Some of these books were terrific. Some were duds. Here are four that I rated four stars. For my next blog, I'll describe a few of the worst ones.
Why do I finish reading unsatisfying books? After all, I'm 76, and I don't have a lot of time to waste on trashy reading material. Sometimes it's just to see how the author resolves a convoluted plot. Sometimes it's to see how bad the writing can get. Then I pat myself on the back while whispering: "I could do better than that."
I haven't though. Done better, that is. Writing a novel is damn hard work. I tried it, twice. Both are unfinished and I have no freaking idea how to complete them.
Here are four books I thought were worth reading
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. A wonderfully written story of the Plumb family – four siblings: Leo, the charming sweet-talking womanizer; Beatrice, the widow, a writer of fiction; Jack, the gay antiques dealer who keeps a secret from his husband, Walker; and Melody, a.k.a. Walt’s wife, who lives in an upscale suburb and tries to be the perfect mother to their twin teenage daughters. The four siblings are soon to share an inheritance, which they call “the nest.” But Leo, the reckless one, has an accident and their mother uses a good portion of “the nest” to bail him out. The others want him to repay them, as each sibling has a pressing need for a windfall. I loved this and couldn’t put it down. ★★★★ out of four stars.
Georgia by Dawn Tripp. This fictionalized biography of Georgia O’Keeffe was fascinating. It starts when well-known photographer Alfred Stieglitz notices her talent and brings her to New York City. They become lovers, even though he is married and a father. They live together; he gets divorced; they marry. But. During her whole career as an artist, he tells her what is good, what to do, what to display, and so on. He apparently loves her and wants her to succeed, but he is controlling. She rebels. She holds back a little at first; then more; then at last she moves out and blazes her own trail. She struggles all her life for artistic freedom and the chance to follow her own ideas. Even though it got a bit abstract and murky at times, I liked this. ★★★★ out of four stars.
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. A nicely written story of a marriage. The first scene is on an airplane headed for Helsinki, where Joan Castleman’s husband Joe is about to receive a much-touted literary award for his novels. He’s written many. Joan is the dutiful wife of the 1950s and 60s, the one who sacrificed her own dreams of becoming a writer to support and help her husband achieve his phenomenal success. The rest of the book delves into their shared history together – he the unhappily married college teacher of writing; she the adoring student. They drift into an affair; he divorces his wife; they marry; have children. She is always working beside him – talking about his stories, reviewing dialogue, suggesting plot twists and turns, fleshing out his characters. She’s in her 60s now and decides, on the plane to Helsinki, that she’s going to leave him. The rest of the book tells why and what happens. I liked this a lot. ★★★★ out of four stars.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. Although this started out with a promising storyline - a present-day retelling of the familiar plot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it collapsed somewhere two-thirds into the story. The Bennet family is presented: Mrs. Bennett, a mother obsessed with marrying off her five daughters to Men With Money; Mr. Bennett, indifferent yet indulging his wife's materialistic obsession; Liz, the protagonist, who knows her own mind and is determined to choose her own husband and live her own life according to her own rules; Jane, Liz’s older sister and best friend; Mary, the middle daughter, somewhat of a loner and the least attractive of the five; and Lydia and Kitty, the two younger daughters who are selfish, flighty and superficial. Chip Bingly is Jane’s suitor. And then -- ta da -- we meet the irascible Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the PERFECT man. Sittenfeld has cleverly transformed Darcy into a surgeon, Liz into a journalist, Mary into a scholar, Jane into a woman who wants a child badly --with or without a husband. The whole plot centers around Chip’s appearance on a reality show, “Eligible,” which resembles our present-day super-tacky reality show, “The Bachelor.” It’s clever also, how Sittenfeld manages to tell the well-known Austen story, but in present day terms with cell phones, airplanes, Crossfit exercise routines, paleo diets and mixed up relationships involving race and gender. It got a bit ridiculous toward the end, but I loved this anyway. ★★★★