Yup, that’s right. If you scroll down you’ll notice that my last blog post was in January 2013. Yikes. I promise I’ve read a lot of books since then…
So in May 2013 I graduated and I now have one of those things called a job. And I started grad school. And I moved out. One of my good friends called me a yuppie and I realized that about summed up all the change and the whole experience of living in the city. And then somehow 2014 rolled around and I was thinking about how I haven’t written a review in a long time. And then I had a fantastic coffee date with a cousin who told me I should post again – and here we are!
I promise I won’t start any more sentences with the word “and.”
One of the books I’ve read recently that I loved is Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. This a beautifully written book about the German occupation in France and one girl’s tangle with a soldier that affected her whole village. Framboise, the main character, narrates the story of her nine-year-old self from years in the future. She has returned to the village she grew up in and hides her identity from her neighbors, knowing that if she revealed who she was and who her mother was, the village would turn against her.
Framboise spends days pouring over her mother’s old recipe book, which doubled as a cryptic journal through which Framboise pieces together events that she did not understand as a young girl. During the German occupation, Boise and her brother and sister befriended a young German soldier who gave them sweets and trinkets in exchange for what the children believed was harmless information about other villagers. In order to sneak out and meet the soldier, Tomas, Boise hides pieces of orange peel around the house, which provoke debilitating headaches for her mother. Boise is almost malicious in how she treats her mother, who suffers migraines and episodes where she blacks out. But Boise is determined to take advantage of every opportunity to meet Tomas, who she seems to fall in love with. Tomas usually visits all three children by the river where they are away from adult eyes, and Boise becomes obsessed with getting him alone to herself. Tragedy strikes when Boise finally meets Tomas alone, and her silence about the circumstances causes a terrible string of events to occur, resulting in the villagers driving Boise and her family out of town.
Throughout the story of her childhood, Framboise also narrates her present life. She struggles with learning the truth from her mother’s book and hiding it from the rest of the world when her nephew and his wife threaten to expose her, blackmailing her for her mother’s coveted recipes. She explores her own memories of her mother and realizes the similarities they shared in their personalities, and how those traits affect her own children and grandchildren. This story weaves together past and present and contains dark elements of mystery intertwined with the naivete of childhood love. The story will make you want to turn the pages fast, but the prose will cause you to slow down and savor the words that make up the story.
Here are some other great books I’ve read recently if you’re looking for some quick ideas:
Man Walks Into a Room, Nicole Krauss (another beautiful book about memory loss and redefining self)
Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant, Veronica Roth (this whole YA series is fantastic)
Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, T. Geronimo Johnson (an Iraq veteran tries to find his missing brother after Hurricane Katrina – an amazing book but not one for the faint of heart)
Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (a bit lengthy but a classic about growing up in poverty in Ireland)
Switch, Chip & Dan Heath (“how to create change when change is hard”)
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger (a father and siblings’ quest to find their renegade brother who runs away after a murder trial)