book review: Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

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DUNBAR by Edward St. Aubyn
★★★
Hogarth Shakespeare, October 2017

Dunbar is the sixth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, but it was actually my first. (No, I haven’t read Hag-Seed.) So it wasn’t a desire to keep up with the Hogarth series that drove me to click ‘request’ on this title – I was drawn to it because for whatever reason I just really, really like King Lear.

The main question on my mind as I was reading was: what exactly is the purpose of a retelling? I don’t think there’s ever going to be a definitive consensus on this subject, as I’m sure some of us prefer our retellings on the more literal side, while others prefer them to be more abstract. But in general, I’d say that for a retelling to be a success, that the book should pay homage to the original while still adding something new to the story – maybe exploring certain themes present in the original in greater depth.

So with that in mind, how did Dunbar fare? I can’t quite make up my mind. Dunbar is a contemporary spin on the tale in which the titular figure is a Canadian media mogul, whose company is currently being usurped by his two vindictive daughters, Abby and Megan. The story begins in medias res, with Henry Dunbar in a care home somewhere outside Manchester, telling the story of how he was betrayed by his two power-hungry daughters, and how he regrets betraying his other, loyal daughter, Florence, by cutting her out of the trust.

While it doesn’t follow King Lear to a T, it really only ever deviates by omission. (The subplot with Edgar and Edmund isn’t really present at all.) But where it zeroes in on the relationship between Lear and his daughters, Dunbar is an extremely literal retelling. I mean, Regan is actually called Megan. On the one hand, it was done very well, and on the other, there wasn’t a whole lot left to the imagination.

Interestingly, one facet of Lear that I thought went unexplored in Dunbar is actually one of its most salient themes: the fraught balance between fate and chaos – how much of our human nature is free will and how much is predetermined by planetary influence? The passages in which Henry Dunbar grapples with his ‘madness’ I thought were some of the weakest, and they really missed the opportunity to delve into this theme. Instead, this is a very stripped down King Lear, which ostensibly focuses on the reconciliation between Dunbar (Lear) and Florence (Cordelia). It was well done in its own right, but I couldn’t help wanting more out of this story.

Dunbar was also my first encounter with Edward St. Aubyn, who admittedly I hadn’t even heard of before now, but I have to say that for the most part I was impressed. His writing is lively and clever; I was awed by his intelligence on more than one occasion. I’ll readily admit that as someone with essentially zero knowledge of the stock market, a lot of the details of this book went right over my head – but St. Aubyn still kept me engaged, with stakes that consistently felt high even when some of the details escaped me.

Bottom line (insofar as I am able to give a bottom line when I’m as conflicted as I clearly am about this book): as a novel in its own right, Dunbar was strangely riveting and stimulating. As a King Lear retelling, it left a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, I did really enjoy reading this, and was fully prepared to give it 4 stars until its overly hasty conclusion, which unfortunately left me dissatisfied. 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Thank you Netgalley, Hogarth, and Edward St. Aubyn for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

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Man Booker 2017 Winner – George Saunders

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Congratulations to American author George Saunders who just took home the Man Booker for his first full-length novel, Lincoln in the Bardo!

I read Lincoln in the Bardo earlier this year, and to be honest, I still haven’t quite figured out what to make of it.  It’s one of the most unique things I’ve ever read – Saunders creates a striking fusion of multiple literary styles, resulting in a work that’s part novel, part play, and part poetry – but was the result of this eclectic mix of styles harmony or dissonance?  Personally, I haven’t decided… but the Man Booker panel clearly has, so again, congratulations to George Saunders for wowing the judges with his fascinating and experimental novel.

What did you guys think of Lincoln in the Bardo?  Man Booker worthy?  Let me know what you think!

top 5 tuesday: Favorite Book Covers

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

OCTOBER 17 – Top 5 favourite book covers

Cheating a bit, but here we go:

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Human Acts by Han Kang: This is one of my all-time favorite cover designs; I love the simple yet eerie imagery and I love the dissonance of the muted yellow.

The William Morrow covers of Agatha Christie‘s novels.  A few faves: And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, Endless NightSparkling Cyanide.  I’m obsessed with this series of covers and I’m slowly working on collecting them all…. I may go broke in the process but I’m having fun with it so far.

