I haven’t updated my books in a while. It’s been a little slow on the reading front. My goal was to read 25 books this year and I have to catch up, although with some travel coming up I will have plane time.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
Considered one of the first feminist books in literature. It was written in 1899 and is told from the point of view of Edna, a Victorian woman who becomes disillusioned with the life that a married Victorian woman is supposed to have. This book was pretty shocking for 1899 since it includes infidelity and the questioning of a woman’s place in the world. Sometimes Edna comes across as being very callous, which I think is almost an effort to show feminism in a bad light. A very interesting read and you really wouldn’t think it was written so long ago.
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
This book has an underlying premise that the underground railroad was an actual train that ran underground to safe houses. I wish that aspect had been explored a little more as a metaphor because it was a unique viewpoint. The book follows Cora, a plantation slave who escapes through the railroad across the US on the run from a bounty hunter. This book is a grim story about slavery and the lengths that were taken to suppress sympathizers and crush the railroad. It’s an uncomfortable read at times, but worth it.
In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen
This is a good summertime WWII mystery read. Set in England, the story is about Ben and Pamela trying to solve the mystery of a downed anonymous pilot on the grounds of Farleigh Place (Pamela’s home). The two also work secretly under cover for the government – each not knowing that the other does. It’s a fairly fast paced mystery with a nice twist at the end.
In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
This book is really nonfiction. Or it’s one of those books that takes historical letters, notes and news and creates a narrative from it. It covers the time that William Dodd was the US ambassador to Germany as Hitler rose to power. It takes you through all the steps that happened to set the wheels in motion and how the rest of the world would dismiss it until it was too late. The book is a little scary because everything in it is true and happened.
The Coffee Trader by David Liss
Ha ha – you knew I picked this because of the title, didn’t you! It’s true. Set in Amsterdam in 1659, it follows Miguel as he partners with a Dutch woman to try introduce coffee to the trade industry in Amsterdam, which would make them both rich. It became a little tedious with the inner workings of the trade industry, so it was a bit dry at times and I found myself wanting the story to move faster. Of course in the trade world there is illegal activity, spies and sabotage, so you are waiting to see if Miguel succeeds or not.
The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson
Yes, another book by Erik Larson. This is truly a fascinating story of how the World’s Fair came to Chicago in 1893 and the monumental task of building the complex for the fair, which became nicknamed the White City. Daniel Burnham is the architect behind the project and it is amazing to me the herculean effort that took place to get everything up and running on time. A parallel story line follows H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who preyed on young women in Chicago during that time. He built the World’s Fair hotel, which housed a gruesome holding place for his victims. All true, again told in a narrative format. Very well done narrative.
Euphoria by Lily King
This story is based loosely on the Leakeys and takes place in New Guinea. There are 3 main characters: Nell Stone, famous for her controversial work studying South Pacific tribes, her husband Fen, and Andrew Bankson, another anthropologist who is a friend of Fen. The book basically is a love triangle, surprise, surprise… but a quick read. Fen has trouble accepting Nell’s fame and hatches a plan to go for a big discovery with disastrous results. There is a lot of discussion of how anthropology theories are formed, which is quite interesting. Plus what the realities of life were for Western people living with indigenous tribes. If you liked Water for Elephants, you will probably like this book.
An interesting array of books there. I’m still in the historical fiction mode, if you can’t tell, but also stories based on real life people and events.