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  • What I've Been Reading, Part 2

    Once, pre-baby, I read on this beach. It was delightful.

    Here are the top four books I've read recently! 

    4. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro- Ho boy. This book made me ugly cry. I just want to put that out there before you start to read it just in case you’re feeling fragile. Beatrice and Axl are an elderly couple in a post-Arthurian Britain where knights and dragons and pixies roam the hills and swarm the riverbanks. But the country is also being overtaken by a kind of fog that robs people of their memories. In the haze of forgetting, Beatrice remembers that they have a son living in a neighboring village, and the two set off to find him. Their relationship is tender, and it’s this tenderness, the love and loyalty they share, that raises the stakes for this story—we don’t want them to lose each other, but even more, as the slow recovery of their memories threatens to undo the life they’ve built together, we don’t want them to lose their love for one another. Honestly, it’s a bit of a slog at times, and if you’re a Monty Python and the Holy Grail fan, it’s hard not to read the dialogue in a mocking, silly k-ni-gits sort of way, but overall, it’s haunting and lovely. And sad.

    3. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante- This is the second book in the Neapolitan series, and I can’t say much about it without spoiling things in the first one! But I will say I enjoyed this one more—I knew the characters better, understood the complicated dynamic of Lila and Elena’s friendship, felt the tightening grip of life in Naples and the desire to escape it. Book three is up next!

    2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- You’ve probably all read this by now, but in case you haven’t, I loved it! It’s one of those novels that is Serious and Important, full of incisive observations about what it means to be a human, but as compelling and entertaining as any light-hearted beach read. It’s a smart examination of race, a critique of the society in which we move--and it’s a good old-fashioned love story. Ifemelu and Obinze grow up in Nigeria and fall in love with each other as teenagers, imagine their future lives together as rationally as any two adults, love each other for the people they are and who they will become. But Ifemelu goes to America for college, leaving both Nigeria and Obinze behind, and her early years there are so horrifying and demoralizing that she finds she cannot let herself reach out to Obinze, and the two, separated by continents, by an ocean, by experience, drift apart. Adichie tells their stories—Ifemelu’s, as a “Non-American Black” in America, and Obinze’s, first as an unwanted immigrant in England and then as a powerful, dissatisfied man in Nigeria—with wit and wisdom and authenticity.

    1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff- This is the story of Lotto and Mathilde, the story of a marriage, of two people together and apart, the narrative split in two, one part his and one part hers. Part One belongs to Lotto, whom the Fates have touched, both for better and worse: he is born into a wealthy family but becomes fatherless, he is ugly but becomes beautiful, he is sweet and simple but becomes successful, he is a man who loves beauty, who pursues it in all forms, in all women who possess, he believes, at least one beautiful quality, but he becomes a husband. Part Two is Mathilde, a cipher in Lotto’s story, removed and nearly sphinx-like, and here, she is raging; she is the action, the movement, to Lotto’s luck. There are overlapping moments in the sections—something small in Lotto’s story, for example, is explained further in Mathilde’s—but they are separate stories, separate people moving together, inhabiting the same space in different worlds. The language is both dreamy and simmering, the characters endearing and infuriating and heartbreaking. Go read it!