Books I Read in November? Not many. Why? Because it took me all the live long month to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
(More on this later.) My four November reads took me back to the delightfully old-fashioned world of Anne Shirley, into the suspenseful and isolated life of the Blackwood sisters, along the streets of New York to a quirky “almost” wedding, and into the dark underworld of grief and life and art.
If we judge my month by the books I read, November was filled with color and heat: crimson sunsets above a boneyard ten feet deep, an explosion, the bone-jar slam of it, the unpretentious bouquet of early-blooming parentheses (((()))).
Without further ado.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour, an Introduction
by: J. D. Salinger
This book represents two separate short stories originally published in 1955 in The New Yorker. Like Franny & Zooey which I read in September, these stories continue with tales of the droll Glass family told from Buddy Glass’s point of view. In Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, Buddy goes to New York to attend his brother Seymour’s wedding. Buddy ends up trapped inside a taxi in a major traffic jam with other members of the wedding party, each a distinctive personality. While he never makes it to the wedding, it doesn’t much matter because Seymour, the groom, doesn’t show up either. This quick, witty read is study in how to write dialog. I could very much imagine the story playing out on the stage. (TheatreSquared, yes!) Alternatively, regarding part two of this book, Seymour, an Introduction… I couldn’t get into it AT ALL and returned the book to the library after only a few pages.
Favorite Line: Keep me up til five because all your stars are out, and for no other reason.
This book made me: Google the Greek poet, Sappho.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by: Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, has stuck with me since seventh grade literature class. Seriously, the black spot on the white slip of paper has haunted me like nothing else. Anyway, a friend recently told me We Have Always Lived in the Castle is Jackson’s greatest work, so naturally, I added it to the top of my ever-growing list. Oh, what a suspenseful, odd, compelling story, American gothic at its best. It’s the story of two sisters, Merricat and Constance Blackwood, who live a hermit-like existence at the Blackwood estate after the rest of the family, except for elderly Uncle Julian, died from an arsenic-in-the-sugar-bowl (accidental?) poisoning. The villagers avoid the Blackwood sisters, and for the most part, the sisters avoid the public venturing out only when necessary. When a long-lost cousin comes to call, their “normal” life is threatened. Mystery readers who enjoy outcast protagonists, vicious townspeople, and dark humor will lap this up.
Favorite Line: I remember that I stood on the library steps holding my books and looking for a minute at the soft hinted green in the branches against the sky and wishing, as I always did, that I could walk home across the sky instead of through the village.
This book made me: dig deep into the subtext and think about Gracie Lee’s buried treasures.
Anne of the Island
by L. M. Montgomery
I enjoy visiting with my friends at Green Gables for the simple fun of it. Like the others in the series, Anne of the Island is filled with oodles of adjectives and phrases no longer used. Sometimes the story meanders, much like real life. That’s the tranquil charm of it. Imagine this: you are out for a walk when you come upon a hopscotch drawn in chalk on the sidewalk. Without hesitation, you jump into it with both feet, hopping and bouncing and channeling your fourth grade self. Because you can. Because it would go against everything you believe in to simply walk past it. That’s what reading Anne of Green Gables is like for me. In this third book in the series, Anne spreads her wings in college and finally realizes her one true love. Finally. Yay!
Favorite Line: I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he could be wicked and wouldn’t.
This book made me: download book four. Of course I did.
by: Donna Tartt
Last Christmas, I received The Goldfinch in my book club’s annual book exchange. All year, I’d been planning to read it but putting it off because the book is a commitment at 962 pages. This month, I committed. Lordy mercy, this story is a roller coaster of a ride. I’ve got nothing against long books, stories I can disappear into. And let’s not forget, this one did win a Pulitzer. But somewhere in Vegas, in the middle third of this woefully cumbersome to hold book, the storyline dragged. BUT around page 700, a gigantic “aha!” moment unexpectedly hit me and made me glad I’d stuck it out. And that page 700-ish “big reveal” carried me to the end. The Goldfinch is the story of Theo, a young boy who survives a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and walks away from the rubble with his mother’s favorite masterpiece. For 900 pages, Theo faces catastrophe after catastrophe, until lo and behold, I have aged and he is an adult. Yes, the painting becomes a symbol of his grief over the death of his mother. What to do with the painting? Where to hide it? Can he forever hide a rare painting thought to be destroyed / stolen? There are ZERO shortcuts in this book. Every thought, experience, character is fat and round. The suspense kept me going because I really did want to know how it ended. But finding out in less words (with less drug abuse on the part of the characters) would have been a-okay by me.
Favorite Line: You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.
This book made me: wonder about the editing process for this tome.
There you have it. My November book reviews. Now, let’s talk for a moment about December and Christmas. Tis the season to give books as gifts! I highly recommend buying books at your local bookstore and giving them as presents. Each one comes with its own adventure.
Shameless plug: If you’d like to give my book as a gift, click below to order The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee. I’ll sign it for you and even gift wrap it!Accidental Salvation
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
November Boogie, Sonny Boy Williamson