2008 was my year of the mystery. And for some reason, most of the mysteries I read took place in either Sweden or Italy.
Compared to Europe, Lehane's Boston is comparatively closer to home. Still, it's unlike the Boston I've visited. I liked the substantialness of his characters, and the weight of their pasts. There's a moment in Mystic River where a character thinks that he'll remember his entire life how he reacted wrongly to an important moment; that moment rang true, likely because I fret over that myself.
Somewhat related: I liked both the movies--I saw Gone, Baby, Gone before reading the book; Mystic River after reading the book. That was everything a bit confusing.
REYNOLDS PRICE / LUSH LIFE:
It's one thing to capture an area that is somewhat familiar, as Lehane does. It's entirely another for an author capture a neighborhood that you own. The LES of Lush Life is not my LES, but it's Price's, and it feels legitimate and true.
The writing on restaurants & bars felt pitch-perfect to me. The pacing of the book is erratic, but I *think* intentionally so.
JHUMPA LAHIRI/UNACCUSTOMED EARTH:
I remember some portions of this so sharply -- the vacation home from college, the cancer -- but these memories seem so episodic. The book was too, wasn't it?
LEAH HAGEN COHEN/HEART, YOU BULLY, YOU PUNK
A confession: I read this book because of the title (it's taken from a poem, btw) and the cover. Also because it took place in NY and featured a lonely/alone character with a quirky profession. NY locale -- Quirky profession -- Aloneness. That's 3/5 of my list of favored book characteristics right there.
There was a restaurant in this book -- on one of those side streets of the West Village -- that served only hunting meats (like rabbit, or venison), had a roaring fire & velvet curtains. And hot chocolate. It was called Camp. Despite my vegetable-eating ways, I wish it actually existed so that I could go there.
PAT BARKER/REGENERATION & THE EYE IN THE DOOR:
Both of these books are from Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy, which is about:
- World War I
- Class differences in Britain
It's silly for me to say that this is my year of discovering Dawn Powell, only 'cause she's one of those authors that was discovered relatively recently by others. Regardless! This was the year when I went beyond the design of her books (I do not approve) and read one. It was excellent and contained a phenomenal description of that certain feeling you get on Sundays (why doesn't that have a name?).
RICHARD YATES/YOUNG HEARTS CRYING:
I am so nervous -- and a little bit excited -- to see Revolutionary Road. I read it a few years ago, and lurved it. Young Hearts Crying is not as good a book. But it's still solid and beautiful.
I read this book and thought, hmm, marriage seems like a failing proposition. My mom read the book and told me that she thought the characters should have just been less lazy and stayed married to their original spouses instead of marrying-cheating-affairing-marrying on a rinse-and-repeat cycle.
Make of that what you will.