Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows

Chamoiseau, Patrick. Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows. Translated by Linda Coverdale. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1988.

Reason read: October is the month to celebrate Magical Realism.

The spiritual awakenings of the long dead undead and the magical presence of the beam of everlasting moonlight across the wayward ocean of the Caribbean. Siloce, Hepla, Kouli, Mam Elo, Ti-Boute, Fefee Celie, Anatase, Ti-Choute, Bidjoule, and all the others thread their way through witchcraft markets teeming with childbirth and djobbers like Didon, Sirop, Pin-Pon, Lapochide, Sifilon and our hero, Pipi Soleil. It takes thirty pages to get to Pipi Soleil through abundant pregnancies and whatnot, but Pipi as as king of the wheelbarrow takes center stage. The first thing you need to understand is this is a story told by ghosts and witchcraft and moves back and forth through time as though sequence is of no matter, because it isn’t. Spanning thirty years from the mid 1940s to the mid 1970s, Martinique’s Fort-de-France teems full of djobbers, independent transporters of wares and Pipi Soleil rules them all. He once hauled his wares by boat but after one particularly stormy night he gave up the sea for a wheelbarrow. Even if the plot does not grab you, the lyrical writing will.

Confessional: I have said this before. I am not a good reader of magical realism. I find myself annoyed by the seemingly unrelated fantastical. Seems like more of a trick to me than a treat.

Lines I lived, “She was going to grab fate, she said, by a different end” (p 18), “the young couple made their love debut in this setting – which isn’t of the slightest importance” (p 29), and “She dumped out a big basket of weariness and brought laughter and smiles back form some lost corner of her mind” (p 85).

Author fact: Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows was Chamoiseau’s first novel.

Book trivia: Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows was first published in France in 1986.

Nancy said: Peal called Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows a “vivid” novel.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Contradictory Caribbean: Paradise and Pain” (p 55).


Lou Reed: Notes from the Velvet Underground

Confessional: I had a really hard time reading about Lou Reed. I had always heard stories about his despicable character and was hoping most of it was a lot of bunk; I wanted it to be that Lou felt he had to keep up a persona cultivated by his involvement with Andy Warhol and the drug infested 1960s. I was wrong. He was a dick seemingly from birth.
There is no doubt Sounes is very sympathetic towards Reed and his less than admirable character. He made excuses for his bad behavior throughout the entire book, calling Reed a “provocateur extraordinaire” as early as the high school years. It is very obvious Lou loved to push buttons early on and did not care in the very least about the consequences. It was if he had a bone to pick with the entire world and spent his entire life trying to get even. He was a troublemaker. He was mean. He acted strange. He was often cranky. Drugs made him even more paranoid than he naturally was. He was a chauvinist and had a thing against women. He welcomed violence against women and had a habit of smashing, shoving, smacking, slapping them. At times Sounes seems conflicted. He states Reed clearly meant to project an image by being a prick, but in the very same sentence admits Reed was the person he projected (p 160).
Reed and his “provocateur extraordinaire” personality aside, Sounes’s exhausted research and attention to detail jumps out of every page of the biography. You can smell the grit of New York’s grungy streets and feel the beer soaked stickiness of the music scene. Warhole, Nico, Bowie, Iggy…they all live and breathe with vibrancy in Lou Reed. It’s as if Sounes bottled their souls and that alone makes the read worth it.


Master of Hestviken: the Axe

Undset, Sigrid. The Master of Hestviken: the Axe. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.

Reason read: I needed something for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge. The category is women in translation.

Considered to be the companion to Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, The Master of Hestviken series tells the saga of Olav Audunsson in thirteenth century Norway. As a boy he was raised by a foster family. When you are first plunked down in the middle of the drama you meet Steinfinn, a young man who fell in love with a fair maiden named Ingebjorg. So far so good, except Ingebjorg was betrothed to someone named Mattias. Doesn’t matter. Steinfinn and Ingebjorg run away and live together as if they are man and wife. They soon have a family of three children, one of them being the beautiful Ingunn. In addition to their own children they foster a young lad by the aforementioned name of Olav Audunsson. Thus begins the romance of Ingunn and Olav. Both Olav and Ingunn’s fathers agreed the two would grow up to marry each other, but after Steinfinn passes the young couple are told it was only a game their fathers played and the betrothal is not real. Cue the violins, people. Olav commits murder with an axe named Kinfetch and that complicates things. He escapes punishment but in the meantime Ingunn is struck by some mysterious paralysis amid rumors of witchcraft. And the plot thickens. Especially when she becomes pregnant during Olav’s exile…

As an aside, I have to admit, thirteenth century drama is not my cup of tea. Luckily, The Master of Hestviken is chopped up into four books and each book is a little over 200 pages long.

Author fact: Undset was originally born in Denmark.

Book trivia: Master of Hestviken was originally published in one single volume and according to the inside flap, had been out of print in England until 1962.

Nancy said: The Axe is part of the series that Pearl considers Unset’s “other” masterpiece.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Norway: The Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162).


October Light

Gardner, John. October Light. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

Reason read: Autumn in New England is pretty fantastic. October Light takes place (mostly) in Vermont.

When I first picked up October Light I thought it was going to be this old-timey story about two elderly siblings, living in seething resentment of one another in a farmhouse somewhere in Vermont. Admittedly, the book jacket didn’t give me much to go on.
So, the plot: James Page is angry at the world. So angry he can’t stand his sister Sally’s droning television and ends up silencing it with a shotgun blast. The shooting of the television sets in motion a series of events – James locks Sally in a room (but seemingly not her own room because she finds a trashy novel which doesn’t belong to her). She becomes absorbed in said trashy novel; literally can’t put it down and refuses to come out of the bedroom, even when her niece convinces James to free her. James doesn’t care either way. In truth, he is not without deep rooted grief, a grief that has hardened to him. One son committed suicide and another died in an accident. James’s sister, widowed and a polar opposite, does nothing to comfort him. The epic sibling battle lasts for the entire book and escalates to a catastrophic ending.
I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy the frame novel technique. Sally’s trashy novel seemed to be the story Gardner really wanted to write. There is no explanation of how this trashy novel came to be in her room until the end. In truth, the story came alive for me in the last fifty pages.

