Monday, April 15, 2024

What I'm Reading This Week (April 15, 2024)


Seldom does my week go as far off course as this last one did, and it all started just two days after I posted my reading plan for that week. A routine doctor's appointment turned into two days of outpatient testing that I won't be getting answers from for another two weeks, but at least there was enough sitting around time in waiting rooms during the week for me to get a fair amount of reading done. As a result, I finished two novels that I really enjoyed: Eileen Garvin's Crow Talk and the 2023 Booker Prize winner, Paul Lynch's Prophet Song. That leaves me beginning this new week still messing around with a couple of books I seem to have informally tabled for a while (The Plague and Many a River) while also having made good progress on another, the Rebus novel A Heart Full of Headstones. I've also started two new ones that came out of nowhere to claim my attention: Forbidden Notebook by Italian author Alba de C├ęspedes and The Man Who Smiled by Swedish author Henning Mankell.

The Man Who Smiled is the fourth novel in Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallender series. I'm a fan of both television series featuring Wallender (one is in Swedish, the other in BBC English), but for one reason or another I've never actually read one of the books. Fortunately, I'm pretty hazy on the all the plot details of the TV shows by now, but I still retain a clear enough impression of the Wallender character that I have a little bit of a jumpstart when it comes to getting right into the books almost immediately. This one already strikes me as being very good. 

Forbidden Notebook first saw life as a serial novel published in an Italian magazine between December 1950 and June 1951. The edition I'm reading is this 2023 Ann Goldstein translation published by Astra House. The "forbidden" aspect of the notebook is that the woman who purchases it does so illegally by insisting that it be sold to her on a Sunday at a time when only tobacco could be sold in Italy on a Sunday morning...cigarettes being so essential a product, you know. But now she has to keep its existence a secret from her husband and children because she doesn't want them laughing at a woman her age (43) keeping a private diary. The very process of putting her innermost thoughts down on paper makes her reassess her life completely.

Those are the five books I expect (whatever that's worth) to be spending the most time with this week, but I've also just acquired a couple of other interesting ones:

Displaced Persons seems like an especially timely read to me considering everything that is happening in and around Israel today. I've read Joan Leegant before and enjoyed her writing, so I'm looking forward to this collection of short stories, about half of which occur in Israel, the other half in the U.S. The world is, of course, a very complicated place for all of us to live in, but I can't imagine anyone under more pressure right now than the people of Israel and those who have family living and working there. Displaced Persons is not scheduled for publication until June 1, so this one may end up sliding two or three weeks more. 

I wish I could remember what first brought Amy Jo Burns's Mercury to my attention, but it was on hold for so long at the library that I've forgotten where I learned of it. It's a strange coming-of-age story about a seventeen-year-old girl who comes to Mercury, PA, all on her own to start a new life and ends up being the glue that holds a family of three roofing brothers together after they lose their mother and their family roofing business starts to fall apart around them. It has a certain amount of mystery involved, too, but I'll know more about all of that when I pick it up in a day or so. 

I do still have another handful of library books that are aging rapidly, and I might end up plucking one or two of those from that stack this week. That's the plan anyway, but life is, after all, one big surprise after another and I love the serendipitous things that happen along the way. I'll probably be just as surprised by what I end up reading as you are. (Happy Income Tax Day, America.)

18 comments:

  1. I hope your tests come back with good news.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jeane. It's a much longer wait than I had hoped for.

      Delete
  2. Waiting rooms are the worst. I'm sorry that was your week last week. Hope everything ends up being okay. And I'm curious about Mercury. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on that one if you get time to read it. Good luck this week! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I picked up Mercury on Monday morning and flipped through it. I like the feel of the book and the prose style I sampled, so I'm hopeful. Will definitely put it near the top of the "short stack." I finally remembered that I spotted it in the last Bookmarks Magazine.

      Delete
  3. Your last post caused me to add Prophet Song to my tbr list. The Forbidden Notebook and Mercury have both been on my radar, so I'll look forward to seeing what you make of them. Waiting for test results is tough... I hope your news is good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, JoAnn. The waiting is definitely the worst part of this type of thing - at least so far. I'll look forward to seeing what you think of Prophet Song. Forbidden Notebook has been a good experience to the halfway point now, and I'm curious to see how it all ends for the family central to the story. And Mercury has the looks of something I'll enjoy - and it has a very short library window for me to get started on it.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Nan. I'm hopeful that it's all early in the game, but that wait for results is getting on my nerves now.

      Delete
  5. Good luck for the results of your tests, Sam. Forbidden Notebook sounds very interesting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Cath. I appreciate that. Forbidden Notebook is very clever, I think, and it's what must be now considered an early feminist novel. It certainly doesn't read like something written in the early 1950s. I'm near halfway done reading it now.

      Delete
  6. I had a similar experience 6 or 7 years ago. I went to Urgent Care for one issue, and ended up having tests for something entirely different. I don't let myself get too anxious about things like that, but I can always tell that there is plenty of angst simmering inside of me while it is all going on. I don't envy you having to wait two weeks for results ...

    I have only read the first two books in the Wallander series, but I am guessing that you can read them out of order and it won't make much difference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracy, I suppose that's why some people (especially men) just don't go to the doctor at all until forced to. lol You're absolutely right about the anxiousness generated by the wait for results; I find myself thinking way too much about it all than is good for me.

      I vaguely remember the Wallander arch, so starting with book four is not much of a problem for me, but I don't know if that would be the case if I had not previously watched the two series. I do want to go back now and read book three to fill in the details that I'm sure were not included in the television shows. This one begins with Wallander on a mental health leave of absence, and while the reason for that is explained, I think it would be more impactful a story if I had read the one just before.

      Delete
  7. Hi Sam, Good luck on your test results. It's always better to go to the doctor as you have because many people never go at all and that's a mistake. I know though that waiting can be stressful and I wish you all the best.

    The Forbidden Notebook sounds very interesting because I love diaries and so I would be curious what the author has to say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kathy. It's all left me very distracted right now and I'm way behind on reviewing what I've been reading. I just want to lose myself in the books and quickly move on from one to the next without much of a pause. The first test results came in negative as hoped, but the bulk of them are still out there somewhere. May 1 can't get here quickly enough.

      I finished up Forbidden Notebook yesterday and was impressed by it. It reads like something that could have been written a lot more recently than 1951, and I can see why it's been republished.

      Delete
  8. Hoping for good results on your tests, Sam. I haven't read the Wallender series in years, and could probably start anywhere without remembering if I'd read it or not!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jenclair. I hadn't realized that the Wallander books were such procedurals (at least this one is), even to explaining Wallander's thought process and step-by-step take on solving a crime in great detail. I definitely want to keep reading them at this point.

      Delete
  9. That is a long time to wait for medical tests. Sending good thoughts your way! Reading is always a good distraction for me (in fact, some of my groceries accidentally defrosted this afternoon when I allowed myself "a few minutes with my computer" after several hours of shopping this afternoon).

    Constance

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Constance, it's a very long wait for sure, probably driven by the coordinating doctor's schedule as much as anything. I'm sure the results have been available to her for several days now but she also wants to wait this long before doing follow-up tests of her own on the same day I get the other results. I don't know what I would have done without having stacks of books to choose from. The time drags even with the reading, but I can't imagine it without it.

      Delete

I always love hearing from you guys...that's what keeps me book-blogging. Thanks for stopping by.