s still learning English and worries what the teacher will think about her. She also becomes friends with Singing Bird, a Native girl who lives nearby. Although they speak different languages, Kirsten finds that she can communicate with Singing Bird in other ways, which helps her confidence at school. I really enjoyed the sweet friendship that Kirsten and Singing Bird cultivated. And now we’re on to Kirsten’s Christmas story, which is full of Swedish traditions that are new to me.
SLOW & STEADY
I am delighted to share that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is my new slow and steady read. I started this back in April and read about 160 pages. I had a hard time figuring out how to fit this giant book into my rotation, so it sat on my book cart all summer, patiently waiting for me. I’ve decided to try to read about 40 pages a day and am finally making progress! I’m just shy of 400 pages into it and am completely in love.
This book is set in the early 1800s and is written as if it were a Regency novel. It’s about two magicians in England, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and their goal is to bring real magic back to England. It is full of the most magical scenes with the coziest details. Susanna Clarke’s imagination is top-notch!
And here’s a visual update on October’s TBR. The purple checks are the books I’ve finished and the dashes are the ones I’m reading right now. The pile on the right was my biggest priority because of their due dates and I’m pleased that I’ve steadily worked my way through them. And still — the pull to pick up other books is extremely strong, especially Babel. I’m doing my best to get through the month with just these books and had decided that Babel will be my reward for sticking with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. However, I’m finding that the actual reading of JS & MN is reward enough! So instead, it will be my reward for getting through October without reading anything that’s not on my current TBR. Wish me luck!
And finally — the winner of this year’s Booker Prize was announced on Monday!! A big congratulations goes out to Shehan Karunatilaka for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida! I didn’t get to livestream the ceremony but was getting notifications on my watch as I was driving to pick up Colton. Someone even said that the award was presented by the Queen Consort, Camilla! I was swooning. Imagine being presented such a prestigious prize by the Queen??! This was an exciting winner and a wonderful book to experience. And now I’m looking forward to next year’s Booker list (of course).
That’s all for today. I hope to be back on Friday with a life update. Until then — take good care.