Monday, June 29, 2009

Moonheart by Charles De Lint

While I'm not a huge reader in the fantasy genre, I dabble. Moonheart introduced a fantastical world of druids, chieftains, and spirit animals while staying relatively grounded in the real world, so it wasn't complete immersion into a world without any familiarities. The story begins in Canada and moves back and forth in time and place across a few plains of existence. There are people with magic in them and people with that extra sense of awareness and ability that live out in the world today. And, while the main antagonist is this ominous blackness creeping into our world, our heroes are human full of all the emotions and doubts any reader can relate to.

The story is very vivid and tangible (even with the magic,) but there were a lot of characters to keep tabs on and the narrative got a little jumpy at times between two key locations where most of the book's action was taking place. However, this is a great novel to escape to for some excitement and some magic.

Friday, June 26, 2009

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

It's the story itself that captivates in People of the Book. The novel could be horribly written, and the story would still make this a must-read. However, Brooks weaves an intelligent and articulate saga, chronicling the journey of a Passover prayerbook through history. You, the reader, learn of this prayerbook's incredible journey through history in flashbacks instigated by the prayerbook's restoration. Each flashback begins with a discovery made by the book's restorer. While we learn the history of the prayerbook, most of the amazing stories of heroism and preservation elude the characters in the novel.

What moved me the most throughout People of the Book was the heroism of people protecting a piece of history that wasn't even their own. Very few Jews are responsible for saving this treasured Passover prayerbook. It's impressive to think that, throughout history, there were always people willing to preserve and protect items outside their own culture no matter the personal danger it might put them in. This is an exciting story that will appeal to anyone and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

Another fictionalized biography, Abundance tells the story of Marie Antoinette from Marie's perspective. Naslund makes the life of this Queen accessible and contemporary by focusing solely on the life of one girl growing up far from home and struggling to fulfill the whishes of those around her. Missing from the story line are the politics of France during the revolution. Instead, you're given minute detail into the part Marie Antoinette played in history. This book was hard to put down once picked up.

The Master by Colm Toibin

Toibin takes a haughty writer of old and tells a simple story - allowing the reader to get to know Henry James to the point of forgetting you're reading about a famous author until another character refers to him by name. This fictionalized account of Henry James' life focuses on James' personality. James is just as confused as the rest of us. Throughout the novel he questions his sexuality, battles the guilt he feels over a friend's suicide, serves as caretaker to his dying sister, and struggles to find his place in the world. His biggest emotional battle in the book is his fear of literary failure. Toibin skillfully humanizes James by speculating that he wasn't as confident a person as his prose suggests, making this pseudo-biography quite an interesting and entertaining read.

You don't have to be familiar with James' body of work to read The Master, but it might make you want to check him out afterward. I suggest you start with The Bostonians.