Anna Campbell

July 2020

Recent Reads Part 1

After a long series of the best of My Favorite Things, I’m about to start a long series on some enjoyable recent reads.

Having said that, I spent quite a few months of this strange time while the Corona Virus rages suffering the biggest reading slump of my life. I suppose one plus of that is that this series is only going to be 6 installments instead of 12!

Today I’m going to talk about some really good fiction I’ve read lately. Starting with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie which I really enjoyed (not to mention the clever cartoons by Ellen Forney that illustrate the text).

I don’t read a lot of young adult stories, but this one is a doozy. Arnold Spirit Junior is caught between his old loyalties on the reservation where he grew up, and the opportunities and challenges he faces at his new mostly white high school. He reacts with courage and grace and a wonderfully wry sense of humor that will make you fall in love with him. Such a memorable character. And it’s not just Arnold. Everyone in this book is so alive and complex. This story is sad and funny and true, and it’s a read I’ve thought about a lot since I finished it. Highly recommended.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. It strikes me as a fairly unlikely winner, not because it isn’t wonderful – it is! – but because it’s incredibly entertaining and very funny. Perhaps I’m not giving the Pulitzer committee the credit they deserve!

This one is a wry look at getting older and accepting one’s place in the world and, unexpectedly, finding true love when you’ve given up on the whole idea. Arthur Less is a middle-ranked novelist who breaks up with his boyfriend and embarks on a worldwide odyssey to avoid facing up to his failures, omissions, and misdemeanors. Of course, as often happens with travel, he’s instead faced with inescapable self-knowledge everywhere he turns. When I finished this, I had a feeling it was an entire book written with the final punchline in mind, but the journey is so much fun, who cares? A really refreshing read.

The next one was my first Ann Patchett novel, although I’ve read a lot of her nonfiction and really liked it. Her This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is great!

The Dutch House is a beautifully written meditation on family and regret and love and beauty. It’s also about the meaning of home.

Danny and his beloved sister Maeve grow up living in the beautiful and unique Dutch House outside Philadelphia and under the neglectful custody of their cold and distant father. But their lives change forever when a stepmother arrives on the scene, setting the stage for betrayal and displacement and destruction and hatred. And a fair dollop of agonizing love as well.

I was trying to work out why I loved this one so much – Danny, the narrator, is quite a distant character and for a lot of the book, you don’t feel like a lot is happening, but somehow you remain completely involved and I was deeply moved by the time the ending came. Definitely worth picking up and giving a go, even if it’s not your usual fare.

My last book in this first roundup of recent reading is a corker and terrifically entertaining. I think anyone will enjoy Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, although if you grew up in the 1970s as I did or you have a passing familiarity with Fleetwood Mac, I think you’ll enjoy it even more.

This is a wonderful evocation of an era and what it’s like to work in a close and thorny creative partnership with someone. Daisy Jones is a charismatic drifter who hooks up with rising band, the Six, and has a love-hate relationship with equally charismatic Billy Dunne, the band’s lead singer and principal songwriter.

There are some wonderful descriptions of music and the world of the time and the story is full of heart and power. I couldn’t put this one down!

Swing back next month for a look at some memoirs I’ve been reading!