Since I have joined Kat with a K’s Summer Reading Program, I feel I ought to give updates a bit more often than once a month. So I figured I’d aim for a post on the books of the week (or, in this case, fortnight).
So far this month, I have read:
Pericles, by William Shakespeare
From the Shakespeare Theatre (because the book jacket is lame): “Pericles begins in Antioch, where Prince Pericles of Tyre must unravel a riddle to win the hand of a princess. But when Pericles discovers King Antiochus and his daughter’s terrible secret, he must flee for his life. Pericles sets sail—traveling from kingdom to kingdom—falling in love with a princess (Thaisa) and conceiving a child (Marina). After a terrible storm strikes their ship at sea, father, mother and daughter are separated. ”
Why this book? The Shakespeare Theatre was performing Pericles as its Free for All performance and I’d never read it. A few years ago, Karen, Rudi, Michael, and I went to see a performance of a Shakespeare history play that I hadn’t read and it was very confusing. I recognized Falstaff and the king of England and eventually figured out that another character must have been the French king, but it was a less than ideal play-watching experience. I didn’t want to be caught out again, so I read the first four acts before we saw the play. (I finished the final act today, since it’s always nice to be surprised by the ending of a play when you’re seeing it for the first time.)
My take: Pericles is a lesser-known Shakespearean play for a reason. The first half is believed to have been written by another playwright and it’s all based on an epic poem by the 14th century poet Gower (who appears as the narrator in the play (although not in the staged version we saw)). Apparently the story was well-known at the time, but it was definitely full of unrealistic melodrama by today’s standards. I mean with two assassination attempts, incest, a shipwreck, a birth and death at sea, a pirate attack, a brothel, and slavery in its slim 163 pages, it packs almost as much action in as a soap opera episode. The story at the heart of the play is a sweet one, nonetheless, and the ending is happy. The whole story is far-fetched, but it’s fiction and allowed. Worth reading if you haven’t already.
Hoot, by Carl Hiassen
From the book jacket: “Roy Eberhardt is used to the new-kid drill. His family has lived all over, and Florida bullies are pretty much like bullies everywhere. But Roy finds himself oddly indebted to the hulking Dana Matherson. If Dana hadn’t been mashing his face against the school bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is the first interesting thing Roy’s seen in Florida. . . . Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy’s trail. The chase will introduce him to some other intriguing Floridian creatures: potty-trained alligators, a sinister pancake PR man, some burrowing owls, a fake-fart champion, a renegade eco-avenger, and several poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails.”
Why this book? I was in the kids’ room at the library and this popped out at me. I knew it had recently been made into a movie and that the book had good pre-movie hype, so I thought it might be time to check it out.
My take: Somehow Hiassen’s name makes me think of gross-out books and I don’t know why. Maybe his adult books are less appetizing? But this story was sweet and reminded me a bit of Louis Sacher’s Holes, but without the prison element or the magical realism. Essentially it focuses on how you develop a personal code of ethics and how far you take it. I really liked the main character who seemed to be an average sort of teen boy with a bit too much curiosity for his own good. Worth a read as well as a good gift for a young person in your life.
The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”, by C.S. Lewis
From the book jacket: “How King Caspian sailed through magic waters to the End of the World”
Why this book? As you might have seen in the earlier issues, I’ve been re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia since the movie came out last winter.
My take: The Narnian characters go sailing! Yes, there are a few other things going on the book — slavery, a child being turned into a dragon, invisible people — but it’s pretty much just Narnia on water. Not as good as the original.
Gatsby’s Girl, by Caroline Preston
From the book jacket: “Just as Jay Gatsby was haunted by Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald was haunted by his own great first love — a Chicago socialite named Ginevra. Alluring, capricious, and ultimately unavailable, she would become his first muse, the inspiration for such timeless characters as Gatsby’s Daisy and Isabelle Borgé in This Side of Paradise. . . . Now, in this richly imagined and ambitious novel, Preston deftly evokes the entire sweep of Ginevra’s life — from her first meeting with Scott to the second act of her sometimes charmed, sometimes troubled life.”
Why this book? I read an excerpt on NPR’s website and thought it seemed like it had potential.
My take: I liked it. Ginevra starts off as your stereotypical debutante — spoiled, rich, and willful. But as time goes on she becomes more than that. She grows — through her reading of Fitzgerald’s books, through seeing herself as a Peter Pan-type of spoiled heroine, and through hearing of Fitzgerald’s frustrated life. By the very end of the book, you feel that she’s grown in ways that Fitzgerald was never capable of — and perhaps in ways that he never realized one could grow.
Total: 4 books, 981 pages