Books: What I Read This November

Oh, wow. November really got away from me. It’s going to look like I didn’t read that much this month (just 2.5 books), but really, I was drowning in scripts from a few of theater festivals I read for, so that took up much of my reading time (I lost count, but I think I read somewhere around 50 plays last month). While there weren’t that many books this month and I had to return one to the library before I could get through it, I’d recommend each of them. Even the one I didn’t finish.

After You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You was one of those books that I didn’t think I’d be that into when I started reading it, but people in my book club really recommended it and raved about it, so I read it. And loved it. And cried so, so much while reading it. It was a perfect, sad but uplifting story with fantastic characters. Given what happens in that book, I assumed that would be the end of things and the end of the story. So, I was pretty surprised when I found out that the author, Jojo Moyes, was writing a sequel, titled, fittingly, After You. Since some sequels have proven not to live up to the grandness of their predecessors (I’m looking at you, Broadchurch, season 2 and the second season of True Detective), I was a bit nervous that After You would be a let down.

The novel picks up where Me Before You left off, and I really can’t say  much about its plot without ruining the major story of the first book, except that we find the main character, Louisa, trying to put her life back together after the events of the prior novel. Things aren’t go so well for her – she has a crappy job at an airport bar, she’s basically just treading water in life, and then she falls off a roof. From there, everything changes for her, mostly for the better, but there are some rough patches in there.

After You nicely gives the reader a bit of closure for Louisa. The end of Me Before You had a sense of finality, but there was also a bit of uncertainty about whether or not she’d be able to actually live her life as she had promised. I didn’t cry as much at this one as I did at its predecessor, but there were still a few tears. I found myself drawn into the story and characters, just as I was the first time around.

 

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I’ve joined another book club, and Fun Home, graphic memoir, is the book of the month for December. Written by Alison Bechdel, it recalls her childhood, growing up with a closeted father who was very particular about design and aesthetics  and who tended to have outbursts of anger and frustration towards his children. At the time that Alison comes out to her parents, she also learns that her father is gay and that he’s been having relationships with younger men (often, his students at the high school where he taught), for years. Shortly after that, her father is hit by a truck and dies.

There’s a sense of swirling in the book. Although it’s a memoir, it doesn’t start at year one of Alison’s life and move forward from there. Instead, it moves backwards and forwards, circling back to her father’s death, wondering if he killed himself or if it was really an accident, tying bits of her father’s life to the literature he loved so much.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

A Brief History of Seven Killings is my half book for the month. It’s nearly 700 pages long and I just couldn’t finish it before I had to return it to the library. I wish I had, but I can’t be a person who doesn’t return books on time. That’s just not fair and not how the system is meant to work.

A Brief History . . ., which won the Booker Prize this year, starts off with the events surrounding the 1976 attack on Bob Marley at his home in Jamaica and goes off from there. The story is told from the perspective of at least a dozen different characters  and is broken up into many small chapters, which helps make the book flow. James does a fantastic job of giving each character his or her own distinct voice, too, using varying patterns of speech and dialect with each person.

Since the story does have some basis in reality, and follows events that actually occurred in what was a confusing and jumbled time in Jamaican history, it does get a bit difficult to follow who is who and what’s going on. But, it’s very informative. Although I only got about a third of the way into the book, I felt like I learned a lot about what was happening in Jamaica in the 70s, with the political battles, the gang wars, and the CIA and US sticking their noses in.

I hope that I’m able to check the book out again, when my plate is less full and actually get to finish reading it before I have to return it.

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