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Running by Cara Hoffman.  This was a very strange little novel that I didn’t completely love, but I think the cover design is stunning – I love the Greek statues and the slightly off-tone primary colors.

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The Vegetarian by Han Kang: I genuinely tried to narrow it down and choose only one Han Kang cover, but I love both of them so much.  I love how delightfully creepy this one is, and I love the bold red of the background.

The Kopp Sisters series by Amy Stewart: Girl Waits With Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions.  I love the old fashioned newspaper cover design and the use of bold colors.  And Constance Kopp’s no-nonsense expression in all of these images is pretty great.

What can I say – I’m pretty predictable.  Bold colors + some cool art design + clean font are the way to my heart.

What are some of your favorite book covers?

The Goodreads Book Tag

I’m pretty sure I’ve done this one before… but oh well, Ann just tagged me and I’m bored right now so here we go!

What was the last book you marked as ‘read’?

26890024The Book Collector by Alice Thompson.  I didn’t cross-post my review here as it was rather short, but here’s what I wrote: “A delightfully creepy novella that’s reminiscent of du Maurier’s Rebecca, and which does a terrific job of exploring gender roles in fairy tales. The writing at times is a bit simplistic and the plot rather predictable, but for the gothic and sinister atmosphere I really enjoyed reading this.”  4 stars.

Also – adding this book was a major source of annoyance for me, because Goodreads seemed convinced that I’ve read it twice, and it won’t let me remove one of the dates – I even tried, repeatedly, deleting the book from my shelves altogether.  Has this ever happened to you guys??

What are you currently reading?

Because I can never read just one book at a time…

34069818The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride which I will still be reading well into my 80s at this rate.  It’s not even that I’m not enjoying it… I just need to be in a very specific mood to read it which doesn’t come along too often, and because it’s so dense it’s a pretty terrible book to be reading at the same time as War and Peace.

290979War and Peace by Tolstoy, which I’ve actually made progress in recently!  Only about 250 pages to go!

26228034The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, which I’m enjoying!  I’ll be honest, it took me about 50 pages to get into it because it turns out I’d forgotten more of The Fifth Season than I thought so there was a lot of ‘what the heck is going on’ to begin with, but I seem to be past that for the most part.

33797939Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn, a contemporary King Lear retelling for the Hogarth Shakespeare collection… I’m halfway through this book but at this point I still couldn’t tell you if I’m going to give it 2 stars or 5 stars, or something in between.  Stay tuned to find out.

What was the last book you marked as ‘TBR’?

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James… my growing obsession with a random D-list British celebrity caused me to watch a really mediocre BBC adaptation of this last night, but I enjoyed the story and got the impression I’d like it better as a book.  It seems like a good Halloween-ish read, maybe I’ll try to read it soon.

What book do you plan to read next?

Last weekend Steph lent me her copies of An Arrow’s Flight by Mark Merlis and A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee and I’m really looking forward to starting both of those!

Do you use the star rating system?

Yep!

Are you doing a 2017 reading challenge?

Yep!  I’m currently at 81/60, and Goodreads emailed me the other day to let me know I’m “looking good” on my reading challenge… I’d sure hope so.

Do you have a wishlist?

Nope!

What book do you plan to buy next?

I really want to read Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman, but every time I see it in a bookstore it’s the ugly movie version (I’m not fundamentally opposed to movie covers on books, I just don’t particularly like this one) so I’ve been holding out for a different edition.  So, maybe that.

Do you have any favorite quotes? Share a few.

 

The top 5 Tuesday prompt in a couple of weeks (next week?) is favorite quotes, so I’m going to keep you in suspense for now.

Who are your favorite authors?

JK Rowling, Hanya Yanagihara, Kazuo Ishiguro, Celeste Ng, W. Somerset Maugham, Hannah Kent… etc, etc.

Have you joined any groups?

Sure, but I’m not very active in most of them.

Tagging anyone who wants to do this!

The Sunshine Blogger Award #5

I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by the lovely Lauren at Comma Hangover.  Go check out her blog – there’s a cute dog to be found in that post I just linked to!

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What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

The Rules:

  • Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog.

