These latest three books make it 15 for the year, thus far, which is nowhere near the reading I did last year (49!) … but I have a lot more duties pulling at my time. Nevertheless, I continue to read in the “Year of the Big Book”….
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
I’ve said much about this novel already on this blog, but as a final (final) word, this book was written in French, won the country’s most prestigious award, and, after I finished it, there was no doubt of its deserving such a prize. The character of Dr Max Aue is one that is enduring in literature, and shall stay with me for a long time, as his ability to see through the atrocities of the Nazi war machine even as he participated it as soldier, National Socialist, and German, make for one intense psychological journey. Meanwhile, we find ourselves at the center of the war’s most famous battles, and infamous death camps; we meet the Nazi high command, and watch (with astonishment and some glee) Hitler get bitten on the nose.
The Secret Life of Words by Henry Hitchings
The popularity of English is far beyond the phenomenon of a small island’s tongue (hardly comprised of its native words, anymore) gaining world dominance in a mere 600 years or so. But the fun of reading where lots and oodles and bushel-baskets full of words come from, and why they’re in the language, is why this book is worth your time. More stories describe the etymology of these words than the mere explanations themselves.
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Okay, this is not a Big Book, but it’s the perfect size for traveling, which I had done last week, and, with this story of an intense group of relationships, the time runs well as you read about friends who make some strange pact, after the death of a mutual paramour. Meanwhile, the everyday world closes in on them both. For a micro-cosmic look at unusual characters who do quite usual things in their own strange ways, to excedingly odd results, you needn’t look further than McEwan.
The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.