Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Three In Brief

In the interest of playing catch up, here are my very quick takes on three books that I finished recently, none of which made enough of an impression on my to devote an entire post to.

I've read enough Henry James novels by now to know that although there's a lot I can appreciate about his writing, I get very little pure enjoyment from them. What Maisie Knew was no exception. Written from a child's perspective, it tells the story of a girl who finds herself used as a pawn, first by her divorced parents, then later by her respective stepparents. James infuses Maisie's voice with an unsettling combination of both childishness and world-weariness. He really dissects the psyche of his character's, although he uses his usual tediously wordy style to do so. I would have much rather read this as a short story than in the form of a full length novel.

Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker  is a novel that I had high hopes for after seeing it highly praised around the blog world. Narrator Norman Huntley is skilled at making things up on the spur of the moment, like the eighty-year-old woman he and a friend invent as part of a prank against the groundskeeper of a rural church they tour. Days later, Norman is shocked when his creation, Agatha Hargreaves, enters his life in the form of a very real, very eccentric elderly woman who wreaks havoc on his life. It's a clever concept on the whole, but again, one that I would have preferred to see done in short story format. I personally didn't find the characters to be entertaining enough, or Miss Hargreaves's antics to be madcap enough, to hold my interest for the full length of the novel that it is. It felt like a witty comment that loses its initial charm after being repeated one too many times. 

And finally, my favorite of the three was the lightest, fluffiest, and most fun: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses. Its heroine is a Manhattan lawyer who travels to her grandmother's small hometown in Maine to take care of some unfinished family business. Like many novels in a similar vein, once she's there she begins to reevaluate her own life, including her upcoming marriage. Although by no means a groundbreaking novel, it's solidly written and manages to cover well charted territory in an engaging way. A perfect book for reading on vacation--although I may be partial since I read it during my trip up to Maine!

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