In July …

I spent some time in Paris.

With books.

Monsier Montespan by Jean Teulé –  An interesting book. A very different take on French history. A great book for somebody, but not really the book for me.

13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro: Not the book I expected, but something much more interesting. And utterly intriguing.

The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola: The book for which the expression flawed but fabulous was invented. I’m still pondering which Zola to read next.

With music.

From Charlotte Gainsbourg, from Novelle Vague, and from Françoise Hardy.

But I didn’t spend as much time in Paris as I had intended.

I was distracted by Orange July.

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch – I picked this one up and put it down a few times before I made it through. A great book, but definitely a book that needs the right moment.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer – I’ve been progressing slowly through this one, and I have to say that it is quite wonderful.

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – It was love, quite against my expectations.

There were other books too. I can’t read to plan too much, I have to read the books that call.

The  Crime Fiction Alphabet came to an end.

And I’ve had one or two other distractions. Job hunting. A home study course to bring me a little more up to date in one or two areas. A battle with BT to get our phone line fixed. Life …

But now it’s August – my month for getting organised!

I’ve already boxed up all of my outgoing books and put them on ReadItSwapIt and I’ve reorganised my bookcase of Virago Modern Classics and made sure they are all recorded on LibraryThing.

Bibliotherapy can come in many different forms!

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I’m still a little surprised to find myself writing that I really liked A Visit From The Goon Squad.

But I am !

I was less than thrilled a few months ago when I saw Jennifer Egan’s name on the longlist for the Orange Prize. I just didn’t get on with The Keep, or with Look at Me. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. And I really didn’t really think that a book by the same author about American record company folk would be the book for me.

But what do I know?

I read a great deal of praise, and some of it came from people who hadn’t expected to enjoy the book. And then A Visit From The Goon Squad won the Pulizer Prize.

Curiosity got the better of me at that point, and I placed an order. And I am so glad that I did, because A Visit From The Goon Squad really is a tour de force.

Thirteen chapters.

Each had a different style, a different viewpoint, a different point in time, a different narrative trick. Never before have I seen such variation in one novel.

With all of those differences, with characters appearing and disappearing, this could have felt more like a book of short stories than a novel. And yet it didn’t.

Because although I couldn’t identify with the characters, although I didn’t particularly like them, they were so well drawn, they had such depth, that I was always intrigued.

Because the prose and the storytelling was so clever, so compelling that I just had to keep reading. Jennifer Egan balanced characters, stories, styles and tricks exceedingly well.

Because recurring themes tied everything together. How we deal with the passing of time. How lives can move in directions we didn’t expect, didn’t want. How we have to adapt to survive. Big questions.

There were things I didn’t like. I found the chapter with extensive footnotes difficult to read.

But there were many more strokes of brilliance. The first chapter moved between two different perspectives, two different times more elegantly than I thought possible. And the much discussed Powerpoint chapter dazzled me. It had such clarity, and it quickly decided that it was the perfect medium for that perspective, that particular story.

A Visit to The Goon Squad isn’t a book for everyone.

It takes work. To keep track of characters as the stories shifted backwards in time. To take in so many different things. to fill in the gaps.

It is a book for the head much more than the heart.

And it is very modern. Very experimental.

In theory I shouldn’t have liked it. But in practice I did.

Maybe an Orange … or two … or three …

I’m loving Paris in July, but I haven’t forgotten that this is Orange July too.

This year’s longlist and shortlist didn’t excite me a t first, but the more I thought and the more I read the more interested I was. And now I have two longlisted books in progress:

  • I have been slowly making my way through The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer for a while now. It’s a book that I needed to read slowly, but I think I will turn the final page this month.
  • Though I didn’t care for her earlier books, I gave Jennifer Egan the benefit of the doubt and ordered A Visit From The Goon Squad from the library.  Three chapters in, I have to say I’m impressed.

And I have more books on hand, some of my own and some on the library pile.

Here they are:

Are there any there that you would recommend?

And are you reading for Orange July?