Lauren’s Questions:

1. What constitutes a 5-star read for you? And what was the last book you read that met that criteria?

This is such a great question.  So, for me, I don’t hold all genres to the same criteria.  I’m not going to give a thriller I absolutely loved 3 stars just because it’s not the next Great American Novel.  And I know some people have really specific criteria while rating books, almost like filling out a rubric (whenever I see someone give like ‘3.82 stars’ I’m like, what does that even mean?!), but for me it’s more subjective.  But generally something like…

Literary fiction: Challenges me, makes me think, adds something new to the genre I haven’t seen before, characters who are realistic and flawed, lyrical prose.
Mysteries/thrillers: Keep me on my toes, are consistently fun and engaging, characters behave in believable ways.
SFF: Usually more character driven than plot driven, parallels with relevant real world issues, engaging prose.

I mean, I read across all genres, so I could keep going with this for a while.  Anyway, the last one that met this criteria was All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan, so, literary fiction.  It certainly ticks every box of the criteria I just listed up there.

2. If you had to describe yourself in the personality of three fictional characters (books, tv, movies all accepted) who would they be and why?

Sansa Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire (INFJish, idealistic but also practical, quiet, a bit of a rebellious streak but more subtle about it), April Ludgate from Parks and Rec (sarcastic, morbid, cares about things but doesn’t want people to know she cares about things), Marius Pontmercy from Les Miserables (awkward, very deeply uncool, Trying My Best).

3. When you are traveling, what is one thing that you would be lost without?

Hmm, good question!  I actually didn’t have a smart phone the year I lived abroad, and I traveled quite a bit both in and out of Italy, so even though my gut reaction here is to say my iPhone, I think I’d survive… I mean, paper maps exist.  So.  There’s that.  Let’s go with my glasses.  What’s the point of traveling if I can’t see??

4. If you could be a magical witch or wizard, or a prodigy at one particular skill, which would you want to be and why?

Oh, good question… I’d probably go with magic because then couldn’t I just make myself be good at things?  Like, I wish I were a really good singer, but there’s probably a magic spell for that, right?!

5. What are your top three books to read by the end of 2017?

Oh god…….. The Absolutist by John Boyne, An Arrow’s Flight by Mark Merlis, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

6. If a fictional character could cook you one meal, who would it be and what would they cook?

Li-yan from The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See can cook me a traditional Chinese meal and then make me a cup of pu’er tea.  I’ve wanted to try it ever since reading this book.

7. What is your favorite article of clothing?

Good question…. probably this navy blue sweater that I got at a Ralph Lauren outlet store a few years ago.  I wear it nearly to death every winter.

8. What is the best first line you’ve ever read in any work of literature?

“Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles. . . .”

– The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles.  I know you all are shocked.

9. How do you feel about reading classics? Are there any you feel like you want to read in the future?

They’re the worst… just kidding.  I love classics a lot.  Of course I want to read more in the future!!!  Hadeer recently mentioned doing a buddy read of Wuthering Heights next month, so that’ll probably be my next classic after I finish War and Peace.

10. Do you use bookmarks? Show us your favorites from your collection.

Yes I do, but I don’t have a particularly interesting collection, I just have about a hundred of the free Book Depository ones, as I get those at work all the time.

11. Do you prefer sweet or salty snacks?

Salty!!!  I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

Since this is my fifth time doing this award, I’m not tagging anyone…. but if anyone wants to answer Lauren’s questions, which are great, consider yourself nominated!

book review: Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart

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MISS KOPP’S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS by Amy Stewart (Kopp Sisters #3)
★★★
Houghton Mifflin, September 2017

I’m starting to wonder if Girl Waits with Gun was a one-off stroke of brilliance. I loved the first novel in this historical fiction series based on the life of one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the U.S., but its sequel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, didn’t quite live up to the high bar Stewart had set for herself. I had higher hopes for Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions at first, but I think I ultimately wanted to like this more than I did.

The premise of this novel is the most interesting to me of the three. Set in 1916, just before the U.S. entered World War I, women are having to take up the slack of men who are leaving to go abroad – taking factory positions and leaving the house more often to aid war efforts. This was a difficult pill for some of these young women’s parents to swallow, and many of them reported their daughters to the police for wayward behavior, which is an interesting and frustrating piece of history that I ended up learning a lot about. I just wish the narrative had been on the same level as Stewart’s impeccable research.

