Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

This is the best new novel I have read so far this year.  It is the story of what happens when Bernadette Fox's life goes off the rails at the prospect of a family cruise to Antarctica, as recounted by her daughter Bee through notes, letters, and emails.  I pretty much hate the epistolary novel but here the form works brilliantly.  Satirical, funny, relentlessly entertaining, smart, and even touching.  Maybe I've been reading too many crime novels lately and my senses are warped but I can't remember reading anything this fun in a long time (A Visit from the Goon Squad maybe?)  Even the title of the book and its cover are wonderful.  My wife also read it and while she enjoyed it, she is of the opinion that I have gone overboard in my enthusiasm for this book.  That's okay - everyone thought the same thing about Bernadette, so I am in good company.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Escape from DC

We rented a house in a small town on the shore of the Cheasapeake Bay for Labor Day weekend. I packed a box of books so I would have a good supply of reading material for our vacation but when we got here, we found a bookcase full of good books. I knew the house had a small offering of books and DVDs but was pleasantly surprised by what we found - a really good selection of Scandinavian crime fiction.  (Hakan Nesser, Maj Sjowall&Per Wahloo, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indridason, Kjell Erickson, Johan Theorin, Karin Fossum, and Lars Kepler.)  If I had been under house arrest and had to stay longer I would've enjoyed reading what was on hand.  Plus, they had two by William Boyd, a Tana French, a Richard Price, and a few other good choices.

I never got around to reading anything from the house library.  Instead, I wound up immersed in entertainment about escaping from prisons.  I started out reading Richard Stark's Breakout.  Our first night we watched Chicken Run (a really great escape movie) on DVD.  After Breakout, I moved on to Donald Westlake's Help I Am Being Held Prisoner.  I also polished off Richard Stark's Nobody Runs Forever and Lawrence Block's Hit Man.

Breakout was published in 2002 and Help I Am Being Held Prisoner was published in 1974 but Westlake used the same name for the prison in each book (Stoneveldt and Stonevelt).  Not a big deal, I realize, but it was strange to encounter the names in back to back books.  I found two cartoons from the Spectator in Breakout.

(Something is going haywire here and I can't format anything the right way.)

It was hard to find a copy of Help I Am Being Held Prisoner.  I wound up buying an ex-library copy without a dust jacket for 17 cents from Atlanta via Canada. (Property of the U.S. Army, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Branch 1 Library)  Very ugly, but I enjoyed reading it.