Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Reader's Haven

I'm in the midst of THREE books right now. Three nonfiction books, that is. I started one, then got my nook and started another and then I got a free review copy of another book, so obligated to get that going, i started that as well. So here's what I'm currently reading and how I'm feeling about each lovely novel.

  • "All Other Nights" by Dara Horn -- I started reading this quite some time ago and had to actually re-start it when I began again recently. I'm about 60 pages in, and aside from the confusion in transition between chapters 1 and 2, it's been pretty outstanding. The story is set during Civil War times and has a nice Jewish boy (or maybe not so nice) skipping out on his future nuptials for some war service. He gets an uncomfortable gig doing some uncomfortable (read: anti-semitic) work, but runs with it. That's about as far as I am, and it's a beautifully woven novel that moves incredibly fast. I'm still perplexed as to where the storyline is going, but being an immense fan of Dara Horn's "The World to Come," I'm incredibly hopeful. Here's hoping I'm not disappointed!

  • On my nook, I'm currently reading an amazing book called "The Invisible Bridge" by Julie Orringer. The problem is, I have a hard time putting it down, so it's on my bedside table, and I read it before going to bed each night, which actually has done wonders for helping to put me to sleep (can't say much for the staying asleep bit). It's a very fluid novel, save some of the parts that go into architectural mumbo jumbo that I just sort of breeze by. The focus of the novel is a Jewish gent from Budapest who heads to Paris for architectural school in pre-war times. He rallies around a group of Jewish fellows, falls for a mysterious woman with a scarred past, and eventually ends up back in Budapest (which is where I am now, and I still have a ton left to read, so I have no idea what's going to happen, so no worries about spoilers). The narrative and dialogue are brilliantly written, very period appropriate, and my only beef with the novel, as I said, is the random tangents on architectural stuff (also, sometimes the Jewishly peppered stuff seems forced). So, I know he's in architectural school and that the goings on at the Ecole d'Especial is very important, but the detail is a little obnoxious at times. I'm sort of mesmerized, however, with Orringer's attention to detail, and I'm really mystified as to where this novel is going, what with the war having started and me still having half the book left to read. The characters are so vivid, I feel like I'm walking the streets of Paris with them, eating at the same bars as them, and smelling the fresh bread they're purchasing. Pick this up, stat. 

  • The final book I'm reading is a review copy I got from the nice folks at Other Press LLC called "The Debba," which is the first novel of Avner Mandelman. Now, I picked this up after my nap on Shabbos and got about 22 pages in (we had guests, so my reading was slow and sporadic). At first glance, I was sort of horrified as to where this book was going (the word goy appears a bajillion times on the first page), not to mention that it's about an ex-IDF soldier who gave up his Israeli citizenship ... but, well, so far I'm impressed. The writing is far beyond my expectations, and the emotion floating behind each of the characters is palpable. I'm hopeful, but skeptical. I'm just hoping this doesn't turn into the all-too-often Jew being critical of Israel mumbo jumbo. I am, however, excited that it's a murder-mystery, which is a genre of which I've never been a fan.