From 'Meh' to Wonderful


One unfortunate side of writing for me is not being able to read a lot. I can’t be completely involved in someone else’s story while creating my own. However, since I wasn’t writing this summer, I had the chance to read some great books and one okay one. I’m still slogging through that damned nonfiction piece about Louisa May Alcott and her mother, but I have a hard time reading some nonfiction for fun. Of course I want to learn things, but they can be such a drudgery sometimes. Maybe that’s why I prefer historical fiction.

I’ll start with the “meh” and work up to the wonderful.

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett had everything I thought I would love — old tomes, a sweet love story, and intrigue — yet somehow I found myself skipping sections wanting to just get on with it already. A portrait that eerily resembles antique bookseller Peter Byerly’s recently deceased wife sends him on a quest in which he stumbles upon quite possibly the Holy Grail of books, unequivocal evidence that William Shakespeare did indeed write all of his plays. Unfortunately, even for a bibliophile such as myself, this novel contained too much drawn-out description of book repair and jumped from present to past so much it disturbed the narrative flow. The story itself seemed to fit too easily, to come out too tidy for my tastes.

Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle transported me back to 1930s England courtesy of its charming seventeen-year-old narrator, Cassandra Mortmain, to watch her family deal with genteel poverty in an old castle where she and her sister live in the shadow of their once-famous author father and his second wife, the free-spirited Topaz. When two brothers inherit the estate next door, the story starts resembling a Jane Austen novel (in a good way). Truly a delight, this coming-of-age story was the perfect vacation read.

Then there was The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh, a tale of two sisters coming to terms with their mother’s apparent suicide. If the author’s name seems familiar to my writer friends, Therese is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed. Beautiful writing and expert character development drove The Moon Sisters, elevating it from a good novel to a great one. This is magical realism at its finest as the sisters embark on a journey to lay their mother’s spirit to rest.

Next week:
A full review of my favorite book I read this summer. Hint: It involves Edgar Allan Poe, but he didn’t write it.

How about you? What books have you read lately and what did you think of them?


Kelly Hashway said…
I can relate to limited reading time. As an editor I read a lot, but it's usually the same books over and over throughout the publishing process.
I bet reading for fun is not high on your list of Things to Do, Kelly. :)
Mel Parish said…
Thanks Karen. 'I Capture the Castle' sounds good - I've put it on my to-read list.

Have you read any novels by Edward Rutherfurd? He writes historical fiction using generations of fictional families to tell the history of various cities. I've just read 'New York' and 'Paris'- both excellent and have at least one more 'London' to look forward to. As I write mystery/suspense I find reading historical fiction doesn't interfere too much with my writing process.
I read "Sarum," geez, almost twenty-eight years ago, which I enjoyed immensely. Never got around to "London," but it's on my bookshelf. Thanks for reminding me of Rutherfurd, Mel.

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