Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nevermore Talks (Mostly) Fiction

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and its sequel, World Without End, were deemed hackneyed but exciting. The first is set in 12th century England and centers around the building of a cathedral. The second picks up in the same location two centuries later, but you don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy the second.

 Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War when a young man’s search for books by a favorite author reveals that someone is destroying all copies of the author. This is one of those books which is difficult to describe, but which the New York Times Book Review called “Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges.”

 The Good Father by Noah Hawley was described as both beautifully written and thought provoking. The plot concerns a doctor whose life is turned upside down when his adult son from a previous marriage is accused of murdering a presidential candidate. The book asks hard questions about love, responsibility and biological inheritance.

The other observation was about books that are most meaningful and have the most appeal for young adults and adolescents. These are books that can have a profound effect on outlook and thinking at a crucial time, but may or may not be meaningful when re-read years later. Among the titles cited were Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, Atlas Shrugged, and Red Badge of Courage.

However, some books evoking adolescence can still evoke strong emotional responses in adults. According to our reader, a case in point is Stitches: A Memoir by award-winning children’s artist David Small. He tells his story in graphic novel format, and it’s a harrowing one: his parents were cold and unsympathetic, giving little affection. The story covers his life from about age six to sixteen, but it’s a harrowing decade—and our reviewer thought it best viewed from an adult perspective.

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