Monday, August 29, 2005

And now an out-sick-for-a-week roundup:

First was the novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is the current book being discussed over at Bookblog and sounded really interesting and like it would make a good introduction to Garcia Marquez. Boy, was it ever. I loved this book. Knowing the inevitable outcome from the first page only served to increase the tension, as the narrator describes the events of the fateful morning and tries to uncover some hidden truths (most of which stay hidden) years after the fact.

Next I read Our Gifted Son by Dorothy Baker, author of Cassandra At The Wedding which I read and loved earlier this year. Again, as in that book, the focus is on an insular family drama, in this case a musically gifted son coming home to Mexico for the summer after a year at college. While he was gone his mother died and he has to deal with the aftermath of her death upon his return. Baker has a wonderful way with characters and even though her scope is so narrow and not a whole lot actually happens, it all feels shocking and traumatic and important. I love her style and am looking forward to reading her others.

Then I picked up A Son Called Gabriel by Damian McNicholl which I first heard about over at Conversational Reading. I checked it out ages ago but bumped it up in the queue because someone else has a hold on it and I really hate it when other people hoard books I have holds on. I'm glad I did because it was lovely. It's about a boy growing up gay in rural Ireland during the 1960s and 1970s. I was actually mad when it ended because I wanted to know what would happen next. He was just setting off for college in London - how soon before his convenient girlfriend ("Protestantism wasn't even as evil as homosexuality.") faded away? When would he find his first real boyfriend? Would being there radicalize his politics? I want to know, dammit! Heh.

And last, courtesy of Rake's Progress, I read Jujitsu For Christ by Jack Butler. Much deeper than the title would suggest, it was a very funny and moving book about a white man living in a black neighborhood in Mississippi during the 1960s. Roger starts out an innocent but through his friendships with the neighbors he becomes aware of the racial injustice all around him. As his awareness grows, the book's tone becomes more serious, and the events described do the same until we are left with tragedy. But the shift doesn't feel false or abrupt and is very well done. This is another author whose other books I'm looking forward to.

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