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Lessons by Ian McEwan
Young Roland, far from his family, is seduced by his piano teacher, Miriam, and this torques the trajectory of his life ever after. A quarter-century later, his wife, a writer, decamps, leaving him alone with their infant son. He feels every historical shift acutely, like Chernobyl and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and has never found his true vocation. Further down the line he finally makes his first deep connection. McEwan weaves personal narrative in a broader context which provides an intense, immersive reading experience.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
From pre-Civil war Kentucky to present day, this astonishing historical novel tackles horse racing and race, inextricably intertwined. Young Jarret, a slave, has a preternatural bond with Lexington, an extraordinary horse. An artist is hired to capture their images and these obscure paintings are discovered in our time by an art historian and a scientist studying equine anatomy. Jarret has great skill, dedication, and deep intelligence, all of which enable him to survive a brutal, racist milieu. Very well researched and a wonderful depiction of the bond that can grow between man and beast.
The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy
This new novel was breathtaking and deeply confusing in turn. The protagonist, Bobby Western, is a deep-sea diver who comes across a sunken plane in which one of the passengers is missing, Where could he be? The government is very interested and makes Bobby’s life so difficult he has to go on the lam. They also seem to be searching for documents from his parents who worked on the making of the atomic bomb.
Bobby’s sister, a schizophrenic ghost, has bizarre visitations. Mathematics and quantum physics are involved. Some passages are abstruse, others down to earth, profane, often very funny. Stylistic quirks: no apostrophes for contracted words like don’t, and no quotes for dialogue. I had to look up a number of words; how does McCarthy know so much in so many areas? I made one pass through the book but will try again when I have more time. A tour de force, for sure.
Less Is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer
When Arthur Less, a writer, learns that the house he shares with his partner Freddy is to be sold, he has to raise cash fast. Thus he embarks on a crazy cross-country speaking tour arranged by his agent which deposits him in all sorts of absurd and fascinating situations. Like accompanying a traveling theater company which is performing one of his stories, word for word. A tip of the hat to Cervantes—the old campervan he gets around in is named Rosina. Lots of literary allusions and words I had to look up. Smart and funny—a delicious combination.