but books are entirely different

Dear Nick. Never live without beautiful books. Love Mum

Any book lover must read this essay by Nick Bilton published recently in the New York Times.  If you’ve given any thought to decluttering those bookshelves now that you have a kindle or ipad.  If you’ve wondered whether bookstores will be shuttered for good at some point during your lifetime.  If you’ve even one sentimental bone in your body.  Especially if you’re a jotter, a dogearer, a tucker inner of slips of paper, photos, or even grocery lists.  This is one to print out, bookmark, tuck away.

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this image is a screen shot from twitter

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another girl gone

It took some doing but I’m ready to weigh in on Gone Girl.  Whoops!  I mean The Girl on the Train.  If you’ve so much as walked past a bookstore recently you must’ve seen this cover in the window–you know what book I’m talking about.  And if not, get with the program, will you!  Everybody’s raving about it.

Be ready to be spellbound, ready to become obsessed . . . The Girl on the Train is the kind of book you’ll want to press into the hands of everyone you know, just so they can share your obsession and you can relive it.

I must complain for a moment that I often fall prey to hype.  Who doesn’t?  As much as I’d like to think I’m a free wheeling cool hunting trailblazer charting my own path, the truth is I’m a sucker.  When book reviewers compare new releases to books I loved, I pounce.  I do.  I fell for this when they compared The Silent Wife to Gone Girl.  Silent wife? you ask.  Yeah, I’ve forgotten about that book, too.  Well, The Girl on the Train is the latest next best thing to Gone Girl, and a $26.95 hardcover currently lies breathless on my bedroom floor.

I read positive reviews of this book at NPR and in the New York Times Book Review, and because I learned from the Silent Wife not to trust any comparisons to Gillian Flynn, I zeroed in on the plot before making my decision to purchase it.  Here’s the story: Think Bridget Jones on her worst day.  Skip past Hugh Grant and Colin Firth and she’s now a lonely bitterly-dumped divorcee, recently sacked from her job and living in London with a girlfriend.  She’s a storyteller really, still keeping that diary, only in her despair she’s taken to pretending she still has a job and rides the train to and from “work.” She boards the train on schedule each day and looks out across the tracks and into the backyards of strangers, fantasizing about the lives they lead as she becomes familiar with their morning and evening routines.  As a means of self-pity she projects on these strangers perfect idyllic story lines that contrast with her own, and she quickly becomes absorbed in the drama until one day she witnesses a shocking dose of reality that turns into a mystery and then a whodunit.  The strangers have become so real in her mind, though, so she involves herself in the investigation, only we’re not sure how much of her concocted narratives are true, and all this is compounded by the fact she drinks to excess and suffers black outs.  Well, sign me up for that!

This is the basic plot as described in the book reviews and all over the dust jacket.  So without giving anything more away, I will tell you the book is good . . . around page 200!  The last 100 pages turn, and I mean by themselves!  There is a bit of a shocking twist in the last 20 pages if you make it that far, but I found the reveal a little disappointing, especially since I waded through the first two thirds of the book hoping to get caught up, obsessed, I’d settle for spellbound.  It seemed sort of a cheap trick to chug along so slowly with such a sad mess of a narrator, but to be more generous, maybe it’s just sort of a quiet mystery more than a true thriller.  A gradual build up that suddenly explodes for a few pages and then ends.  I suspect most readers will overlook the sluggish pacing for the breathless ending, though, and my prediction is this book will sell well.


What are you reading?


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reading: the girl in the book, the girl on the train

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.

FullSizeRender(3)I just finished listening to Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love.  This novel’s been sitting on my shelf for years, and I think I actually tried to read it shortly after I bought it.  What made me put it down I can’t tell you; maybe it was the pungent smell of ashes and regret I don’t know.  But the Audible version is delightful because it imbues these characters with a humor and silliness to counterbalance the sad undercurrents.

An average of seventy-four species become extinct every day, which was one good reason but not the only one to hold someone’s hand.

The History of Love is an interlaced narrative of broken hearts and missed connections told in gorgeous sentences and wonderfully rendered by four distinct voices.  It’s both a coming of age novel and a look back over one’s life.  It’s a mystery and a romance.  There’s an odd couple of elderly Polish immigrants with a wry sense of humor–sort of reminiscent of Felix and Oscar.  A young British widow and her eccentric imaginative children.  And the memory of one unforgettable woman, Alma, that links them all.  In Spanish alma translates into spirit soul, in Latin kind or nourishing, and in Arabic it means water.  Alma is that which feeds one’s soul, and this is the history of love in a nutshell.  An enchanting, entertaining audio book that reads almost like a stage play the way the various voices play off of one another, I highly recommend!!

Next up: something less lyrical and sad.  Something like a hot new psychological thriller critics are calling the next Gone Girl.

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I’m only a few chapters into The Girl on the Train and already seeing what they mean.  A lonely divorcée rides the train into London for work, looking out of the rail car and into the windows of the flats she passes by each day.  She’s got an overactive imagination and makes up names and lives for the people she watches, inserting herself into their relationships and worrying over them if they do not appear on schedule.  When one of them disappears altogether, she suspects foul play and goes to the police.  Who is this character, though? What does she notice, and is any of it true?  Oh, we love unreliable narrating (she drinks canned vodka tonics on the morning train . . . because you can do that in Europe . . . and she’s been bitterly discarded by her husband, who has remarried and already had a child).  This looks like it’s going to be crazy good!

That’s what I’m reading.  What’s on your nightstand?

The Girl on the Train has more fun with unreliable narration than any chiller since Gone Girl. . . . full of back-stabbing, none of it literal.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

The Girl on the Train marries movie noir with novelistic trickery. . . hang on tight. You’ll be surprised by what horrors lurk around the bend.”—USA Today

“Psychologically astute debut . . .  The surprise-packed narratives hurtle toward a stunning climax, horrifying as a train wreck and just as riveting.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[A] chilling, assured debut. . . . Even the most astute readers will be in for a shock as Hawkins slowly unspools the facts, exposing the harsh realities of love and obsession’s inescapable links to violence.”—Kirkus (starred review)

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