Quick and dirty snippets of June reads. Quick and dirty because it’s August, which means I’m still running a month behind. ARG!
June 2011 Round-up of Fiction Masterpieces Novels
THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE, HORNS, SISTER, SKELETONS AT THE FEAST, DEAL BREAKER** (**Harlan Coben’s DEAL BREAKER, the first book in his Myron Bolitar series, will be reviewed in a later post.)
THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by Julie Orringer
Going straight for the cliché here: this is truly "a sweeping family saga." THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE tells the story of Andras Lévi and his family, Hungarian Jews, during WWII. Set in Paris and Hungary, the book is exquisitely written and the historical context fascinating. I knew little about Hungary during this period (or, I'm ashamed to say, any other period). It was the writing and the history that kept me turning the pages. Andras and his family, while infinitely likable, are a little too perfect. And the romance at the book's heart, too idealized for my taste. Had the story been less harrowing, less politically nuanced, the writing less compelling, I would have put the book down. Alas, that was not the case. This is a five star read. If you enjoy historical fiction, run, don't walk, to the nearest copy of THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE.
HORNS by Joe Hill
Ig Perrish wakes up the morning after a bender and realizes he’s sprouting horns. As an added bonus, he can now read the darkest secrets of everyone around him. This new skill comes in handy, because Ig is aching to find out who viciously murdered his girlfriend, Merrin. There will be those readers who try to turn HORNS into a morality play or automatically label it satanic (a pitchfork on the cover, a protagonist with horns, do the math). If this is you, leave the book on the shelf. This is a smartly written, original story with well-drawn characters and some laugh-out-loud moments. For me, the final showdown drags on a little too long, and whether intentional or not, the story is more mystery than horror. No, it’s not great literature, but it’s an enjoyable read. If there is a message here—and only Joe can say for sure—it's that evil is a choice.
SISTER by Rosamund Lupton
Beatrice returns to England to help search for her missing sister, Tess. When Tess's body is found in a London park, and the death is ruled a suicide, Bee is determined (to the point of obsession) to prove Tess was murdered and to find the killer. Complex characters, a fascinating exploration of family dynamics, and sharp writing make this debut a stand out. Lupton’s seamless tense switches slowly build suspense throughout. One criticism: I knew “who dunnit” almost from the moment the character appeared on the page. While this bruised the integrity of the mystery and flattened the end twist, SISTER worked beautifully as a psychological thriller.
SKELETONS AT THE FEAST by Chris Bohjalian
Near the end of WWII, a group of refugees flee the advancing Russian Army, moving toward the safety of the British/American lines. Included in the group: a pro-Nazi Prussian family of aristocrats, a Scottish POW, a young German Jew who escaped a train bound for Auschwitz and is now disguised as a Wehrmacht officer, and in a parallel narrative, a group of Jewish women on a death march west. Bohjalian’s powerful writing captures this poignant moment in history with all its privations, fears, hopes, and bonds—fraternal, romantic, and familial. Written from multiple POVs, SKELETONS AT THE FEAST provides a close-up look at the war from divergent perspectives, but two motifs remain constant. War benefits no one, and labels—Nazi, Jew, Scot, aristocrat—don’t define who or what is moral.
So, what are you reading?