July Reading Wrap-up

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Summer reading: Harder than you think even if you’re on vacation (because you have two kids and you won’t really ever be on vacation again until they’re grown up)

Reading in July (as well as writing this summary, apparently) was painstaking, at best.  It was a whirlwind of a month, full of camping trips, friends visiting, taking care of the farm garden and frantically trying to finish projects and clean the house in order to get it ready to sell (and we’re finally on the market! Cross your fingers!).  I had a real hard time fitting reading into the mix, but I did manage to get through three books – two of which I can happily recommend to you.

Books finished in July:

  • The Girl From the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor
  • The Son by Philipp Meyer
  • The Bees by Laline Paull

Thoughts and Reviews:

The Girl From the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor
The GirlLots of people really seem to like this book.  It’s gotten tons of good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, which I checked before I bought it.  It turns out, however, that I am not one of those admiring people.  Which is too bad, because like I said, I paid good money for it.  It’s also disappointing because it had all the makings of a book I would enjoy reading while on vacation- set just after WWI in London with a plucky heroine from the working class starting a housecleaning job at the famous Savoy Hotel, and all the upstairs/downstairs drama that comes along with that.  Unfortunately, it’s also chock full of overwrought cliche and florid, overblown language.  Almost every single character in the book was also constantly saying how there was ‘something special’ about Dolly (the main character), but the author never showed me what it was.  She just asked me to take their word for it.  It was completely predictable, even though there were about thirty different plot lines (none of which resolved satisfactorily) going on.  I’ll probably be donating this to the library, so other people don’t have to make the mistake of purchasing it.


The Son by Philipp Meyer

The SonThis was an amazing book.  An epic.  I’m going to go ahead and say that I believe this book is truly an American masterpiece.  It’s engrossing and beautiful, savage and gut-wrenching.  I could not put it down, while at the same time it often made my blood run cold, looking back as I was from an arguably more enlightened (but sadly, no less brutal) future.  It’s the story of three generations of the McCullough family – Eli, Peter and Jeannie – and how they shape and are shaped by the America they live in.  Eli’s family is killed by Comanche Indians and he himself is kidnapped by them.  He becomes one of them, but is eventually sold back to the whites when his tribe is decimated by disease and starvation, and begins a career in the Texas Rangers hunting down and killing Mexicans and Indians.  His son, Peter, disapproves of the violence of the time he lives in, but with America in the Great War and the rabid xenophobia gripping the nation, he feels he can’t do anything about it but bear witness.  Eli’s great-granddaughter, Jeannie, struggles to carve out and retain her place as the head of the family’s ranching and oil business, in an age where women were considered secondary to men.  The writing is strong and succinct, the characters were three-dimensional and believable, and the landscape of the story is gripping in and of itself.  I have actually read this book twice now, and will probably happily read it many more times in my life.  This one is a modern classic for sure.


The Bees by Laline Paull
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OK, now this was a good dystopian novel (unlike some others I’ve read lately!), even though it was set in a beehive, with literal bees as the characters.  The tone of this book is very dark, and makes a strong statement about fanatical religion and the oppressiveness and corruption it’s capable of.  (A note worth mentioning here: this book is not representative of true bee behavior and hive society, but the fluid writing and engaging plot makes it very easy to suspend belief).  The story’s protagonist is Flora 717, born into the hive’s lowest caste of sanitation workers.  Flora is larger and darker than most sanitation workers, and finds she is able to do things the others cannot, such as talking, sensing all the pheromone trails and creating “flow” to feed to the larvae.  She soon moves from sanitation, to nursery work, to tending the queen, to foraging.  The trouble starts when Flora begins to lay eggs herself, and begins to question the mindset and societal mores that govern her hive.  This book is incredibly unique and original, the characters are fleshed out and developed, and the plot is driven and entertaining.  Even if you’re not a fan of bees or insects, this is a book well worth reading.

August’s reading list is already shaping up to be better, although this month feels just as busy and crazy.  I’ve got some good ones under my belt already though, and I can’t wait to share them with you in just a couple of weeks!

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