Monday, February 16, 2009

War and Post-War and Background War

My reading seems to be hovering around the '40s and '50s, lately. I'm not sure how that happened. I'm still working on Someone at a Distance, which is set in the '50s, I think, and also The Dud Avocado, '50s. Yesterday, not being in the mood to read either, I started The Story of a Marriage, set in 1953, and then The Camomile Lawn came home from the library, and that's set during World War II, and of course I had to start that too, so here I am, lurking about in England, France, and San Francisco with air raids, rations, and the ends of them.

I just finished The Story of a Marriage, which is by Andrew Sean Greer. It was one of the books in Dovegreyreader's Christmastime book draws, which I entered, and at some point late in December or possibly early in January it came in the mail, all the way from England. It took me a while to get around to it, but now that I have I love it totally. I think this is one of those books that I just so happened to read at the perfect time, where I felt in reading it as though I could insert my own muddled thoughts into the story and they would not be amiss.

It's set in San Francisco in 1953, and that's another way in which this is well timed--I was in San Francisco briefly six months ago, and it was a city that made a strange impression on me, and it helped me see the backdrop of the story perfectly. Even had I not known what it looked like I think the book would have provided the feel, but it was doubly clear (or foggy, as the case may be in that city by the sea) having been there. It's not one of those stories where the setting is it's own character, but it is a story that would be vastly different had it taken place somewhere else.

Pearlie Cook is a wife and a mother, and she begins her story by saying, "We think we know the ones we love." She spends the rest of her story discovering how much she doesn't know them and they don't know her, although she doesn't always find out entirely what she doesn't know. It is a book full of very powerful images and associations, the kind of book that can, with a sentence, bring to mind a strong feeling of something, even though it is an indescribable and inexplicable feeling that cannot possibly be summed up in just one sentence.

The book didn't just bring up those kinds of associations though--though it is definitely its own book and quite an individual one, it reminded me a lot of other authors in certain places. In the beginning, the characters sounded a lot like characters Sam Starbuck would write, something in their speech patterns or their personalities. He's a writer who is currently only self-published, mostly online, whose writing I love vastly. His original novels live here. Later on in the book, I stopped being reminded of him, and began to be reminded for completely inexplicable reasons of Geek Love. Something about the mood, I think. Sunlight.

Anyway, I'm very glad this book came my way; it's lovely.

1 comment:

hschinske said...

You might like Jo Walton's Small Change trilogy, _Farthing_, _Ha'penny_, and _Half a Crown_. They're alternate history from 1930s to 1960s.


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