Ten days on the road for my book tour - with no baby that required attending to, and many idle hours in airplanes, airports, and hotel rooms - meant that I had lots of time to read books. It was heaven, though I still didn't manage to work my way through the stack of books I had optimistically packed.
Still, I managed to finish off four books in ten days:
- Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson. An older book that a friend recommended, and rightfully so. A magnificent portrait of a family and their dark secrets, with the first person story of a little girl taking prominent position and the family history unspoolling in alternate chapters. What was amazing to me was how little of great importance really happens with this family, and yet how fascinating Atkinson makes it all seem. She draws incredibly memorable characters.
- Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See. I'm a sucker for a historical drama set in WW II Asia, and sure enough, I enjoyed all the parts of this book that took place during the war. Unfortunately, the book fell apart for me once it hit the United States, and became too much like a Chinatown soap opera. Plus, possibly the most annoying cliffhanger ending I've ever come across in a novel.
- Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosay. This was a panicked buy in the airport, when I realized that I had mistakenly just checked all my books in my luggage and had a 5 hour flight ahead of me but nothing to read. The only airport bookstore in my terminal was basically a glorified newsagent with only a few dozen offerings, one of which was this book. I grabbed it, recalling that my mother had loved this book. I, unfortunately, did not. Another WW II drama, and again, enjoyed the historical war parts, hated the contemporary parts, and really found the protagonist truly unbearable. By page 3, I had figured out exactly where this book was going, which made the rest fairly dull. I gritted my teeth on the plane and waded through it, regretting my packing error the whole trip.
- The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman. A novel about the people who work at a failing English-language newspaper in Rome. Marvelously written as a collection of vignettes -- each one with a twist that stabs you in the heart, and most of which involve love and infidelity -- it's also an ode to the lost glory days of the newspaper. Touching and sad (especially for someone who, like me, has worked in the news industry) and also incredibly entertaining.
The books I didn't get time to read, but am eagerly about to dive into: American Rust by Philipp Meyer, A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, and The Believers by Zoe Heller. So many books, so little time.