While I was initially prepared to praise this novel for having more narrative cohesion than its two predecessors (the cases that Constance is investigating end up dovetailing with her personal life), I thought the execution was somewhat unwieldy. One of the characters does something that I felt was solely for the sake of furthering the plot, and really incongruous with her characterization. And while I enjoyed spending more time with Norma and Fleurette than we had in Lady Cop Makes Trouble, the relationship between the three sisters – easily the best thing about the first novel – always felt rather secondary to whatever else was going on.

I loved the new characters who were introduced, Edna especially, and I enjoyed reading about her time involving herself in the war effort. But I still thought that there were too many subplots here, and the way it all came together in the end was a little ham-fisted.

It’s more of a 3.5 than a 3, and certainly an improvement on Lady Cop Makes Trouble. But I’m still waiting for Stewart to really tap into the magic that she was able to achieve with Girl Waits with Gun. I’m undecided if I’ll continue this series if Stewart writes more. On the one hand, I’m rather invested in Constance Kopp at this point, but on the other, I have a nagging feeling that this series peaked with its first novel.

Thank you to Netgalley, Houghton Mifflin, and Amy Stewart for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

My review of Lady Cop Makes Trouble can be found HERE.  (I have not written a review of Girl Waits With Gun.)

top 5 tuesday: Spooky Books (+Films!) for Halloween

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

OCTOBER 10 – Top 5 spooky reads for Halloween!

For someone who likes horror as much as I do, I surprisingly do not read much horror.  I think it’s probably because I don’t see it recommended very often in the online bookish circles that I follow, so a lot of it just flies under my radar?  Well, anyway.  Here are 4 horror novels and 1 just sort of ~atmospheric one.  (Also, my omission of Stephen King is due to the fact that I’ve never actually read anything by him.  Oops.)

594139Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  Let’s get the non-horror out of the way.  I seem to talk about this book a lot, but only because it’s so good.  Rebecca is an atmospheric, Gothic novel about a young woman who marries a rich man whose mysterious, alluring dead ex-wife Rebecca exerts a certain pull over their lives.  It’s not a ghost story, but it is haunting in a more psychological way, and the creepy setting of the Manderly estate makes for an excellent book to read around this time of year.

27833617The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon.  Set in an abandoned motel in rural Vermont, this is obviously a book that I had to check out.  This is an eerie, creepy, suspenseful paranormal horror book that isn’t the least bit gruesome, so if you like your horror light on the gore, this is a perfect book for that.  While I did have a few criticisms by the end, I ultimately thought it was ridiculously entertaining, and genuinely frightening at times.

32796253Final Girls by Riley Sager.  Another one that I’ve talked about a lot, but I promise it’s a quick, engaging read that is well worth checking out.  This mystery/thriller novel is more of a love letter to the horror genre than a proper horror novel in its own right, but the flashback scenes set in a cabin in the woods are properly chilling.  This is a novel which follows a young woman, Quincy, the sole survivor of a brutal massacre that left several of her friends dead years ago.  The problem is, she can’t remember what happened that night.

27997200The Silent Children by Amna K. Boheim.  This is a fantastically entertaining modern-day ghost story set in Vienna, filled to the brim with dark family secrets.  It follows the story of a young man, Max, who discovers some unsavory details about his family’s past, including flashbacks to World War II era Vienna.  I’ll admit that I had a slow start with this book, but once it hits its stride about 20% in, it’s almost impossible to put down.

51xb75isx7l-_sx343_bo1204203200_The Last Night at Tremore Beach by Mikel Santiago.  This is a vaguely paranormal mystery set on the idyllic Irish coast, as renowned composer Peter Harper decides to spend some time on his own following a messy divorce.  One night as he makes his way home during a storm, Peter is struck by lightning, and in the events that follow, dreams and reality begin to blur as he attempts to save his family from an impending crime.  This is another highly entertaining novel that’s easy to fly through in a couple of hours.


BONUS: I may be a book blog, but I love horror movies.  Hands down the best part of Halloween tbh.  Rather than making a separate post for this, I thought I’d just tack these on here.  So here are some of my favorites!

p12732076_p_v8_aaHush (2016)
Directed by: Mike Flanagan.
Starring: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr.

