The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy enticed me, as I’m guessing was the intent, by the thought that Darcy from Pride and Prejudice dies under mysterious circumstances. The novel quickly cleared this up when a family member dies and Mr. and Mrs. Darcy travel through the country to attend to the other Mr. Darcy’s estate and take care of some last wishes and the inheritance of Darcy.

Regina Jeffers sticks to the language and culture of Jane Austen’s novel, but this one is so dense and dripping with sugary romance. I think part of why Austen’s novels have held up so well is that the romance is secondary to the social commentary within her books. Jeffers does not accomplish this. I think she’s trying to make the crime the primary theme and the romance second, but I don’t think she succeeded. If I was more inclined to read romance novels, perhaps I would have appreciated this book more. And when I say romance, I mean the dime-back romance novels, not the Chick Lit romances that I do love.

Overall, it felt hard to read this book to the end.

Read August 2014.

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A Bridge to the Stars

Henning Mankell’s A Bridge to the Stars is about a young boy discovering the world around him. Joel Gustafson’s mother left him when he was much younger and this defined much of who he was at the age of 11. Joel’s father worked long hours at the lumber mill, but shared romantic stories of his former self as a sailor. Its hard to say if these stories are what provoked his nighttime adventures, or if it really was the dog wandering by at night.

Joel is a lonely kid who carried around his sense of abandonment and fear that his dad will leave him too. In gaining his own adventure stories while traversing his small, cold town in the middle of the night, Joel gains an insight into his neighbors that everyone around him misses. He develops friendships that change who he is at his core.

I read this novel almost 2 months ago now so many of the details of the story have escaped my memory, but the beauty and whimsy of the characters and writing has stayed with me. This book was written for a younger audience but it screams of a great writer. The words and story are beautifully told, which I was not expecting from the author of the Inspector Wallander series. This is such a departure from the crime novels where Mankell’s starkness of character and scene drive the depth of those stories. I feel silly writing this paragraph, but it really was the writing that carried me away.

I loved this novel so much, that I’ll probably end up reading it again. Its a quick, easy read, and the story really carries the reader the whole time.

Read July 2014

The Supreme Macaroni Company

I’ve read another novel by Adriana Trigiani and really love her strong female characters and the settings that she choses. In The Supreme Macaroni Company, Trigiani creates a small family village in the middle of Manhattan. Valentine Roncalli runs her family’s shoe company The Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village, one of the most crowded places in the world, and yet the space the characters inhabit feels like everyone knows everyone.

This is the 3rd novel about Valentine, but the first that I’ve read. Valentine comes from a very large, very immeshed family that runs from NYC to Jersey to Ohio and down to Argentina. This story focuses on Valentines romance and marriage to a much older Italian leather tanner, Gianluca Vechiarelli. While I loved the family dynamics and even the difficulties shown in a different cultured May-December relationship, I was very annoyed at the resolution to their problems. I don’t want to give the ending away, but it disappointed me. It felt like an easy out for the writer and made Valentine’s life easier while maintaining her love/romance with a much older man whose culture clashed with her beliefs and work ethic.

I haven’t read the other novels in this series, and there may be another one after this which would make this ending less contrived, but I don’t know if I want to read more about her exploits. This novel could be read for enjoyment except for the ending. It was disappointing.

Read August 2014.

Freakonomics

Steven D. Levitt is an economist. Stephen J. Dubner is a writer. Together they wrote Freakonomics. They take general ideas and prove whether their is any relationship between things that have nothing in common or things that seem to be related. For example, Levitt and Dubner proved that both teachers and Sumo wrestlers, both groups held in high esteem, will cheat based on the system set up for their success. They support the premise that allowing legal abortions had more to do with decreased crime rates in the 90’s than any other public policies. They support that a parent’s education has more do with a child’s success that any child rearing strategy out there.

While a lot of their facts were fascinating and captivated my attention, much of the book read like a economics textbook. I know they are very interested in their topics, as are many of the readers, but I thought it kept going much longer than my interest. This isn’t the first time I tried to read this book and I think I only finished because my book club chose it.

So I think most people who would gravitate to this book would be interested in portions or all of it. Its not a book that needs to be read from cover to cover. In fact, in retrospect, if I had read only chapters every few months, like articles in a magazine, I would probably have like the book more.

Read August 2014