May 28th, 2005

last unicorn

Rather Delayed Book Post

16) War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
This is the book I chose as my primary reading for the big trip. I wanted something that would keep me busy through long flights and train travel, and that I wouldn't rip through too quickly (I was trying to avoid carrying an entire library with me. You have no idea how difficult this is for a bibliophile). It certainly accomplished that goal. It was also a surprisingly good read. Yes, I occasionally had trouble keeping the secondary characters straight, and yes, there are periodic (more frequent as the book progresses) digressions about the nature of history and greatness, which I found rather tedious and repetitive. I also confess to being more interested in the drawing-room intrigues and romances than the tactics of war and battles. Overall, it was a darn good story -- although I got the feeling Tolstoy didn't quite know how to wrap it up; the ending feels a little "off". ****

17) The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
This is a very bad book to take on vacation. It's just too good to put down, making sightseeing very difficult indeed. It's beautifully written, with an absorbing story that pulled on my mushy romantic side without a single distraction to let my logical brainy side take over. Highly recommended. *****

18) Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco)
I am an Umberto Eco fan, but I am aware that it's something of a specific taste. His books have a tendency to remind me how much smarter he is than me, but that's not something I mind too much -- I know it's probably different for others. Foucault's Pendulum is probably the least accessible of his novels and the most immersed in a complex assemblage of facts and theories. I began to have difficulty keeping all the details straight toward the end, and got distracted from the story as a result. Generally, though, a good read -- at least if you like being challenged. ****

19) The Swanne: A Romance in Three Parts (Peter Hinton)
This is the playscript for a trilogy of plays recently performed at the Stratford Festival. I never got to see the plays, in part because I wasn't aware of them until the season that the second one was playing, and I hate starting a trilogy (of any kind) in the middle. So when I saw the book of the script on sale, I picked it up. As with any play, these would be much better seen on stage than read in a book -- that's more or less a given. But I think they would be captivating on the stage. The premise is that of a lost heir to the throne of England, a rival to Queen Victoria, who is black. It becomes an extended meditation on issues of love, gender, race, society, and history. It's complex and complicated, but interesting. In some ways, I'm still deciding what I think about it. My one major complaint is the disclaimer that's tossed in about the play having been written to be spoken aloud, as an explanation for strange punctuation and spelling. The spelling, at least, could have been regularized for a reading audience, but I suspect there was some rush to get it in print for the Stratford patrons, coupled with a lack of money. A shame. *** (probably more for a performed version)

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