Have you ever had a book on your TBR list for what seems like forever and you can never get around to reading it? I really enjoy reading the advance copies of books that are just being released, but there are plenty of backlist titles that I haven’t gotten to yet. So this week, I tackled a couple of them, along with a great new book, out today. Here’s what I’ve been reading:
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Helene Hanff was an American writer who worked on TV scripts, novels, and children’s books, among other things. In 1949, she started a correspondence with a bookseller in London that lasted 20 years. This book is a collection of some of the letters written between the two book lovers. If you like books about bookstores, authors, and the lives of readers, then this short collection of letters needs to go on your TBR. I read it in an afternoon, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
At first the letters seem simple enough – Helene is writing to request certain titles she can’t find in America. But over the years, even though they have never met, Helene develops a deep friendship with all of the booksellers at Marks & Co. As I was reading this, it wasn’t so much the words in the letters that I enjoyed, but all of the love and friendship you can see when you read between the lines on the page. This book is sweet and sad and full of moments where I could see my own love of books in the letters. Worth a read for any book lover.
This is a historical fiction novel by the author of The Orphan Train, which I read a few years ago and really liked. In this novel, we meet a woman named Christina who has an unnamed and debilitating illness that affects her movement. It begins in 1896 with a fever that leaves her with constant pain in her arms and legs. As she gets older walking and performing basic tasks becomes more and more difficult. Christina spends her entire life in her parents’ home in Maine, watching the world go by around her. In 1939 she meets the artist Andrew Wyeth, and for the next twenty years is his muse and the inspiration for many of his paintings, including Christina’s world, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Kline tells the story of Christina’s life, through flashbacks of her childhood interspersed with the story of meeting Wyeth and her adult life. Christina’s life is hard, and this is not a happy story, but the overall feeling of the story is not one of sadness, but of a woman searching to find her life’s purpose. It is obvious that the author really understands what life was like in the early 1900’s in Maine, and I enjoyed the setting of this book a lot. Prior to reading this book, I had no knowledge of Andrew Wyeth or his paintings, and this is a book that led me to many Google searches. I like how Kline took this relatively unknown woman and told her story in a way that shows how an ordinary life can have deep meaning and purpose.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
I loved Zevin’s last book, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, so I was really excited to read this one, and it did not disappoint. Jane Young is a woman who has run away from her past – changed her name, moved across the country, and left her entire life behind her. When she was twenty, she was a congressional intern in Florida, who had an affair with a married congressman. The affair was discovered and Jane, then named Aviva, took the brunt of the public criticism. Unable to get a job, make friends, date, or even go out in public without the scandal impacting her, Aviva changes her name and moves to Portland, Maine. There she becomes a wedding planner and raises a daughter, Ruby. Years later, Ruby finds out the truth about her mother’s past, and Jane has to confront everything she left behind.
This story is told from the perspective of Jane/Aviva, Ruby, Ruby’s grandmother, and the wife of the Congressman. I like the way the author tells the story in bits and pieces as you read about each character’s life. All of the women are smart, funny, and tenacious, and determined to get what they want out of life, even as they get hit with unexpected obstacles. This book asks the question – how far have we really come in our society with regards to expectations of women? It’s a fun book that doesn’t so much tackle the issue as present it for us to think about. The women in this story are people you would like to know in real life. This book comes out today!
That’s all for this week. What books have you been meaning to read for a long time? Let me know in the comments. Have a great week and happy reading!