I’ve been a little bit behind on my book reviews, seeing as how this is my first of the year even though February’s almost over. But I have been doing some good reading, so here are two great books I want to share with you.
The Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The international literary sensation, about a boy’s quest through the secrets and shadows of postwar Barcelona for a mysterious author whose book has proved as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget. –Goodreads
This was the last book I read in 2018 and it was a great way to cap off the year. This is a book for anyone who loves books. The Shadow of the Wind is the first in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series; it concluded last year with The Labyrinth of the Spirits.
Part of the draw for me was the setting. It takes place in post-civil war Barcelona, Spain under the Franco dictatorship. These were very dark and brutal times, and in my experience many people in Spain don’t really want to talk about this era. But it is a great setting for this mystery/thriller, which also has a bit of romance that keeps it hopeful. The story shows how thin the line can be between fiction and reality.
After reading it, I even got the Spanish edition of the book so I can now read it in the original. I really want to hear the authentic voice of the slightly-manic Fermin, even though I think I will have to look up a lot of his vocabulary.
by Anne Lamott
The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott’s account of her son Sam’s first year. –Goodreads
I began reading this soon after my son turned one; I thought it this memoir would be a good way to reflect on my son’s first year, and I hadn’t been ready to revisit that time in my life until recently. It is really a perfect encapsulation of the first year of motherhood, and the writing is just great. It made me alternately cry and laugh out loud, and I mean both literally. I highlighted several passages in my Kindle, which I rarely do. Lamott had some struggles that I didn’t, and likewise I had some that she didn’t, but her story still really rang true for me.
Lamott’s voice in this really reminded me of Carrie Fisher’s in her memoirs like Shockaholic and Wishful Drinking. Both recovering addicts, they reflect openly on their mental health and veer into dark humor. And while Lamott is liberal like Fisher (she harangues the comparatively mild George Bush in a way that now seems ironic), she also is staunchly Christian as well. This is a potent combination for me since I am also both liberal and Christian, but it may be a turn-off for those who are not.
I did wonder a bit how Sam would feel about this book, so it was very interesting to also read Lamott’s companion book Some Assembly Required about the birth of Sam’s son. Sam says about Operating Instructions, “To this day, that book is the greatest gift anyone has given me; I have a very special relationship with it.”
Another cool note is that this book introduces a story about her father encouraging her brother to do a biology report by taking it “bird by bird.” This quote shapes her later book on writing of the same name, which I also really recommend.