Vacation Books (but not empty beach reads!)

As I have mentioned before, I’ve decided to do this super awesome book challenge so as to force myself to read things that are more literary than, say, Hunger Games (Sorry.  I’m a snob.  Though, I’m dying to know what the hype is with that so I’m not saying I won’t read it eventually.  I just may not tell you about it…).  I checked two books off of my list over vacation (or very shortly thereafter), so I like to think that makes up for all of the lazing around I did whilst reading said modern literary masterpieces.

I started of with Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.  It won the PEN/Faulker award for fiction in 2002 (I’m slow on the uptake, it happens.  Too many good books to read, not enough time.)  Anyways, it was so right up my alley.  Setting:  an unnamed South American country on the brink of insurrection.  Theme:  opera.  Things I love – opera and unstable developing countries!  There was an attempted insurrection; a group of rebels from the jungle infiltrate the Vice President’s house during a birthday party for an illustrious Japanese businessman, during a once-in-a-lifetime private performance of the most famous opera soprano of their time.  Everyone in the house is taken hostage, and the entire novel is set within the confines of the Vice Presidential mansion.  I have to say, there is not much action.  But it’s about the characters and their relationships with each other.  Hostages fall in love with each other, forming bonds beyond the bounds of language, nationality, class, or economic status.  Hostages fall in love with the rebel soldiers; the Vice President acts as a father figure to one of the child soldiers.  The book is so full of soul and humanity, and the amazing connections that people can have, no matter the situation.  You really can’t help but connect with the rebels holding machine guns, because despite their actions, you see how they are still people and relate to them in unexpected ways.  Most of them are teenagers.  I must say though, and I won’t say anything to spoil the ending, but I did not like the end of the story.  I felt like there was a disconnect from the rest of the plot, and if she insisted on having the ending that she did, I think there needed to be a bit more development of the plot.  That said, I thought the book was great, a beautiful read that is intense yet it makes you feel romantic and wistful at the same time.  If beautiful music has ever made you cry, you must read this.

I thought my second book would be a bit less serious, due to the obvious subject matter, but it had dark undertones and an examination of the nature of humanity as well … in a good way!  The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001.  I picked this one up upon the recommendation of my lovely seester, who heard the author speak at school.  Apparently he’s pretty cool.  I loved this book, partly because it is much different than the kind of thing I usually read.  Kavalier and Clay are two cousins, one from Brooklyn, and one that escaped Nazi-occupied Prague in 1941, that get together in New York City and invent the Escapist, a wildly popular comic book character, in the age when Superman and Batman were all the rage.  They had me at Prague.  Michael Chandon is really an amazing writer.  Not gonna lie though, I had to look up more than one word in the dictionary.  And one was not in there… His vocabulary is off the charts, but you don’t feel like you’re getting bogged down by SAT words, you just feel enriched by them.  The story is still fast-paced and exciting, however, and I think very entertaining.  Kavalier was my favorite character (not just because he came from Prague, but I’m sure that helped).  He’s a very complex character, having been his only family member to escape the horrors of Europe in the 1940’s; he felt that his creation of a superhero was his way of fighting the Nazis from afar, and you can’t help but feel stung by the futility of his fight.  He couldn’t save his family, but he created an outlet for people to escape their own reality.  See how that works?  It is neat.  All my friends think I just read depressing things; I swear this is not one of those books!  It’s got some serious threads, but it’s not a downer, I swear.  Reeead it!

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