March 14, 2010
What crazy weather we have been having this month. Friday night it hailed, then we had a huge thunder and lightening storm that sent Gizmo under the bed and gave Raven a barking fit, then we had a blizzard with almost a foot of snow. Yesterday was cold and sunny. Today is supposed to heat up and be in the 60s. All that, and we’ve lost an hour too:
Today Kip and I are going to a corned beef and cabbage dinner (for only $7 per person) at the volunteer fire station in our town. They put on these great feeds several times a year to raise money for the fire station (we never miss the Bean Feed and always try to make it the town fair where the food is burgers, hotdogs, chips and soda). The first year I was in Shingletown, we arrived at the Bean Feed and were the only people under the age of 70…but the food is good and it is fun being part of this small town tradition. So, we’ll be celebrating St. Paddy’s day with traditional fare and bumping elbows with people in our community at the same time.
I am ALMOST finished reading The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. Wow, what a terrific book this has been. Byatt has a ton of characters in this family saga (in fact, early on I stopped reading and made a flow chart of the families and the masses of children in the book), but I never felt overwhelmed. The more I read, the easier it was to put a face to all the names because Byatt is nothing but skilled at character development. I hope to have my review up very soon on this one.
Since I’ve read Wolf Hall (read my review) and now The Children’s Book, I think I am qualified to say that Byatt’s book should have captured The Booker Prize. Not only was it an amazing look at the turn of the 19th century to the 20th century in Europe (Britain specifically), but Byatt’s story telling was riveting. Mantel, on the other hand, seemed more interested in being different in her style than being accessible to her readers. (I also think Byatt wins on cover art – hands down.)
As far as characterization goes – well, I have to say that Mantel had the potential to blow Byatt out of the water with her main character Thomas Cromwell (what a fascinating historical figure). But she became so incomprehensible to me as more and more characters were introduced and she continued to play around with the ambiguous pronoun “he”, that I ended up just finding myself confused and irritated. Byatt also had a huge cast of characters (mostly fictional, but some historical), but they were so well developed that after a while I had no trouble following their individual lives. I was interested in Byatt’s characters. I cared what happened to them. I wanted to understand them.
So on all fronts: story, characters, even cover art…Byatt wins for me.
This is all just my opinion, of course. If you’ve read both books, what do YOU think?
If you are a prize list follower, you might want to check out Jackie’s predictions for the Orange Prize long list. On her list, the only ones I’ve read are The Children’s Book, Wolf Hall and The Year of the Flood (read my review). I am planning to read The Lacuna this month, and The Little Stranger next month. And Tyler’s and Tremain’s new book’s are on my wish list. The rest I need to do some research on…so I am withholding opinion for now!
Speaking of lists, here is a new list of sorts…The University of Rochester is recognizing translated literature with their Best Translated Book Award. Here is their short list, of which the winner turned out to be The Confessions of Noa Weber by Gail Hareven (translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu). I have not read ANY of the books on their list (sadly), but if you are like me and wish to read more translated works, this is a good place to start.
That wraps up this edition of Sunday Salon. What great books are you reading lately? Do you have any plans for today? If so, I hope that at some point they involve reading a good book!