The Book Reading Follow-up

A while ago, I went on a book hunt and said I’ll tell you about my reads. At the time I said:

“Solely based on covers alone, I decided quickly (deftly, if truth has it) on the following:

Ann Brashares’s The Last Summer (of You and Me). I actually read a review of this one. Should be interesting.

Also:

Eli Gottlieb’s Now You See Him

Tracy Chevalier’s The Lady and the Unicorn”

I read The Lady and the Unicorn first. It was pretty good. Typical Chevalier, meaning the characters were complex enough to be reminiscent of someone you know, maybe even yourself. You can sense her painstaking research no matter what book of hers you’re currently spending time with, and she does it in a way that doesn’t put the story on hold to explain. While the story was plausible and entertaining, I just didn’t feel as good reading this novel as when I read Girl With a Pearl Earring. I think it had to do with the shifting narration, but maybe I just didn’t like the characters as much from the 3rd person perspective. Shortly after finishing this novel, I also checked out Burning Bright from our school library, also by Chevalier. Reading this book was like watching a film – in a very cool way! Even though the novel was centered around a family, the perspective changed unpredictably from page to page, as Chevalier changed viewpoints to guide the reader through the story. Set in London around the time of the French Revolution, this story captures the convergence of town people in the city (the Kellaway Family), radical idealist in Chevalier’s dreamed-up account of William Blake, and the reaction of Londoners who are dependent on the local circus and their loyalty to their king. I think I was responding a bit to my own interest in this time period, but even so, of the two novels, Burning Bright came out on top for me.

Next: Gottlieb’s Now You See Him. Although this novel was really well-written and had a humorous wind-up, I had a very hard time attaching myself to the main character, Nick, who is dealing with the death of his childhood friend. Turns out I don’t think Gottlieb intended for his reader to get attached to the main character – and frankly, I was pretty sick of him partway through. The dude has issues! I’m not upset that I perhaps wasted my time with this book; I just thought I’d find it more endearing.

Brashares’s The Last Summer (of You and Me) was pretty light reading, but I am not sure it was intended to be. Maybe I was in the wrong mindset to read this book. It was a bit too predictable. I couldn’t make myself fall in love with the characters. They seemed too distant, even with Brashares hitting me over the head with lovable character traits, including flaws. I knew which pairing she intended me to think would be experiencing their last summer together and which pair I thought it would actually be pretty early into the novel. It wasn’t horrible, but didn’t resound with me. I put it down a lot.

The last book I’ve read is Nancy Lieberman’s Admissions. Ultimate fun fluff. I picked it up at the bookstore because it was $4 and I work in admissions. It doesn’t pretend to be serious literature, but it does put a magnifying lens to the application process to private schools everywhere – not just in Manhattan. What she also does is scrutinize the activities of folks who are already in the private school world, including the fund raising efforts. It was pretty weird that reading this novel coincided with my conference on diversity, as the topic of admissions did come up a bit in the conference, and the topic of diversity came up in this novel. The topic of fund raising also came up in the conference. It was the light fluff I needed at the end of the day during this heavy (but entirely worthwhile) conference. I’d caution anyone who reads this novel to take it as entertainment, not a guide to getting into the school of your choice; all the same, I thought the message about finding the right school for your child is a truth that should be heeded (even if it means a public school, of which I am a product).

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