Saturday, June 14, 2014

BOOKS: The Burgess Boys, Still Life With Bread Crumbs, Maddaddam

A few of the books I read from the Bailey Prize for Fiction, longlist edition.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, 336 pages

I loved Olive Kitteridge (and this is one of my favorite reviews I wrote) so I had high expectations. It wasn't as good as Olive, but I did enjoy it. It was similar in that it looked at a family, from Maine. The prologue began as a mother and daughter were talking about the Burgess boys from their small Maine town, and then it backtracked to tell the story. Unless I missed something, that never seemed to get resolved; I never noticed those women again. It's a story about families, and the stories and roles that people play in the family lore. (I actually forgot a lot of details in the plot, and just refreshed myself reading some reviews at librarything) My fuzzy recollection and impression was about the two brothers, and how they go back to Maine to help our their sister and her son, when the nephew gets in trouble. It's hard to judge families, and all the experiences that led them to the present can never be fully explained.  Good, solid read and I am keeping Strout on my list of authors to read more from.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, 252 pages

Other than the horrifying 'romance' label my library slapped on this book, I quite liked it. A famous photographer rents a cabin in a small town as she tries to get her life back together financially after a quiet spell. She's trying to make some sense of her life, and meets some people in the meantime. A gentle romance develops (not enough to label it as such); this is more in the tradition of men looking back on their lives and trying to make sense of things. I liked this one quite a bit; it might even be my favorite of the nominated books.

Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood, 13 h 24 m

Although I have been listening to many audiobooks this year, I am a very visual reader. Thus, I think I miss things when I listen to books. I think I missed stuff in this book. In some ways, it is a very simple book - simple dialogue (representing the starting over of civilization?), and it was hard to grasp a sense of the plot. Lots of time is spent looking back at Zeb's life and adventures as he tells his stories to Ren, and Zeb's connection to Adam One, and everything that led up to the present day. I really liked The Year of the Flood, and was not interested in Oryx & Crake, but now I'd like to go back and see how it all started. What actually happened? How did Oryx and Crake get so powerful?

The Crakers were interesting and Atwood does a great job of world-creating, but overall it was just an okay book. There were three narrators reading different parts of the story, but I don't know if that was really necessary. On the plus side, I really like the cover! Something about the colours really works for me.