Category Archives: Books to Read on Planes

But What Does She Look Like?

November 4, 1936

(HARRIET AT ZERO)

Here you come, Harriet Nathan, tiny face pinched, eyes squinting fiercely against the glare of surgical lamps, at a newly renovated Swedish hospital, high on Seattle’s First Hill.

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

Once again transcribing the first sentences of a book I just finished shows me something I either missed or forgot while reading the book. It was somewhere around page 8 that I started wondering if the story was taking place in Seattle; specifically, was the store Frederick & Nelson in other places in the country that also had a Fourth Street and Union Street that intersected? But there it was in the very first sentence. Oh well, that is not what I came here to record.

I liked the books’ structure, and the title’s reference to the old TV show was perfect, but I’m a sucker for short chapters and non-linear storytelling. There were a few times that I felt something for the characters and a few times I was surprised by something, but maybe not enough.

Harriet, in my mind’s eye, was a generic “little old lady.” I couldn’t picture her, not at 78, not at 36, not at 18, etc. Mr. Evison gave her a personality, I should have given her a face and maybe then I would have been more invested.

Even in a non-linear story, it helps to have a beginning point – a time the story is moving forward from so that you can watch characters grow or learn, or something. I expect that was supposed to start on page 10, when we first meet Harriet at 78. But, other than getting soundly stepped on a few times, I don’t think Harriet changed between April 6, 2015 (when we first meet her) and August 26, 2015 (when we say goodbye). For me, in the end the entire story felt like something that had already happened, was completely set, and we were just revisiting to find out why Harriet was Harriet.

Rereading that first sentence and the first two chapters, I start to think more about the story. Maybe I should reread it again at some point in the future, perhaps it is the sort of book that once you stop wondering what is going to happen next, you slow down and get something completely different out of it.

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Filed under Books to Read on Planes, I Need To Read This Again, This Book Would Make A Great Movie

I’ll Finish It On My Next Trip

…Dear Committee Members, Over the past twenty-odd years I’ve recommended god only knows how many talented candidates for the Bentham January residency – that enviable literary oasis in the woods south of Skowhegan: the solitude, the pristine cabins, the artistic camaraderie, and those exquisite hand-delivered satchels of apples and cheese… Well, you can scratch all prior nominees and pretenders from your mailing lists, because none is as provocative or as promising as Darren Bowles.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

From the book flap:

“…this droll and inventive novel uses to tell (the) tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that he is endlessly called upon by this students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.”

As a fan of ‘inventive’ story-telling, I had to pick this up, and I’m betting it is as good as all the reviews say but I can’t say yet if that is true. This isn’t a book to be read slowly and savored, a chapter (or a letter) a night; it should be read in one sitting or, at most, over one weekend.

I read the first 5 letters with great enjoyment, but then it was a few days before I had time to read again and starting with the 6th letter after even that short period of time, wasn’t working. Therefore, I am considering this book for 2017 Brooklyn Book Group recommendation as well as a top choice for my next flight.

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Filed under Book Club Book Ideas, Books to Read on Planes

All In The Perspective?

Five hours of flying is much better with a good book, a story in to which immerse yourself. On the first leg of my trip, a two hour flight, it seemed I had made a good choice. I had easily read the first 200 pages of Delicious, I was completely engrossed, and looking forward to the next flight, another two hours, when I was sure I’d finish the book.

But then I got to the gate… I couldn’t find the book! I was crushed, I didn’t want to wait to find out what happened Billie, Lulu, and the rest of Ruth Reichl’s characters.

After I’d landed, checked in to the hotel, and turned on my computer, I went straight to Amazon and ordered an inexpensive used copy to have waiting for me when I returned home from this four day trip. It would be a delayed resolution, but it was the fastest way I could get resolution.

A week later I was happy to sit down to finish reading the story. But something had changed. The characters were a little flat, the story too improbable, too pat. Where had the Billie’s personality gone? Why was Sammy now a caricature?

Is this what some people mean when they talk about summer reading?

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Filed under Books to Read on Planes