Back in the early years of this blog, I took a year and looked for connections between the books that I read, while not picking out obviously connected books to read. It was fun. Anyway, I feel like that has been happening with the books I’ve been reading lately.
Adé: A Love Story by Rebecca Walker. I started reading this book because I was trying to decide what to read and accidentally opened this on the Haunted Kindle and figured, sure, why not? I bought it a long while back, and I thought I remembered that it was fiction, but it’s not. Rebecca Walker is the daughter of Alice Walker, which makes her immediately interesting to me, and because I’ve read so much by her mother, I feel like I kind of have a sense of her background. So this book was enjoyable for that reason, and because it’s really well written. It’s the memoir of Walker’s time in Africa, exploring a continent that she was raised by her mother to feel is her home, though she had never been there. She travels with a friend who is white (Walker is half black half Jewish) and Walker describes how they drift apart as they have different experiences and feel more and less welcome and at home. As they get deeper into Muslim areas, her friend feels oppressed and nervous about how women are treated, while Walker falls in love with the people and the traditions. It seems only natural then that she falls in love with Ade, a lovely man with a lovely extended family, who embrace Walker as their Ade’s beloved. It’s a fairy tale kind of story that then hits harsh reality as Ade and Rebecca try to blend their traditions and backgrounds, and they have to face truths about whether or not that’s possible. Walker is honest about all her feelings- good and conflicted alike, and about her struggles with privilege, idealism, and romanticism; which is excellent, especially in the context of her judgement of her friend for having the same feelings and struggles. This is a short book, but beautifully written and compelling.
It did not occur to me that I could be hurt, or that anything could be bigger or stronger than my own will to move freely, unobstructed, across the plains.
I knew nothing about him and yet I wanted to see him again. I had too much power, I thought. I might consume him out of my own curiosity simply because I could. I could stay or go. He could not. He had too much power, I thought. He could reject me. He could break me in two.
A Spy in the House of Love: The Authoritative Edition by Anais Nin. There was something in Ade: A Love Story that reminded me of this book, I don’t recall what at the moment. But I realized that I haven’t read this book for a very long time, and it used to be one of my very favorites, so it was time for a reread.
It’s a hard book to describe- the plot is rather simple but the book is anything but simple- so here’s the blurb that describes it better than I can: “The main character, Sabina, realizes that she is a composite of many selves, each one seeking identity within relationships with five very different men, and while she seeks to live out each part of herself, she also craves unity, setting the stage for the battle for self-awareness.”
I first read this book in high school, after my best friend read it and told me that it reminded her of me. And I identified with so many parts of it- feeling forced into a definition while containing multitudes, feeling misunderstood and limited. (Lots of teenage angst combined with the fact that the character is an actress and I wanted to be an actress.) This time around I’m a bit more self aware, so I feel more like Sabine at the end of the book than the beginning. But it’s still a gorgeous read. Few people write poetic prose like Anais Nin.
Out of the red and silver and the long cry of alarm to the poet who survives in all human beings, as the child survives in him; to this poet she threw an unexpected ladder in the middle of the city and ordained, “Climb!” As she appeared, the orderly alignment of the city gave way before this ladder one was invited to climb, standing straight in space like the ladder of Baron Munchausen which led to the sky. Only her ladder led to fire.
The enemy of a love is never outside, it’s not a man or woman, it’s what we lack in ourselves.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has a character very much like Sabine. But she’s not the main character, and I won’t spoil too much by going into who it is. This book was on the top of last years “Best of” lists, so I’ve been wanting to read it. It’s the story of Rachel, a woman who travels into London every day on the same train. Every day she sees the same houses, and in one of them, a couple that she does not know, but imagines things about, and she imagines them to be the perfect, happy, ideal couple. So one day, when she sees the wife kissing another man, she decides that she has to go tell the husband about it. And the next morning she wakes up to news reports that the wife is missing. But Rachel can’t remember anything about what happened because she is also an alcoholic who drinks herself into a black out state on a regular basis, and she was in just a state that night. All she knows is that she witnessed some kind of argument and that she has a nasty cut on the side of her head. She knows that she was in the neighborhood because her ex-husband and his new wife (who Rachel has been drunk dialing on a regular basis) also live in the neighborhood, and saw her that evening. So she decides to investigate, in the most awkward, bumbling, trouble causing manner. She doesn’t stop drinking, because she can’t, and that just complicates everything and calls any of her assumptions into question. The story alternates between her point of view, that of the missing wife (flashing back in time), and Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife. It’s very effective story telling, and a total page turner. If you decide to read it, set aside enough time to get all the way through it in one go or you will get irritated if you have to stop.
I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing?
I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.
I’m currently reading The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham. I’m not loving it as much as I loved The Hours (my most reread book in the last 11 years – just a little trivia for your day) but that may change by the end of it.
What are you reading?