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Snippet Thoughts: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The House of Mirth, Prodigal Summer

August 8, 2012

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

I read this AGES ago (as in, 6 months), and it is beyond me why I haven’t written about it. Because I really liked it! Old family secrets, unreliable narrators, psychiatric hospitals, Scotland – it was engrossing and heartrending. I think you should read it, while I go and read all of Maggie O’Farrell’s other stuff.

(And now I understand why it’s taken me so long to write about this book… Why do I have so very little to say about a book that I liked?)

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Another that I read ages ago! I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as The Age of Innocence, but I still really liked it. Wharton’s commentary on New York society in the early twentieth century is both wonderful and so very sad. Mirth hits upon many of the same issues as Innocence, but focusses more on the plight of women in that society. The double standards (between men & women, between married & unmarried women), the limited appropriate stations available to women, and the crushing consequences of overstepping any of those implied boundaries. And it was the women who upheld many of these rules and doled out consequences – yeesh, it’s like Mean Girls of the 1900s.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

I am of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I really liked two of the story lines and I loved the way Kingsolver slowly, and sometimes vaguely, overlapped and intertwined all three stories. That’s my favourite thing about novels like this, ones that involve not only multiple points of view but also multiple seemingly unrelated stories. I love seeing how they’ll intersect and what surprises the author may have up his or her sleeve. And I thought that Kingsolver did this very well. On that other hand, I really did not like the third, and probably main, story line. I couldn’t get myself to care about the character or her passion… for coyotes. And I know that this is because I grew up in a place teeming with the things and cannot make myself sympathetic towards their plight. If you do not suffer from this prejudice and you’ve enjoyed Kingsolver’s other non-The Poisonwood Bible books you will probably like this. [Prodigal Summer is nothing like The Poisonwood Bible. I don’t recall TPB contain quite as much sex, but then again it’s been at least 10 years since I’ve read it.]

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2012 7:39 am

    The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox sounds good to me even though you didn’t have much to say. :) When a book blogger becomes tongue tied over a book I know that means it’s good. On the list!

  2. August 8, 2012 6:16 pm

    I often have a hard time reviewing books I liked a lot but didn’t quite love. I don’t know why! There’s something about it — I don’t exactly want to gush, and I also want to articulate all the things I thought were good about the book.

    (That said, I haven’t liked any of Maggie O’Farrell’s other books quite as much. But hopefully you will, when you read them!)

  3. August 12, 2012 11:44 pm

    Maggie O’Farrell is a favorite author of mine and I really enjoyed this one, so I’m thrilled that you liked it too! Have you read any other of her books? I loved The Hand that first Held Mine and After You’d Gone.

  4. August 18, 2012 11:01 am

    I enjoyed Prodigal Summer but I wasn’t completely on board with the coyote obsession either.

  5. August 20, 2012 10:22 am

    I really liked Prodigal Summer and I “got” the coyote thing. :-) I think it was more about predators being the most important part of an eco-system. I totally understand where you’re coming from, though. :-) At times, Kingsolver’s environmental messages hijack her story and character development a bit. I really want to read Edith Wharton again.

    http://eclecticbooksandmovies.blogspot.com/

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