I mentioned before that I have a hard time finding male authors I love. Ironically, most of the books I was assigned in school or for summer reading were by male authors and yet none of them (I've yet to re-read Catcher in the Rye, which libraries obviously don't carry enough copies of) had a lasting impression on me. Stubbornly, I made it my goal over the past few weeks to commit to a few classics or contemporary hits to see if I could finally find one I love. Here's what I picked...
Summary: Nick Carraway, a recent Ivy League graduate and vet of World War I, moves to the effervescent town of West Egg, Long Island and unknowingly takes up residence in a tiny rental home next to illusive millionaire, Jay Gatsby. After receiving a personal invitation to one of Gatby's famous soirées, Carraway finds himself mingling with stars, athletes, and the secret love interest of Gatsby himself- the very married Daisy Buchanan. Carraway eventually becomes less a bystander and more of an accomplice as Gatsby tries to win Daisy and cover his tracks in a suspicious crime.
What I Loved: The essence of the roaring 20's- from prohibition to style trends, the characters, and the language. It's a short and fairly shallow read, easy to pick up where you left off or finish in an afternoon.
Not So Much: Aside from the social context in which the book was written (a scandalous book about the 20's written in the 20's!) the story itself isn't anything spectacular. It's somewhat predictable, somewhat patchy at times, and Fitzgerald's style makes it feel like you're reading one long metaphor.
Summary: Told from the perspective of a family's Golden Retriever, Enzo, who shares his owner's love of car racing and his observations of his family's experience with death and loss.
What I loved: Enzo was painfully loyal, as all dogs are, to his owner and his insight on human interaction and experience is direct and poignant- he sees it as it is and doesn't try to sugarcoat things with reasoning and validation as we tend to.
Not So Much: Overall, the book was depressing. I had a hard time wanting to finish it and there wasn't anything deeply satisfying about the story. Nothing about the characters, language, or plot evoked any powerful emotion in me. I wouldn't read it again.
Summary: During World War I, an American soldier, Frederic Henry, fighting for the Italian army falls in love with an English nurse, Catherine Barkley, who cares for him in hospitals throughout the region. Narrated by Henry, a blunt, no-frills "man's-man" ("Am I shot? Give me whiskey!"), the story spans the length of the war and promises the hope and happiness of freedom lying beyond the border.
What I Loved: The language was true to Hemingway's style- direct and brash, not the flowery, overly romanticized poetry of other authors at the time. At times it felt like reading a script for a play instead of a novel, so thinking of the text as one long conversation or letter made it a bit easier to follow.
Not So Much: I hated knowing beforehand that he wrote this story during or as the result of the affair he had on his first wife with the woman who he eventually married next (See The Paris Wife). Perhaps because of this, all of the characters, for lack of a better word, seemed dumb and selfish- no single person stood out as the hero or heroine or protagonist. Frederic is as non-committal as Hemingway was, Catherine is manipulative and naiive, and the other host of secondary characters seemed like filler with no major plot turns or twists.