I have recently finished a novel which I spent eight years researching and writing. I am also nearing the end of my master’s degree in library and information science; I’m at the beginning of the semester of my second-to-last class. I also quit my part-time gig reviewing books for one of the trades. Finally, the current political climate is one I find distressing. All of which combines to send me into literature. I can read what I like and I have more time to do it.
For the past two years, most of what I’ve read has been focused on WWII or library science, so to plunge now, hedonistically, wantonly, into reading what I like is a heady experience, and I intend to document it.
Going forward, I will do it in real time, but for the month of January, here is what I’ve read.
Title: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Author: David Mitchell
Where I got it: Christmas gift from a colleague
What I thought: Nicely built world, with Mitchell a bit of a show-off with his prose. The entire long middle section, which someone else described (quite accurately, I think) as a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Never Let Me Go could have used a firmer edit.
Title: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Author: Muriel Barbery
Where I got it: Second-hand bookstore on Fourth Avenue
What I thought: I just adored the characters and the setting. The misanthropic, sneaky concierge: “To be poor, ugly and, moreover, intelligent condemns one, in our society, to a dark and disillusioned life, a condition one ought to accept at an early age,” and the rebellious bourgeois 12-year-old who is one of the residents in the luxury building the concierge tends, who are soulmates unbeknownst to them.
Title: Margaret the First
Author: Danielle Dutton
Where I got it: ARC from publisher
What I thought: A vividly imagined and uniquely crafted novel about Margaret, Duchess of Cavendish, a free-thinking, dream-hounded, imaginative noblewoman whom the newspapers of her day dubbed “Mad Madge.” Poetic, almost hallucinatory prose takes us into the restless, unhappy, seeking mind of Margaret, a woman born in the wrong time.