Just Giblets

Favorite Books Read in 2013 – #’s 5 & 6

6th January 2014
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2013 – #’s 5 & 6

posted in 2013, Books, Year-end lists |

It’s a testament to the quality of books at the top of this list, that such talents as Claire Messud and Karen Joy Fowler are coming in at #5 & 6 of my favorite books read in 2013.  Claire Messud’s book is so multi-layered and complex, and Karen Joy Fowler is one of my favorite writers, never doing the same thing twice, always incredibly original.  I also love how both of these books are not for everyone, in fact, some people might be quite put off by the stories they tell.

The Woman Upstairs#6 – The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Claire Messud’s latest novel is a complex examination of a woman who becomes swept up in a relationship with an exotic family from Europe. Nora is an elementary school teacher who had always expected to become an artist. She is solitary, capable, and a well-respected teacher. But when the Shahid family, Skandar, Sirena and Reza, their beautiful son who is in her class at school, enter her life, something inside her responds and unleashes long-controlled feelings and the artist buried deep within. Messud tackles a subject that few authors do, the anger of women.  We’re not talking the histrionic, violent, over-the-top anger that you might see in a revenge movie or a soap opera.  This is the anger that many people live with every day.  The anger born out of disappointment, or injustice.  It is an anger that is not debilitating.  It is the anger that is concealed.  An anger that might lay coiled deep within the woman who teaches elementary school and you chat with pleasantly at the coffee every morning.  This is the complex portrait that Claire Messud explores in The Woman Upstairs.  It’s as unsettling, as it’s engrossing.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves#5 – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Karen Joy Fowler’s novels are a joy to read. Best known for The Jane Austen Book Club (certainly the most straight-forward of her books) Fowler got her start writing science fiction, and she first caught my eye with the complex, challenging novel, Sarah Canary. With We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Fowler tackles the challenges of a family torn apart by grief and lies, and a burgeoning animal rights movement in the 1970s. To say too much about We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves would be to spoil its somewhat shocking moment revealed about one quarter of the way through. It’s enough to know that Rosemary is our narrator, one member of a family forever changed by the loss of her sister Fern. As Rosemary informs the reader, her story starts in the middle, while she is attending college at UC Davis, then leaps backwards and forwards to unspool a tale rooted in a part of our country’s recent history that was both sensationalistic and little known. But at its core, Fowler’s novel succeeds winningly as a family tale, and one young woman’s difficult difficult journey to adulthood. I love that Fowler’s novels always possess a sliver of unreality or otherworldliness even when rooted in realism. I look forward to each and every one of her books.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 6th, 2014 at 7:30 am and is filed under 2013, Books, Year-end lists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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