American Pastoral

American Pastoral is the novel that won Philip Roth the Pulitzer Prize. It’s also the first novel I’ve read by him. It recounts the life of a high school athlete, Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov, from his schooldays during the Second World War to a point in his adulthood where his daughter’s countercultural leanings disrupt his American idyll.

People speak highly of Philip Roth. As well as the aforementioned Pulitzer Prize, he also received multiple PEN/Faulkner awards. His complete novels were published in his lifetime, in a nine-volume series, by the Library of America. I only really paid attention when he died, though. Until then, I hadn’t even heard of him. Or if I had, his name and status hadn’t registered. It’s a funny old literary world, full of reading lacunae.

The first few pages of American Pastoral put me in mind of John Updike and Richard Ford, but better. There’s also a bit of Ray Bradbury about the writing, particularly his Green Town books. Roth’s phrasing has a beautiful rhythm that carries you like a river burbling through the story. Roth also managed to make me care about something that I really don’t care about – the very male world of competitive sport.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From The Naked Chef to Like Water for Chocolate

We have an unusual starting book for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. Our host Kathy at Books Are My Favourite And Best has chosen Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef as our chain inspiration. I haven’t read anyone else’s chains yet, as is my wont, but I’m looking forward to seeing how we all fare. If you’re unfamiliar with this literary meme, you can find the rules here.

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Goldilocks

An interstellar event that happened 30 years in the past is at the centre of Laura Lam’s Goldilocks. The novel begins with one of the people who was involved in the event and its consequences finally deciding to break her silence.

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Reading Challenge Update

First up is an update on how I did with my 10 Books of Summer reading list. 20 Books of Summer is an annual challenge hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. This is the third year I’ve taken part, and once again I’ve managed to knock a few books off my To Read pile.

This year, 130 people signed up to the challenge. Cathy posted recently about how she’d done, which reminded me to do the same.

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The Human Fly and Other Stories

T C Boyle is a writer that I have intended to read more by since I read and loved his short story ‘She Wasn’t Soft’ in a Bloomsbury Quid edition in 1996.

A decade later, I was visiting a friend in New York and found the collection The Human Fly and Other Stories on a table in Strand Bookstore.

On the back cover it says, “His many and varied novels are part of the American literary landscape – but one of the best ways to appreciate T C Boyle is through his richly imagined short fiction.”

I bought it, and it has been on my bookshelves ever since. From time to time I’ve taken it down and pondered it as my next read but always put back. I decided to add it to my 10 Books of Summer list this year to ensure that I actually get round to reading it.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From Sorrow and Bliss to How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

From the posts in my WP Reader, I see it’s time for Six Degrees of Separation, the book meme hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

I have lost track of the days because Britain is in the middle of an extended weekend that started on Thursday with a reallocated Bank Holiday Monday, moved through a Bank Holiday Friday that felt like Sunday, and now it’s anyone’s guess what day it is.

It is the first Saturday of the month, though. Really.

For our starting book this month, Kate has chosen Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason.

I haven’t read Mason’s debut, so genned up on it by reading a review. I now want to read it.

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The Lincoln Highway

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Read 18/05/2022-28/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

The Lincoln Highway follows 18 year old Emmett Watson from the middle of the United States to its East Coast along the Lincoln Highway. It is June 1954, and Emmett has just been released early from an eighteen month sentence at a juvenile work farm in Kansas, due to his father dying. With an 8 year old brother, Billy, to look after, Emmett wants to leave his childhood home in Nebraska behind to start a new life somewhere else. Duchess and Woolly, two friends who have escaped from the work farm, stowing away in the boot of the car that carries Emmett home, have other ideas about that. Continue reading

10 Books of Summer

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Cathy is running the summer reading challenge that aims to clear some books off your To Read pile again this year – hooray! I’m joining in with my usual ten book goal. As a target, it worked out well for me last year, despite being fooled by some tiny old books into thinking they were short reads. I only missed my goal by one. I’m confident that I’ll hit my goal this year, though, especially since I’ve averaged a book a week so far.

The challenge runs from 1 June to 1 September and you can find out more about what’s involved in Cathy’s introductory post on 746 Books. The main rule is that the rules aren’t tightly binding. So if you choose a book and then don’t fancy it, it’s more than okay to swap it for something else. Or if you have a bit of a reading slump and your target starts to feel like a stretch, then you should feel free to recalibrate to something more realistic. As long as something gets cleared off the To Read pile, you’re golden. Continue reading