Confessional: the phrase “New England piss and vinegar” had me smiling. Yes, I know the type.

Line I liked, “It was a fact if life that if people knew what you were feeling they could work you around” (p 64).

Author fact: October Light uses the framed novel technique of a story within a story. Gardner does a great job with both voices.

Book trivia: October Light was illustrated by Elaine Raphael and Don Bolognese.

Nancy said: Pearl said October Light was another good novel set in New England. Really, I would beg to differ. Because this is a framed novel only a portion of it takes place in Vermont and even then the location is a rundown Vermont farmhouse. Not a lot of it takes place out and about in New England. Only at the end do you get a real sense of what it is like to live in New England…the covered bridges, mud season, endless waiting for spring…

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “New England Novels” (p 177).


Wyoming Summer

O’Hara, Mary. Wyoming Summer. New York: Doubleday, 1963.

Reason read: October marks the month O’Hara passed away. Read in her memory.

Wyoming Summer unfolds as a love letter to the wild west. Originating from O’Hara’s journals, it tells the story of her life on a Wyoming ranch. She loves her horses, her dude-ranch summer camp for teenage boys, and even a wayward bull who keeps getting loose and raising hell across the prairie. Her music, milking cows, and marriage to husband Michael help keep her grounded, for it isn’t an easy life on the range. Setbacks come in the form of unpredictable weather, failing crops, and rejection letters and yet O’Hara finds perfection in all of it.
People will probably recognize O’Hara’s book, My Friend Flicka, more readily than Wyoming Summer. I enjoyed the small introduction of acquiring the horse at the end of Wyoming Summer. A glimpse of things to come as My Friend Flicka is also on my Challenge list.

Author fact: O’Hara was also an accomplished pianist and composer.

Book trivia: I wish there were pictures but sadly, there are none to be found.

Nancy said: Pearl said Wyoming Summer isn’t really set in Wyoming but the small sections that are make us feel as though we are really there. Did she and I read different books? I felt that a great deal of Wyoming Summer took place in Wyoming. The dude-ranch camp, the farming, the raising of horses…I didn’t count the pages but I felt it was significant enough to call it Wyoming Summer.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “WY Ever Not?” (p 262).


Isabel’s Bed

Lipman, Elinor. Isabel’s Bed. New York: Washington Square Press, 1995.

Reason read: Lipman’s birth month is in October. Read in her honor.

Harriet Mahoney gave twelve years of her life to a man who just left her to marry a woman he’s only known for a few months. Adding insult to injury, he kicks Harriet out of the house she has shared with him as his common law wife for all those years. Dejected but determined to land on her feet, (without her parents’s help…she is over forty, after all!) Harriet takes a job in the seaside town of Truro, Cape Cod, to ghost write celebrity Isabel Krug’s tabloid story. Everyone knows Isabel was the femme fatale using a vibrator in a married man’s bed. Everyone knows the married guy’s wife stormed into the bedroom and shot him dead. Everyone knows because the trial was a sensation full of titillating details, but Isabel wants the world to know her side of the story (it’s even more sordid) and because she isn’t shy, she’s willing to tell all. Harriet is in for the ride of her life working with feisty Isabel…until the not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity widow comes knocking.
This is a fun read but a bit silly at times.

Line I really liked, “My taste buds strained in their direction” (p 276).

Author fact: Lipman is from Lowell, Massachusetts. Same as Hey Jack Kerouac.

Book trivia: So. This story is supposed to take place in Cape Cod. One character is supposed to have a wicked Boston accent. He does…for the most part. It comes and goes.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Isabel’s Bed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Elinor Lipman: Too Good to Miss” (p 146).


Running Blind

Child, Lee. Running Blind. New York: Berkley, 2000.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July (the month New York became a state) because Lee Child lives there…or did at the time of publication. Confessional: I thought I was supposed to read Echo Burning next. I am glad I was wrong.

There are so many twists to Running Blind that it might feel a little like walking through a haunted house. You never know when something is going to pop out at you, but because stuff does pop out at you, and with alarming frequency, you come to expect the surprises. They might not even shock you over time. The premise of Running Blind is former military women are being murdered all over the country. The cause of death is a mystery. There are no fatal wounds, no signs of a struggle, none of the women defending themselves, there wasn’t even forced entry into their homes. The commonality between each murdered victim besides military connections is Jack Reacher. Of course. What makes this story like all the others is that government officials keep trying to pin the murders on Reacher. He’s always guilty in every book. What makes this story slightly different from the rest is this time Reacher has a serious girlfriend, a lawyer to help bail him out.

Author fact: Child calls himself an “insatiable reader” (from an interview). Indeed, his website’s homepage has him reading on a couch. It’s a great photo.

Book trivia: confessional: the end of this book is a little hokey. I had a hard time swallowing the “whodunit” at the grand finale. Yes, pun totally intended. Once you read the book you will get it. I promise. Another book trivia: Running Blind was published as The Visitor in the United Kingdom.

Nancy said: Pearl said to read child in order. Luckily for me I didn’t pay attention to her order. She places Echo Burning before Running Blind. According to Wikipedia and Child’s own site, Echo was published the year after Running.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).