Wednesday, 9 May 2012

This Week's Reads

A combination of bad weather and not much going on has given me the chance to read a couple more books this weeks. And what a contrasting pair they were!

The first, The Personal History Of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber is an American novel set in the South Dakota Badlands around the time of the first world war. Rachel DuPree is the wife of a rancher who is struggling against impossible conditions to be successful. The novel opens brilliantly with the couple's desperate attempts to recover water from the bottom of their dried up well. This sets the tone of the challenges they face throughout the book. But Rachel, with a houseful of children in tow and another on the way has far more to cope with than the drought that is scorching the earth and killing their crops and livestock. She and husband Isaac are black and with that comes the additional hardship of prejudice from both  the sparse population of whites and also from the local native Americans. 

It is a compelling read and beautifully written. The relationship between Rachel and Isaac is in no way a classic love story but has more in common with the relationships we see in eighteenth and nineteenth century literature where marriage is more often a matter of convenience rather than the result of true affection and this is the strength of the novel. Instead of simply watching two people fighting the elements together we see the inner turmoil of Rachel as she balances her feelings for her husband with her love for her children. 

The book is a fascinating study both of a rare subject (black American landowners) and of racial prejudice and it is the latter that makes it stand out as far more than a fictional misery memoir and more of a memorable novel. It's five stars from me.

The second read this week is Star Fish by Nicola May. As a granddad in my late fifties I am not exactly the target audience for this but Nicola is one of the authors I follow on Twitter and, when she tweeted special offers on her books last week I supported her and downloaded them. As you can guess from the cover, it's a romance like Build A Man by Talli Roland another on my Twitter list that I reviewed on here a month or two back. 

Amy is a woman in her early thirties looking for love. Keen on astrology; she joins a dating agency that specialises in finding partners who are astrologically compatible and then goes through the Zodiac in her quest to find Mr Right or a "sole" mate to her Piscean ways. It's a well written book aimed at fun loving (i.e booze and sex loving) females and I think that if you fall into that category you will find it a good laugh. For an old bloke who in his teens thought a peck on the cheek on the first date might be pushing it a bit it's a lesson in how times have changed as Amy has plenty of sex with a string of Mr Wrongs before she finds her Mr Right. She's crude, she's rude, she's quite outrageous but at the same time vulnerable and I can see the book being a big success for the audience it's aiming for. As someone who liked most of the characters that Amy considered rubbish dates I'm glad that I did my courting in the sixties and early seventies as I wouldn't have stood a chance in her world. I hope that it's a big hit for Nicola. She even made an old curmudgeon laugh a few times.

I'll leave you today with the song by Clare Teal that moved Marion to tears on Sunday evening.