Early April findings

Often when I’m stuck in my writing, I (too late) realize it’s because I have been neglecting my reading.  Often I forget that when I’m reading I get ideas either for a better structure in my work, or for ideas about technique.  Recently I got a stack of books off of new reading lists and powered through a few of them.  I started writing reviews on Goodreads a couple of years ago, and I’ve found that writing a review helps me to think through my experience of the book and to gain more from it.  I thought you might enjoy hearing about these three novels I just finished, and that reading about them may remind you of books you’ve enjoyed over the years.

Do you have favorite reading lists?  Some of these came from Real SimpleClick here to see one of their lists.

Reviews

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started this book and then put it on the shelf. But then I got a library email that the due date was approaching and that there were 41 people waiting for it, so I could not renew it – and since so many people wanted to read it, I knew it might be a while before I could check it out again. Inspired by a recent article in The Seattle Times by Moira Macdonald, the Times literary critic, who said she recently attempted to read 6 books in 2 days (for reviews), I decided to plunge in and read the book in a few days rather than spreading out the reading over a few weeks. I’m glad I stuck with it. This book has a unique voice, the first-person (“I”) voice of a young woman who has had a terrible and unthinkable tragedy in her childhood and has been leading a deeply traumatized life since. She has all sorts of quirky repetitive behaviors and minimal social skills, and her “unreliable narrator” voice is quite intriguing in the novel. The author does a good job of gradually revealing the secrets of the narrator’s past and also of portraying the narrator, a very difficult person to be around, in a sympathetic and supportive way. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a new read!

Out Stealing HorsesOut Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book set in Norway that starts out slowly, but eventually ranges over the entire life of the narrator. It focuses on the summer of 1948 when the narrator was a fifteen-year-old in Norway spending the summer with his father in a remote cabin in the mountains near a small village. Eventually the father’s activities during WWII and the son’s relationship with the father are all explored. The book also spends time on the narrator’s present time, in which he is a man of 70 also living on his own in a remote cabin (different cabin), reflecting on the loss of his wife, on what it’s like to be alone and (mostly) self-sufficient, on how he’s cut himself off from his daughters and any other family. I confess I didn’t like the book at first, as I think I felt unconnected with a fifteen-year-old boy in 1940s Norway, but I slowed down in my reading and tried to understand more what the narrative was about. In the end it was an enjoyable book, though its literary style could be somewhat off-putting at times. Fun look into a Nordic solitary life.

The Italian Party: A Novel by Christina Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a deep dive into 1960s (actually, 1956) Italy, in particular, Siena. The opening premise is delightful, a young couple gets married, in America, move to Siena supposedly for the husband’s work as a Ford tractor salesman, but they know almost nothing about each other, having brought all kinds of assumptions and half-truths to their perceptions of the other person. As my parents were married in early 1957, I found this time-capsule story to be quite engaging as a look into the world of that time. Communist-haters, conventional attitudes about sex and marriage, cooking and the “wife’s role” in the home, etc. One thing that kept my interest was the author’s technique of moving around in viewpoints, so that you get mostly the wife’s point of view, but you also get the viewpoint of the husband at times (of the same event), and I think there’s even one or two small sections in minor characters’ viewpoints. It’s sometimes fascinating to hear how the other character sees the same situation – and the author also uses these POV changes to reveal secrets that each character does not want the other to know. Perhaps a little heavy on the “research-inspired” sections about political machinations, etc., but at the same time, you get some insights into the nuances of post-WWII Italy and how it was for those who experienced the war and its consequences in small-town Italy. I’d recommend it!

What to see when you’re not especially looking

Here we have two more mini-mural utility boxes on the street . . . aren’t they fun?  I’ve posted the one on the left before, but I enjoy it so much I took another photo and included it here.  The one on the right says “Regrade.”

IMG_0845

This is a little tea-and-cupcake shop downtown that has the most amazing interior with travel photos, etc.  I’ve gotten a couple of really interesting writing pieces done when I was writing inside!

Do you ever walk along the street or in a park and suddenly notice an unusual or thought-provoking sight?  I took these photos recently to share with you.  The first one was just to celebrate the ornate carving on the side of a building, almost baroque-like, that is much more interesting than just a flat concrete or stone wall.  The second one is, can you believe it? a small raised frog fastened into the building’s stone.  And finally:  a cluster-clump of popped up daisies along the walkway in a nearby park.  It’s Spring!

12 thoughts on “Early April findings

  1. You are so so right….reading does help me with my writer’s block. Not that I am a real writer or anything 😃.
    The pictures and commentary are awesome. Beautiful…..a reminder to enjoy every little aspect of life. So many people would have walked past and noticed nothing… we are mostly busy chasing life instead of experiencing life. Thank you for the reminder.

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    1. Aweni! That’s so great that reading helps you as well. Thanks for letting me know!

      “we are mostly busy chasing life instead of experiencing life. ” – love this. Nicely said! 🙂

      Thank you for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Theresa! Thanks for the reading reminder and recommendations! Havent read anything for ages and am feeling stuck. Now if I could just get down to reading (Italian Party seemed particularly interesting) 🙂

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  3. Reading definitely helps with writing. Sascha had a recent blog post… a rant actually, she said, I think… 🙂 about an author who said he/she had no time to read. I think the author’s book wasn’t a good read. Haha!

    I have started reading Eleanor Oliphant. It was a recommendation from a work colleague. It helps in my real world, too. I went for my regular forehead, eyebrow and upper lip wax yesterday and the beauty therapist thought I was there for a “Hollywood”. I was able to have a good laugh with her because of the “Hollywood” Eleanor chose to have in preparation for her new “love life”.

    Great finds there, too.

    Much love and hugs.

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  4. It is April already, how about that. Both writing and reading takes time, and sometimes it is one or the other. Like you, I get stuck in either of one at one time – and that is usually how I get things done, by going at them fast and hard almost non-stop until I am exhausted. I could write for weeks on end and feel more and more motivated as each day goes by, and would completely forget about reading 😀 These days I am back into reading and am hoping to get inspired by what I read.

    When I’m walking outside I like to walk slow and observe, and almost always something will catch my eye and I will have to pull out my camera and take a photo or two. These moments are like very strong sensory experiences for me…sometimes so much so that when I get home, I feel thoroughly exhausted. Happy Spring, Theresa. Enjoy the warmth and sunshine coming your way 🙂

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    1. Interesting that you alternate between writing and reading, Mabel. I am considering doing something like that, intentionally – instead of trying to read a little each day. It seems like a way to avoid breaking one’s focus. Thanks for telling me about this! (as always!)

      I love that you have the gift to be able to stop and pay attention to something that you see. A lot of us get stuck in our thoughts and we don’t observe the changes or small things around us. It interesting to hear that you can be exhausted by your observational experience. You must really put yourself into it – good for you!

      Hope your Spring is going well! 🙂

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      1. I don’t think I can ever pause writing. Reading I can pause. When I’m reading a lot, I find I’m more into planning when it comes to writing as opposed to writing out a narrative.

        Sometimes I think I stop too much to observe. Then I will notice my companions will also slow down and then I feel awkward for slowing us all down 😃

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      2. Mabel! What a gift you are giving your companions by helping them slow down too! I know it might be awkward. But that’s wonderful, I think! 🙂

        Love that you keep writing. That’s great.

        Liked by 1 person

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