#15 Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

15814497How reliable is an unreliable narrator? This is the question I asked myself throughout the whole of this page-turner. The premise of Norwegian by Night is an interesting one: Probably senile, recently widowed, Jewish American man moves to Oslo, where he doesn’t know the language or the culture, to live with his granddaughter and her husband. Recently arrived, he witnesses a violent crime and rescues a young boy at the scene; they escape, evading the police, his granddaughter, and those looking for the boy. Do we trust this narrator, and to what end?

While Norwegian by Night is, at its core, a book of suspense, it also provides a fascinating look at Jewish identity, the frailty of memory, language and the ability to communicate without words, war and the effects of violence on the brain, parenting, aging, and death. It’s great. Read it.

#14 Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

29939353It’s New Year’s Eve, 1984, and ex advertising  maverick Lillian Boxfish, now 84, goes for a walk around Manhattan. She makes stops at meaningful haunts from her life, restaurants, bars, buildings, parks, revisiting her life’s big moments, weighing the cause/effect of old choices, remembering love and relationships long over but not forgotten. On Lillian Boxfish’s journey, we journey with her, into her present via memories of her past.

The book is very readable. Rooney peppers the narrative with nice bits of writing, some good character development, and an intriguing portrait of then/now New York. I just didn’t love character of Lillian Boxfish; the older version I liked okay, but I found the younger version of the character pretty obnoxious and unlikable, and didn’t buy her advertising genius. A fine read, but didn’t love it.

 

#13 Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

31147620Though the premise of this book hinges on a romantic liaison, to call this book “a romance” is misleading. There is no bodice-ripping, no Fabio, no throbbing love muscle. I almost didn’t pick it up because of that label.

Think of “romance” in the best sense, it can be sexy, confusing, satisfying, transformative. A young maid on an estate and a young heir of a neighboring manor engage in a tryst that, in one afternoon, realigns the trajectory of their lives. Her life after this one Sunday is changed forever, setting her on a course of self discovery and exploration. She is awakened to the prospect of a different life, she is changed.

I won’t spoil here what leads to this realignment, for that would reveal the heart of the plot. I will say that the more I read, the more I enjoyed the book. I relished the elegance of the prose, and the hazy briefness, so full of longing and sadness, of their romantic encounter. A lovely read.