October Reviews

Excuse the brevity and absence of pictures, but I’m off to LA for the Helen Fielding reading tonight (excuses FTW). 

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

203 pages

I wrote about this memoir earlier in the month after reading it with my students and really enjoyed it. In brief, Ondaatje tells the story of a trip he takes back to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to put the pieces of his family history together. The reader must accept, just like Ondaatje, that he or she might not be completely informed- there are times one isn’t sure who exactly speaking or if the stories being told are completely factual.

Verdict: It’s not for everyone (stream of consciousness, non-linear narrative, poetry, etc…) but I thought it was fascinating and appreciated the risks he took (although critics maintain that he is still just a “Western autobiographer).

What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell

288 pages

This doesn’t come out until January, but I was able to receive an ARC through Amazon. The narrator, Olivia, a bipolar woman, has cheated on her husband and is moving her young son and teenaged daughter from Texas to New York. She decides to visit her hometown of Ocean Vista where her son, also bipolar, disappears at the beach. While trying to find him she must also tackle the demons of her youth, flashing back to her teenaged years with a mentally ill mother, new friends, too much freedom.

Verdict: Cornwell has a unique tone, but at times I felt some of the coincidences and such were a bit too far-fetched. As someone who grew up with a bipolar father some of the elements of this book did hit home- it’s always interesting to see someone else’s spin on the illness.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

544 pages

I originally started reading this in July or August for our English department book club, but the date kept getting pushed back so I stalled. We finally met last week so I rushed to finish before our meeting. Just in case there’s another human being alive that hasn’t read it, Catch-22 is about a pilot named Yossarian in WWII, stationed on an island off Italy, who is frustrated with the increasing number of missions he must fly before he is sent home. The novel satirizes the bureaucratic and stereotypical aspects of wars, with a non-linear, hilarious narrative.

Verdict: As our book club meeting demonstrated, this book is not for everyone. It’s long, it can be difficult to follow if you’re not prepared for the randomness of some of the scenes, and there are a ton of characters. That being said, I loved it and could kick myself for waiting so long to have read it.

Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones’s Diary: The Edge of Reason, Mad About the Boy

288, 352, and 386 pages, respectively

Yes, I had a Bridget Jones month. I read the first book back in high school and thought I had read the second, but had apparently not. And then the third came out in mid-October and I was curious to see what happened to Bridget. I plan on writing a post this weekend on my thoughts on it as a “series” (such a dirty word), so check back in a few days if you’re dying to know. Oh, the suspense.

Monthly total: 2,061 pages

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