Monday, July 18, 2011

In My Beachbag

Books, Personally went to the beach, and all she brought were her books...

(...and some kids.. and her husband....and some pails... and several boogie boards... and a lot of sunscreen... well, you know the drill.)

A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010 (winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the LA Times Book Award)
"Time is a goon."
Oh deary, it is indeed. But time brings gifts, as well. The short stories in Jennifer Egan's (multiple) prize-winning collection rotate among a related cast of characters at various stages in their lives. Egan's characters are wounded, lost and struggling souls, and their stories are generally not happy ones. It took me a while to warm up to the characters and the non-chronological order of the stories, but by the end of the fourth story,"Safari," I was hooked. The stories were reflective and insightful; I especially liked Sasha, the first character we meet, and one whom we get to know both firsthand and through the eyes of other characters. Her story ends on a hopeful note, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed the much-cited "powerpoint" story, touchingly told from the point of view of Sasha's daughter. Goon Squad left me feeling rather sentimental about the passage of time, and I highly recommend it.

The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht, Random House, 2011
winner of the Orange Prize for fiction

The Tiger's Wife weaves together the stories of a young woman's devotion to her recently passed grandfather, the folktale-like memory of a tiger arriving in his childhood village, and his mysterious, supernatural encounters with a Deathless Man - all set against the backdrop of a country torn apart by war. I can't say I have read many stories set in a "Balkan country" (based, I assume, on Yugoslavia, where Obreht spent the first years of her life) - the cultural details and thorough character back-stories drew me in and I found myself absolutely transported.  I loved the portrayals of the tiger - pacing in a zoo in an ancient citadel in the middle of a modern city, his stealthy presence in a superstitious, remote village - and the consideration of old village ways and their lingering presence in modern life. Really loved this one - found it quite beguiling.

What's in your beach bag (or tote bag or backpack) this summer? Have you read either of these, and what did you think?

Happy summer, and happy reading!


  1. I recently bought The Tiger's Wife, and can't wait to read it. Glad you enjoyed it :)

  2. Hope you enjoy it! Would love to hear what you think.

  3. Fantastic picks, though I don't think I would have been able to concentrate on them with the kids running amok.

  4. Great choices. It's good to know you enjoyed A Visit from the Goon Squad. I have yet to read it, still sitting on my shelf. So this encourages me to get on with it. Hope you and your family had a wonderful time at the beach.

  5. Two great choices! Loved your mini-reviews too. I have both in my request queue at the library (something like 90th of 200) -- still, I'm excited. And super jealous of your beach trip!

  6. I think we have similar book interests because I have one of these books on my desk and the other in my beach bag, too! =)

    Glad to hear the reviews. Thanks.

    -Miss GOP

  7. I am going to the beach this weekend. Both of these books are on my to-do! But I may just end up laying there with my eyes closed imagining that I'm reading.

  8. Thanks everyone! (Jennifer O., confession, some reading done on actual beach, more reading done in beach hotel with kiddos otherwise occupied). Audra, Lena, Miss GOP, will look forward to hearing what you thought. Jaye- LOL, enjoy- sounds like the right attitude :D.

  9. Love your intro! Too cute. Hope your trip was fabulous.

    I haven't read either of these, but I'm sure I'll get to them at some point. Next up on my list is Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, which I have wanted to read, like, forever.


Thanks for visiting - thoughts welcome.