Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Special: 3 Book Reviews (Let the Great World Spin, The World to Come, Attachments

I confess...I'm waiting on four freebie books (3 Harper, 1 Goodreads contest) and was sad the mail-lady didn't bring any today.  I used to regularly mix in re-reads but haven't lately given the Harper books and the deals I can score on Amazon's used books.  I'll venture down to the shelves tonight though, especially since I have three newly read books to bring down.

The tie that binds the characters in Let the Great World Spin is a daring (and illegal) stunt in which a man walked on a tightrope strung between the Twin Towers in 1974.  The book has a wide-range of characters including two Irish brothers living in a rough Bronx neighborhood, a wealthy woman who lost her son in Vietnam, and a prostitute who is a grandmother to two despite only being in her 30s.  The chapters focus on different characters but they do connect up to each other so it feels more liked linked vignettes than short stories.

I'm landing back on my 3.5 star rating here, rounding up to 4.  I enjoyed the book.  I think it is natural in this type of novel to find some characters more compelling than others and I did sometimes regret not spending more time with some of them.  This isn't a happy read, although there are some inspiring moments.  I'd call it gritty realism with a hint of hope.  At times, I felt like it dragged but there were parts where I definitely looked forward to the next time I could pick it up.  Mixed feelings but still worth the read and I rounded up because I do think the author shows skill and took on an ambitious project that is not just the standard fare.
This book has a bit of history in it.  In 2001, a small piece by Chagall was stolen from the Jewish Museum in NYC during a singles happy hour.  The author takes this theft and creates a fictional story around it.  The story does include some history, including a look at Chagall's life in Russia in the 1920s and an author with whom his path crossed but whose future turned out very different than Chagall's successful career.  The fictional art thief is a recently divorced man with a rich family history that the reader sees as the focus shifts among a number of focal characters.  Throughout, there is a backdrop of Yiddish folklore, including a lovely story about the divot between a baby's nose and upper lip (I wonder if I'm alone in repeatedly touching my own lip dimple while reading). 

This is a strong four stars for me, possibly even four and a half.  It is a complex novel in that there are many interrelated characters, but it also feels like a simple little story at the same time.  I loved Horn's writing and the weaving of the folklore through the tale.  It is a rare novel that can make me root for an art thief (not that I condone his actions....though they do get placed in context)!  A great mix of historical fiction and modern characters that I enjoyed immensely.  Recommend to literature lovers, especially any with a curiosity about folklore and the way we carry the past with us.

It is unusual for a novel that borders on chick-lit to have a male lead and perhaps that's why I'm not sure if the chick lit label fits here.  I saw another review calling it a plane read and I can get behind seeing it as plane or beach fare.  The book is set in 1999 when a Midwest paper is tentatively moving into the digital age and hires an IT security guy tasked with keeping an eye on internet usage more than on our more modern concerns of online privacy invasion.  Lincoln's job includes reading flagged emails and issuing warnings on misuse, including the use of email for personal chats.  He finds himself wrapped up in the emails exchanged by two women (all the main characters seem to be late 20s) and continues to read the emails without sending a caution and with increasing guilt over the invasion as he finds himself falling for one of the women.  The novel encompasses all three as they grow into the next stage of their lives negotiating family, relationships, and potential parenthood.

This is a three star read for me.  I think it does what it should and what it is intended to do.  It is a fun book and you can forgive some of the magic that is often associated with rom-com movies.  Nothing too deep but enjoyable.  I enjoy sometimes taking a break from more serious reads and this fit the bill but it also isn't quite on the level of Good in Bed or Bridget Jones. 

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