Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

A French architect, Antoine Rey, is a modern divorced father with conflicted feelings about his work, his children, his father, and his ex-wife. In a kind brotherly gesture, he decides to surprise his sister with a weekend on the sea for her fortieth birthday. They spent many childhood summers on the island of Noirmoutier with their grandparents, mother and father. In hoping to lift both their spirits the trip is a pleasant experience but also results in reliving many memories of their dead mother. On the way home his sister turns to him remembering something and the car runs off the road. The plot of the novel revolves around what she remembers.

What I loved about this book was the sympathetic character of Antoine Rey. I tend to read books with strong women characters and it was a refreshing change to delve into the feelings of a man and his role as a father, husband, brother, son, and grandson. It was also a pleasant trip to travel to Paris within the confines of this novel. Family relationships also play a prominent place and it is always reassuring to see that all families are a bit stressed in their own unique way. The writing is exquisite.

There is a great deal of death and grieving. The main plot involves Antoine trying to discover how his mother died, his daughter must confront the sudden death of her best friend, the grandmother dies, his train hits a woman, an apparent suicide, and his father is dying from cancer. His lover is a mortician. Yet instead of dark morbidity, I felt uplifted when I finished the book. A Secret Kept should not stay secret for long with avid readers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

This one was slow starting for me. But, once I got into the “Kitteridge” groove, it was a ride I thoroughly enjoyed. I think one of the off-putting things for me was that Olive is not the most likable character. Actually, she can be quite a B$*&%& at times. But, she does have her soft side, so once you get to know her, she does grow on you. Another thing that might have initially hindered my immediate enjoyment was that Olive’s story told in a series of interconnecting short stories. I’m not a big short story reader, so I admit I might have started this one thinking…”Oh, I’m not going to like it. It’s stories…” But, soon, that prejudice vanished when I figured out that Strout was not writing separate stories that happen to feature some continuing characters. She was weaving a tale of a woman’s flawed and marred life, through the eyes of all of the people around her. A strikingly good read!