My 2012 reading log is weird.
For reasons I can and can’t identify, I just wasn’t up to my usual level of readerliness last year. But I am ready for a new year – two books knocked out this past week.
Wednesday night I finished Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. This is our first book club book of the new year, and one that I have wanted to read for some time. What you get with this book is about 600 pages of English history with some pretty despicable characters. I am in awe of Mantel’s knowledge of the time and she sure got a bunch of it in there. I am not sure that the book wouldn’t have been better, however, if some of that was left out in order to let the story itself speak more. The book centers on Thomas Cromwell who becomes the intimate advisor to King Henry VIII. The big goings on in this installment of a series that Mantel is publishing, is Henry trying to divorce Kathryn of Aragon so he can marry Anne Boleyn. This is no easy feat and there is much bad behavior. Interestingly, Dan is listening to this book on audio and I heard a part of it the other day when he drove me to work. I think I enjoyed hearing it more than I enjoyed reading it. The reader adds much of the pomposity that I think is true to the characters. It enlivens what can be a pretty gruelingly paced novel. This is one that I am glad to have read, I learned more about an era, but it didn’t reach the level of love that I thought it would.
Then I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Much love here. I got an email from Sam at the end of December telling me that he finished this and I should put it on my list. In his email, he said “It’s so much more clever and ahead of itself than it needs to be. And it’s a killer first love book that is unexpected in every right way and it is truly in love with literature.” When you get an email like that, the only thing you can do is buy it immediately. There is a part in this book where the main character recites The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to the boy she will love. He has asked her to read to him, but she doesn’t have a book. He asks for a memorized poem. She starts, “Let us go then you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky / like a patient etherized upon a table.” He tells her to go slower. She continues with it. It is breathlessly beautiful. I very much like Prufrock, but there was something about this scene that brought the poem more life than it ever has had for me. The whole book is like that, scenes illuminated with grace; conversations of almost unbearable poignancy.
This is categorized as Young Adult, but it brings it for anyone lucky enough to pick it up. The story is brutal. Two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group. Hazel Grace and Augustus. I don’t want to write too much about the story because it needs to be read fresh.