Hush is a subversive twist on the slasher genre… it starts with the ‘woman alone in a cabin in the woods being terrorized’ premise, but slowly progresses into something so much better.  The main character, played by Kate Siegel, is deaf, and she uses her deafness to her advantage to fight back against the man who’s psychologically torturing her.  It’s amazing and also terrifying… I would not advise that you watch this alone if you live in a cabin in the woods.

teaser_poster_for_2017_film_get_outGet Out (2017)
Directed by: Jordan Peele.
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams.

On this list, I’d say that Get Out is the least scary film, so if you like psychological thrillers more than flat-out horror, I can’t recommend this highly enough.  I’m sure everyone knows the premise since it was getting so much buzz earlier this year, but briefly – an African American man goes to visit his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend, and… things get creepy.  It’s a really socially relevant film, but also weirdly humorous and incredibly well made.

mv5bmmu0mjblyzytzwy0mc00mjlilwi3zmutmzhlzdvjmwvmywy4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_It Follows (2014)
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell.
Starring: Maika Monroe.

It Follows is a paranormal horror film about this supernatural entity that follows a group of teenagers around after they have sex.  It’s better than I’m making it sound, I swear.  Basically, if you have sex with someone who’s come into contact with this demon thing, it follows you everywhere, but it can only walk at one pace and in a straight line – so you can run from it, but it always catches up with you eventually.

the_witch_posterThe Witch (2015)
Directed by: Robert Eggers.
Starring: Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson.

Set in 17th century New England, The Witch is a paranormal horror film, focused on one family who suspect their daughter (played by the stellar Anya Taylor Joy) of witchcraft.  One thing I wish I’d known going into this film is that it’s written in period-appropriate dialogue, including the likes of ‘thou hast,’ etc, you basically feel like you’re at a Shakespeare play – and it takes some getting used to, but the overall result is done incredibly well.

p8694014_p_v8_acThe Woman in Black (2012)
Directed by: James Watkins.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds.

I’m sure every Harry Potter fan knows about The Woman in Black, but I had to include it, as it’s one of my all-time favorites.  Adapted from the novel by Susan Hill, it’s a downright terrifying ghost story set at a haunted estate in an English village.  I tried to get my dad to watch this with me once and he only lasted about ten minutes.

What are some of your favorite horror films and novels?  Comment and let me know!  I need some recommendations! 

stage review: Merrily We Roll Along

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Mark Umbers (left) and Damian Humbley (right) in Huntington Theatre Company’s Merrily We Roll Along.  Photo credit @ huntingtontheatre.org

On Thursday, I got very exciting news.  I found out that one of the best theatre productions I have had the pleasure of seeing – Maria Friedman’s 2012-13 London production of Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along – has randomly been revived for a brief stint in Boston at the Huntington Theatre Company.  And not only that, but two of the three leads – Mark Umbers (Frank) and Damian Humbley (Charley) – would be reprising their roles from London.  I was already going to be in Hartford this weekend to see the Les Miserables tour, so I figured, a detour to Boston can’t hurt, right?  So that same night my friends and I bought tickets for the Sunday matinee of Merrily, which is the best spontaneous decision I have made in a long time.

I love this production with all my heart.  So does Sondheim.  He was quoted as saying “This production of Merrily We Roll Along is not only the best I’ve seen, but one of those rare instances where casting, direction, and show come together in perfect combination, resulting in the classic ideal of the sum being greater than the parts.”  I mean… I’m not sure what I can say on top of that, but I’ll do my best.

Merrily We Roll Along follows the story of three friends – Frank, Charley, and Mary – told in a backwards timeline.  Once inseparable, these three friends begin the story no longer on speaking terms, and over the course of the musical which spans twenty years, we slowly uncover everything that went wrong between them.  One recurring line is “how did you get to be here, what was the moment?” – this is a story about changing over time, growing apart from people, having to live with the decisions you’ve made.  Though it begins with an upbeat jazzy overture, this is the kind of story that gets under your skin and slowly but surely rips your heart out.

