Thursday, August 24, 2006

Admittedly, I was reading an older edition of this volume, but I was rather dissapointed in the annecdotes offered as interesting gossipy tidbits. I also didn't mine the entire vein. I skimmed, got bored, and put it down. Maybe next time. Maybe something else. I have some awfully good quotable volumes in the library. I'll scout about and see what I can dig up.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Although I'd read the review and purchased this book, it was patron who actually prompted me to read it when she returned it to the library, saying “it’s a wonderful book.” How I wish I could remember who she was - because I’d love to talk to her about it. Something in her voice - some sincerity of tone - some trust I unknowingly put in her judgment - made me take it home, whereupon I promptly misplaced it, not finding it till I cleaned house on Saturday. Carying it upstairs, I peeked at page 1, sat down on the half made bed, read a chapter - and was lost.

It’s set in present day Philadelphia. It’s about a young-ish, single woman and falling in love and it has a happy ending but it doesn’t take you on a sappy journey to get you there. It’s got a kid in it who’s believable enough, it’s got a bunch of people I immediately cared about. They weren’t so crippled that making a cup of coffee would be considered mental health. They weren’t so perfect they had no room to grow. The author skillfully told the story from two points of view and put one in the first person with the other in the third. She cleverly displayed her own esoteric knowledge of classic films by endowing her heroine with the same database of actors, plot and dialogue.

Best of all, though, are the beautifully chosen words with which Ms. de los Santos swaddles every scene. Exquisite words that slip rich knowledge of Cornelia’s pajamas - and of the sort of woman who would pick such pajamas - into your consciousness so softly it’s more as if you remember that about her, rather than discover it. Lovely, friendly, chatty without being inane, painting word pictures you want to go back and linger over on page after page, this novel was pure pleasure from start to finish.

This isn’t just a book I loved reading. It’s a book I wish I had written. I picked it up on Saturday evening and read through chapter one. All day Sunday I kept putting it down to DoDootifulThings but then abandoning the housecleaning, the preparation for unexpected Monday guests, the languishing knitted projects and HeyBaby, with her almost full second bobbin, to pick it back up again. I shrugged off BD’s offer of a boat ride and a trip to town, I didn’t bother to get dressed, I carted the book from room to room and regretfully finished it just before dinner on Sunday.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t want a book to end. Non-fiction doesn’t count, since it ends when whatever was being talked about happens - you can wear the sweater, World War II comes to an end, or your stock portfolio swells enough to allow you to take early retirement. Historical fiction doesn't count either, because it has to come to an end when all those bold kings and strong queens eventually die and their dates are carved upon tomb stones. Their personal calendars are known quantities. Unlike the life you’re living now - with it’s endless moments of waiting for the next thing, giving time an elasticity and mystery that can’t be measured, a historical novel has a structure, the fact of which is already accepted, even if it’s not yet known. But a contemporary novel with that mind bending ability to put you in a Philadelphia coffee shop, introduce you to a tee-tiny woman and her Cary Grant boyfriend and ... and make you want to stay forever - well. That has been a rare pleasure for me made all the more valuable for its very scarcity.

This is a real Wower!; chock full of good qualities. But best of them all are the pages and pages of beautiful words describing the most ordinary things - making you believe that maybe your ordinary world is just as beautiful. I believe that's the greatest of the gifts Marisa de los Santos gives you with Love Walked In.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Magician's Wife by Brian Moore

It's okay. It's a 3 star book. Our heroine, Madame Labert is the young wife (teenage bride, now with a few years beneath her corset) of a famous French magician, Henri Lambert. She's not happy in her marriage to a very wierd and much older man. You get lots of glimpses of bored/sad/frustrated housewifery a la 19th century. Boring house parties, utterly dull audiences with Napoleon III. There's a dark threatening Colonel orchestrating everything. There are scary Algerians and wise Algerians and all too human Algerians and I confess - I never read the part about Algeria. I just read the ending and it left me completely unsatisfied so I didn't bother to take the train to the last page.

Based on a true (ish) story.

And what do you know - it's going to be a movie!

Some websites if you are curious: