I have been fortunate enough to have time to read actual books lately. Granted this has interfered with time I might have to sew or socialize, but I think it’s definitely been time well spent. In the last, oh, month or so I’ve read all of the Southern Vampire Mysteries. I won’t review them for you, as I assume you’ll either read them or you won’t (or you already have) and you’ll judge me or you won’t for having very much enjoyed them. It’s possible that having Alexander Skarsgård in my head as Eric Northman went a long way towards my enjoyment of them, but perhaps not. Perhaps they are just good, light summer reading. Now that I’ve finished them, I might go back and read Book 4 again. Or maybe I’ll start watching True Blood season 4 (don’t spoil me I haven’t seen any yet) and then read Book 4 again. Book 4 is my favorite.
After all the vampires I read Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, only to discover, about 80 pages in, that I’d read it before. SIGH. Yes, I don’t know if that’s commentary on where my head is right now, where it was when I first read this collection, or if says something about the quality of the stories. The stories, I felt, were uneven, as is so often the case with short story collections. Some were excellent, others I flipped through reading only every fourth word or so. I’m never sure with Gaiman, he’s written some things I love and some I clearly forget. He’s an author I try to not engage with, that is to say that my enjoyment of his writing is equal to how much I am able to entirely ignore him as a media figure or a person of any consequence.
I’ve spent the last 6-ish days pushing through Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear.
This is certainly one book split into two volumes and should be read as such. This is in her Oxford Time-Travelling Historians universe, though reading the other books in that universe is not a prerequisite of reading this one. Several reviews I read and a couple trusted reader friends suggested that B/AC would have benefited greatly by having an excellent editor and being a few hundred pages shorter. Something I have said often about the last 3 Harry Potter books, about everything Diana Gabaldon has written since Outlander, about Cronin’s hideous Passage, and many more. And yes, I imagine that B/AC could have been more concise, more dense, more tightly crafted but for me Willis is one of the few authors I simply can’t get enough of. Her worlds immerse me utterly, her language keeps me in instead of pushing me out of the story, letting me see only the story and not the writer and she clearly loves her characters so much that I can’t help but love them too. I would gladly sit down right now with 1400 more pages of her characters.
I knew this would have a happy ending, I knew it would all work out, but it twists and turns enough that one can never guess quite how. I found myself anxious to the point of wishing she would just get on with it already in a few scenes. Mostly because some of the secondary characters were so beloved and seemed so likely to die that I just couldn’t stand it.
I know only the basic framework of history for WWII Britain. Still I have been to most all of the places in London that the action happens in, and I have been to museums and memorials all over Britain about the war and the Blitz specifically and I believe that engaged me all the more with this tale. London is a character in the story being just as battered and ill-treated as her people were through out the war. I felt many times like I was walking through the locations of the story and thought deeply about how it must have been to see the city both before and after the war.
Time travel is very tricky and I think Willis handles it well. Generally making it simply a framework for an understandable historical bit of fiction. This time though the time travelling paradox itself plays into the mystery of the plot to good effect.
I was feverish and sick and slept a lot this past weekend. I dreamt long involved fever dreams of this book and the characters and myself in with them. I have, in this way, completely internalized this story. I feel exhausted and thoroughly satisfied having been through the ringer with this story. It’s always hard to recommend things. Do I want you to to read it because I liked it? Yes. Do I want you to read it because I think you’ll like it? I don’t know. If you liked her other books you’ll probably like this one, even if you think it is too long. If you’re interested in WWII history from an every day standpoint of how citizens dealt with it, you’ll probably like it. Amazon hopefully has enough of a preview up that you can decide if you want to read more or not. If you decide not to read this you should read To Say Nothing of the Dog anyway. Yes, you, all of you, everyone should read it. Because I said so.
I also went and saw Captain America which I enjoyed very much. It was a very, very different WWII than B/AC. I think they used a lot of the same location shots from Band of Brothers which really tickled me. I’m totally digging the universe connections in the Marvel comic movies and all the cameos etc. It’s like each movie makes the previous ones even better. Thor and Iron Man are both somehow that much better for having seen Captain America. I can’t wait for The Avengers!
(A note on formatting: I had been writing my posts so they were easily read when imported in to Facebook but the importing feature only works intermittently and really I’d prefer if you clicked out and read them here anyway, so I’m not formatting for FB anymore, if you don’t get pictures you’ll have to click out to the original post. If FB can’t be bothered to make itself work right, I can’t be bothered to cater to it.)