This production is an example of near-perfect casting.  The core trio work flawlessly together – they’re somehow able to manufacture the kind of easy chemistry that only comes from having known people for twenty years.  Eden Espinosa (known for having played Elphaba in Wicked) shines as the cynical and grounded Mary Flynn.  Even though she hadn’t worked with Mark Umbers and Damian Humbley in London, her performance fit this production like a glove.  Other noteworthy newcomers were Aimee Doherty as the glamorous and seductive Gussie, and Jennifer Ellis as Frank’s ex-wife Beth.

But it’s Mark Umbers and Damian Humbley that stand out to me, if only because this was my second opportunity to witness these stunning performances, and both seemed to pick up exactly where they left off with these roles back in 2013.  With the role of Charles Kringas, Damian Humbley strikes the right balance of humility and impatience – he’s consistently engaging to watch and his rendition of “Franklin Shepard, Inc” is an absolute tour de force.

Though this story is ostensibly about these three friends, it’s Franklin Shepard at the center – charismatic, charming, talented, fickle, sell-out Frank – and Mark Umbers carries off his performance with aplomb.  The reverse journey this character goes on is chronicled with such subtlety and sincerity – his posture and mannerisms slightly changing with each new stage of his life – that you find yourself believing for a second that this 44-year-old man is actually the 20-year-old that he plays by the end of the musical.  It’s a performance that’s wholly captivating in every sense of the word.  It’s the one that’s stayed with me the most since I saw this production in June 2013, and seeing him work his magic on stage again yesterday was a phenomenal experience.

Though the music with its recurring motifs drives this story forward (or backward, I guess), I don’t think you need to be a musical aficionado to connect with it.  If you’re someone who appreciates good performances and a story that’s both entertaining and deeply unsettling, I promise it is worth the trek to Boston.  I cannot recommend this production highly enough.  I only wish it were playing longer!

Also – thank you to Steph and Chelsea for being crazy enough to go along with my last minute Boston detour.  I’m so glad you guys also loved it.

Merrily We Roll Along is playing through Sunday, October 15 at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.  Buy tickets here – there are excellent discounts available for students and anyone under 35!

2017 Nobel Prize in Literature – Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ll be honest, I don’t diligently follow the Nobel Prize, and I didn’t have much of an opinion about Bob Dylan being the recipient last year beyond ‘huh?’

But this year it went to one of my all-time favorite authors, so I’m pretty thrilled.  Congratulations, Kazuo Ishiguro!

I’ve read all of his novels and a few stories out of Nocturnes.  I find his prose style to be mesmerizing and subtle; poignant and heart-wrenching, but almost paradoxically restrained.  The unique style he achieves is absolutely masterful.  He likes to revisit themes of the passage of time, the fallibility of memory, questions of mortality… his novels are all melancholy and striking.  I think he’s a really unique talent, and I am very happy to see him recognized for it.

Have you guys read anything by Ishiguro?  What’s your favorite novel of his?  And how do you feel about him taking home the Nobel Prize in Literature?  Comment and let me know!

book review: The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

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THE END WE START FROM by Megan Hunter
★★★
Grove Atlantic, 2017

The End We Start From is Station Eleven meets Exit West – a literary soft apocalypse refugee story set in a near-future Great Britain. Except, it’s a pared down, sort of anemic version of both of those novels. It was well written, but for the most part left me cold.

This novella doesn’t use names and doesn’t fixate on details – instead it’s about humanity, the connections we make, the ways we adapt to change. Although Megan Hunter does an impressive job at delving into these themes in so short a story, there was too much left unsaid for me to be able to really connect with this on an emotional level. London is submerged underwater, the unnamed narrator gives birth to a baby, she and her husband are separated, and I should care, but I don’t.

Hunter’s prose is worth mentioning as it is undoubtedly this novella’s biggest strength. It’s poetic and lyrical, incisive and creative… but strong prose isn’t enough to elevate this past 3 stars. Bottom line: I finished this book and thought ‘what exactly was the point of that?’ There just wasn’t anything particularly unique or innovative about this story. Reading these 160 pages wasn’t an entirely unpleasant way to spend my time, but I can’t say it made much of an impression on me. I have a feeling that when I look through the books I read in 2017 at the end of the year, I’m going to see this one and say ‘wait, what was that again?’

Thank you to Netgalley, Grove Atlantic, and Megan Hunter for the electronic copy provided in exchange for an honest review.