Finished two books this week.
52. Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich (audiobook) - already reviewed this last week. Oral history of the fall of the Soviet Union. Very interesting; I highly recommend the audio, which uses multiple readers for the many stories. 5 stars.
53. Hidden Figures (ebook) - Now I'm really glad that I did watch the movie first. I know many said it was sometimes hard to get through because of many names and that it jumped around, but having seen the movie that didn't bug me so much as I could 'peg' the main three women to the ones in the film, even though their real stories were actually quite a bit different than in the movie. But I didn't begrudge the movie the changes it made; it had to compress time and overlap stories from people not in the movie into the main characters in order to tell a compelling narrative. West Computing had been completely dissolved as a separate entity by the time of the action in the movie! Anyway, I really enjoyed the book and was glad I read it in addition to the movie, to get more depth and also get the facts straight. 4 stars.
- Razor's Edge: Got through the first two sections. Ended up being kinda bummed I had to stop (don't want to read ahead. )
While Maugham is certainly not one of the "Lost Generation", that younger group who was profoundly affected by WWI, I can say that his character Larry Darrell certainly seems to be. Darrell returns from WWI and does not wish to pursue the path of career and affluence that is expected of those of his class. Instead he wants to "loaf" by which he means read William James for ten hours a day or learn ancient Greek.
Post Traumatic Stress is not fully understood today and was certainly less acknowledged after earlier wars. "Shell shocked" was the term used for WWI vets who could not return to "normal" life immediately upon their return home. Darrell does not seem to be suffering from a physical disorder as much as an emotional desire to find meaning. Do you think that this is directly a result from his war experience or do you think it is his age as a young man embarking on determining his future course?
I think Larry definitely has PTSD issues. I also keep being reminded of The Age of Innocence, which I read earlier this year, in which the main character was pulled between the expectations of conventional upper-middle-class American life (take the well-paying job handed to you by family connections; marry the girl from the family and with the status expected; raise a brood and rinse and repeat), and the more exotic woman from Europe who is into the arts and flouts convention by leaving her husband. He chooses convention, and the woman who is much like Isabel. Maybe Larry would have, too, if he hadn't had his experiences in WWI.
And what about Elliott Templeton? I like how Maugham doesn't judge the man but lets the reader form her own thoughts.
Finally, I think it is rather ingenious how Maugham uses his own persona as a character in this book.
Elliott is quite the character. He's also thrown off American convention of 'marry a nice girl and trade stocks or become a lawyer', and yet is so conventional in a different way. Still all about the 'right' people and the 'right' parties and the 'right' way to do things.
I also like how Maugham has inserted himself.
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (audiobook) - Not that far into it yet, but I'm liking it so far.
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (ebook) - I am really liking this so far. Just read another book about a pandemic (Blindness); this is much less bleak so far. I'm interested to see where this is going.
- Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in and Age of Extinctions by David Quammen - This is a huge tome that I know I would have gotten through more easily on ebook, but Overdrive has not taken my recommendation. I'm not that far in, but I am really enjoying it so far; I like both the topic and the author's voice. I just know I seem to get thorough nonfiction more quickly on ebook. Done whining.
I still need to pick a book for Emerald. I was thinking maybe The Green Road by Anne Enright? It's not actually speaking to me that much, but it seems virtually all the books with gem names are bodice rippers, Christian romance, or part IX of some fantasy saga. None of those are remotely my cup of tea, sorry... (I do like some fantasy, but have no interest in ones with many installments right now, no less jumping in mid-stream) If anyone has any ideas for Emerald that are outside those genres, please share!!!