Saturday, January 15, 2011

Olive Kitteridge

I give you this most perfect book on the 3rd anniversary of my blogs.  What a book to post about on this special day! It is the one at the top of the set. While strolling through the streets of a nearby University town we spotted a used bookstore. Of course we had to take a peek which was gratified on realizing that the owners cater to just my kind of reading in the fiction aisle. So we got a book from there and Olive Kitterdige came home with us. Written by Elizabeth Strout, this book is a compilation of short stories about the people living in the New England town of Maisy Mills. Olive Kitteridge pokes her face in all the stories. In sometimes short and sometimes long spans.  Elizabeth Kitteridge, I mean Elizabeth Strout - it is difficult to separate them - has magnificently captured the trials and tribulations of a present day woman through the various stages of life. Strout seems to be primarily interested in portraying people through their post marriage lives and is very good at it. Looks like having lived in a small New England town of  Puritans  has given her the right tools to delve into her characters with precision.  
I could not put this book down although there were no mysteries to solve and no thickening plots. The quite simplicity with which Strout goes through each story is just cool. Why is this so perfect? Because there is something in it for every reader. This will be my all-time recommendation for anyone, anywhere, any day.  Suffice it so say I have read Strout's two other books after hunting them down in our Library. Her very first book Amy and Isabelle explores mother daughter relationships and teenage angst in all honesty. Abide With Me is simply too sweet to pass up and can hold a good candle to Cronin in the turbulent yet peaceful journey of its main character Tyler. So many good reads everyone. Boy, am I generous today, there are more books to follow!!

 Chitra Divakaruni's One Amazing Thing
A Divakaruni book is a surefire read and this one was no exception. Her portrayal of a cosmopolitan group of people caught inside the Indian Embassy during an earthquake has come together very well. Divakaruni is venturing closer to her current home environment in this book . Meaning she writes it without the usual foot in a nostalgic India immortalized through her golden prose many times over. The change is really beautiful and though less lyrical shows her off as a strong writer and storyteller once again.

The Portrait of an Unknown Woman By Varona Bennet
Varona who? you might say but this writer is a force to be reckoned in period dramas based mostly on facts. Chances are you might already be familiar with her and I am the last to get on board. The book is about 425 pages and was way awesome until about 400 pages. After that it fell through a little too quickly! Maybe the author wanted to keep the pages to an agreed upon number and had to end it there. Anyway there were too many secrets being revealed in such a short time that I couldn't swallow all of it so easily. Having said that you will still thoroughly enjoy this book if you are a historical fiction-er like me. The Unknown Lady is Margaret Giggs. A ward of Sir Thomas More the famous lawyer, humanist and Chancellor to Henry VIII. At least until he resigned, was executed and later joined the Pantheon of Catholic saints. Being raised a Catholic, Thomas More's name was not unfamiliar to me but this book is a jewel of information both in regards to More and Meg Giggs and the many luminaries of those turbulent times in the Church's history. The best find for me was Hans Holbein, portraiture expert and King's Painter. This mostly logical story line developed by the author to weave England's Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties into it was fun. A wonderful period for the writer to choose from. The brilliant pick of Meg Giggs as narrator instead of the oft repeated characters from Henry's Court augments the novel's appeal. Holbein painted two family portraits of the Mores. The sketch of the first can be seen here and the second here. How some of Holbein's paintings took shape is given special thought and written in detail. This provides a most interesting angle to the book. So read them all or read a few and don't forget Mrs. Kitteridge. Keep reading!