Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Book Serendipity

Everyday Elegance
photo by amy
 "Most of us shell our days like peanuts.  One in a thousand can look at the world with amazement."
from The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Serendipity: -- noun 1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. 2. good fortune; luck
I'm not sure I would say I have an aptitude for serendipity, but the last month, I certainly had at least two occasions of it at my local library.  I've finished three novels since last I blogged, two of which I had no plan to read, stumbled upon at the library, and ended up absolutely loving.  The two winners were The Universe vs Alex Woods by Gavin Extence and The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, both very different novels but both immensely enjoyable in my opinion.
I'll start with the other book, which I did not love (and which ironically was the book I went to the library to get--maybe I should stop planning ahead):  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  This book was very readable.  The plot moves right along.  It's fairly well-written and not hard to follow.  The problem from my perspective is that I lack the ability, which so many seem to have, of wanting to suffer vicariously through the fiction I read.  I've suffered enough in life.  I don't want to suffer with my fictional friends, and this novel read like a catalog of suffering.  It's as if the author said, "Let's see how many different horrors I can put these women through and include them all."  I understand that this kind of life is reality for many people in the world, including the women of Afghanistan, and I hurt for them.  I truly do.  I just can't take their suffering on.  I have to get up and be functional every day.  I have kids, a job, a mortgage.  I can't sink into depression for the suffering of the world, and that is what works like this do to me.
I suspect the reason I found the first novel I stumbled on, The Universe vs Alex Woods, so entertaining and engaging was because I absolutely loved the narrator, the teenaged Alex Woods.  I'm not going to say anything else about the book or what ended up being its very serious theme, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might read it.  My recommendation is go find this book!  It will only take you a few days to read, and it will satisfy you in the way all novels with heart-warming characters do.
I'm at a bit of a loss to describe The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.  The writing is witty and intelligent.  The setting, New York City in 1938, is elegant and beautifully depicted.  The main character, Kate Kontent, is another person I would love to know. (Know, hell.  I'd love to be her.)  There are little nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout the novel.  The plot is engaging but not really what drives the book.  I can't tell you why exactly, but I feel like this one may end up being something my grandchildren will still be reading.
And now, I'm suffering from what one of my friends calls a book hangover.  I can't settle down to anything, because it all seems to pale in comparison to what I just finished.  I'm thinking an Agatha Christie may be in order to pull me through the next few days.  We shall see.  Happy reading!


Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) said...

I usually skip books (and movies) with too much suffering and I have yet to read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Although I might be getting better about this because I loved Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Maybe it helpe that they are set so far in the past.

The Rules of Civility sounds like one I'd like -- thanks!

Amy said...

I agree with your idea that suffering set long in the past is easier to handle. I just listened to a podcast about that very thing:(Dan Carlin's Hardcore History-- Wrath of the Khans I). Very interesting.

I unreservedly recommend The Rules of Civility!

thecuecard said...

I think I need to add Rules of Civility to my pile. Nice review of that one. cheers.

Amy said...

Absolutely! Very entertaining.

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