Sunday, April 18, 2010

Three novels, but not a single recommendation

Maile Meloy's short story collection, Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It, was one of the best books that I read last year. A Family Daughter, a 2006 novel by Meloy, won't be among my favorites in 2010.

It's an odd little novel. Ostensibly about a young California woman and her family there's an odd interlude in South American involving a beautiful, wealthy and narcissistic woman, her mother and her mother's adopted child.

There is the merest suggestion of the muscular writing and powerful insight Meloy displays in her story collection, but its only echoes. Unless you are interested in tracing the arc of a writer's growth, take a pass on A Family Daughter.

+ + +

Franklin Pierce by Michael F. Holt is another biography in the sterling Americans Presidents series by Times Books. There are other biographies on Pierce, a one-term President known more for his handsome appearance than his leadership, but I'm not familiar with any.

Holt's work, like Pierce's presidency, is not among the best in the series, but it's worth a day or two, and a 150-odd pages, to read this biography simply to know something about one of our more obscure presidents.

+ + +

I feel doubly cheated by Connie Willis' time travel novel, Blackout. For one, there's not much science in the science fiction. Blackout is largely the story of three historians trapped in London in the early days of World War II. That's fine, but if I wanted to read a history of WW II that's what I would have turned to, rather than a science fiction novel.

Why the three are trapped in the past is the second reason that I feel cheated. After almost 500 pages I discovered that Blackout is the first of two novels. I might have read Blackout in any case, but I certainly would have set it aside until this fall when its companion novel is scheduled for release.

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