Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three Recent Favorites

Some of the best I’ve read over the past month or so include After Dark by Haruki Murakami. This was the first Murakami book I’ve read and I was expecting it to be full of wacky, bizarre, crazy things (which I suppose it was, considering that a good portion of the book is set in a sparse bedroom in a parallel world seen through a sleeping character’s TV set), but the characters and dialogue surrounding the more extreme elements of the story were very realistic, and relatable in a really subtle way. The picture Murakami paints of this one particular segment of Japan is really interesting too. Next there’s School for Love by Olivia Manning, set in Israel at the end of World War II. The main character, an English boy somewhere in his teens, loses his mother and goes to stay with an elderly distant relation while he waits out the war. He doesn’t necessarily face the best circumstances, but his worldview and his reactions to what happens to him utterly charmed me. And finally there’s Netherland by Joseph O’Neil, with it’s lovely, slow-paced writing that the promotional sticker on the front cover touts this as having echoes of The Great Gatsby. Even allowing for the power of suggestion putting Fitzgerald in my mind while I was reading it, I really found that to be true. While some things in the book draw direct comparison to Gatsby, it reminded me even more of Fitzgerald’s entire body of work with it’s themes of striving for the past, or even a past that never really existed.

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