Monday, May 26, 2008
Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain
How is this book not more popular? This 1930s tale of a divorced lady in Los Angeles, struggling to make a decent living with two daughters, is fabulous for a) bootleg scotch; b) Mildred's prosaic "do what you have to do" approach to men and money; c) daughter Veda's Gossip Girl-level evil behavior; d) all the fraught class-consciousness of L.A., which I think is . . . pretty much the same seventy-five years later. I swear, if you multiplied all the monetary sums by 10 and published this as a paperback with a stilletto on the front, you would have a best-seller. This is one of my favorite books of the last few years. Who is this James M. Cain? And what else has he written? Next, I must see the movie, and if anyone finds that pulp fiction edition with the down-to-there dress, please buy it--I'll pay you back!
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Well, wow. I read this whole book today, on Memorial Day, which seems somewhat appropriate, given Afghanistan's role in recent American military action. The book's dust jacket uses typically overblown words like "breathtaking" "heart-wrenching" and "striking," and, well, yeah. For once, those are totally apt descriptions. It's the story of two women ensnared by the various regimes vying for political control, and you feel their suffocation. Imagine not being able to go to school, go to a store, walk on a street, visit your family, travel out of town, have a job, wear anything but a head-to-toe covering....I just kept thinking about what I would do in such a situation. Even though the reality is very grim, it also presents these characters as completely real beings, with friends and crushes, tempers and beliefs. It's when you think of the two characters followed in this story and multiply it by ten million women that it really becomes breathtaking. Somehow I never read The Kite Runner--now that's next on my list.
Hope you are having a good holiday weekend, those of you in the U.S. It feels like summer now.