Book Reviews: What's on my bedside table?

Monday, January 25, 2010

No matter how fast I read, the stack on my bedside table always gets out of control. Right now I'm reading an interesting mix of books. I just finished the Pulitzer-Prize winning play "Dinner With Friends," "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "Great Expectations" (reviews below). I'm in the middle of "The Color Purple" and am finishing up "The Portable Dorothy Parker." It looks like this is going to be a great year for reading.

Dinner With Friends
by Donald Margulies

The story follows two married couples in their 40s. Gabe and Karen, happily married with kids, and Tom and Beth, who are in the midst of getting a divorce. The play paints an intimate portrait of marriage and friendship. The play is really well done, giving glimpses of each of the characters' true feelings, which aren't always pretty.

It was interesting to read the play as a newlywed. It almost felt like a cautionary tale. But the portrayal of the two couples also reminded me that marriage is work, a lot of work and you need to treat your partner with the respect they deserve if you want your marriage to last.

Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens

I've had a interesting relationship with Dickens over the years. I've really enjoyed some of his books (A Tale of Two Cities) and didn't like others (Oliver Twist), but Great Expectations is the first that I've truly loved.

The plot follows Pip from his time as a young orphan through his maturing into a young gentleman. All of the main characters are deeply flawed: the violent criminal Magwitch, selfish Miss Havisham, haughty Estella. But each of them has redeeming qualities or aspects of their lives the reader can identify or sympathize with.

In addition to that, the plot is so richly developed that, though at its core it's a coming of age story, it feels so much more complicated than that. It was a book I could dive deeply into. Its lessons were diverse as well: the danger of refusing to open your heart to anyone, the importance of valuing the people who care for you, the unimportance of wealth in the large scheme of things. It's a book that resonates with readers for so many reasons. Great Expectations reminded me, once again, that sometimes books become classics for a reason.

The Girl Who Played With Fire
by Stieg Larsson

The book sucked me in immediately. At the end of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," the one thing I wanted to know more about is the character Lisbeth Salander. This book explores her world in much more details. The story is well-written, the characters are rich in detail, I was hooked. This is the second book in the Millennium trilogy and I would definitely recommend reading the first book before diving into this one. It was a great read!

The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga

The story is told through letters from a formerly poor Indian man named Balram. He has made his fortune and is now an entrepreneur, but to reach that level he killed his boss. He tells his story, starting with that piece of info. The telling was fresh and original. It was an interesting look at the caste system and corruption in India, but it never quite got me to feel deeply for the characters. It's a interesting was to tell the story, but in the end it fell flat to me.

Photo by moi.

1 comment:

Becca said...

That is too bad that The White Tiger's ending fell flat for you. I have been wanting to read that book for a year now. I still might read it for the Colorful Challenge for this year. I am fascinated with all stories taking place in India now that I have been there and my brother-in-law is from there.

I SO can't wait to read The Girl Who Played with Fire! I loved, loved, loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I want to know more about Lisbeth too!