Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Mini reviews: Summer by Edith Wharton, Remo: The Adventure Begins by Murphy and Sapir, and The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

I don't have a lot to say about any of these, so they get the mini treatment. 

I read Summer by Edith Wharton after Brittanie mentioned it in our online book group and I just happened to spot my copy as I was walking from one room to the next. Thanks, Brittanie!

Summer is kind of difficult to describe but it's about a girl named Charity who works in the library of her small town, lives with a man who took her away from the mountain people out of kindness, and yearns for a more exciting life. 

Brittanie mentioned that the book was considered scandalous at the time it was published but, of course, the mentions of women of ill repute and a neighbor who was forced to go to the Big City for an abortion are only referred to in a vague way. They're obvious and yet obscured by the writing style of the time period. 

Charity, herself, ends up getting into trouble and throughout the book you feel like shaking her. She's aware of the scandal of her friend's sister's pregnancy but naive enough to put her trust in the wrong man. 

I enjoyed Summer but felt like the ending was completely implausible. Still, I'd recommend it. Wharton's writing is stunning. I need to dig through my shelves and see if I can find the other book I know I have by her, The Glimpses of the Moon. I'm not sure if I have any other Whartons but I'll be keeping an eye out. 

Remo: The Adventure Begins by Murphy and Sapir is a companion novel to the 80s movie and I chose to read it after reading Hamnet. Because Hamnet was both melancholy and character-centric, I was in the mood for something plot-driven, pulp-fictiony, even a little stupid. 

Well, I got the stupid part. It actually takes a lot longer to get to the action scenes than I expected. The movie is better, although it's actually pretty bad, too, all "government out to get us so a shadowy organization must be created to kill dangerous people." The authors were imaginative but what they conjured up is ridiculous. 

As to Remo, he's a decent character and I particularly liked the strength of Major Fleming, who was played by Kate Mulgrew in the movie. I just wish the authors had managed to fit in more action. The movie does a good job of portraying the training of Remo Williams and his relationship to his Korean teacher. But, the book portrayal is actually a bit offensive. In hindsight, I doubt I'd have liked the movie as much if I knew early on that the role of the Korean teacher was played by a white guy. 

At any rate, unless you really are in the mood for something terrible, I do not recommend Remo: The Adventure Begins. Save yourself. Read something else. Anything. 

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante is a stand-alone novel by the author of the Neapolitan series (which I have not yet read). 

When the main character's husband abruptly announces that he's leaving her and walks out the door, she descends into madness and experiences the stages of grief before a tremendous climax leads to acceptance of her new life as a single parent. 

What a crazy novel. I gave it 3.5 stars for excellent craftsmanship and was particularly impressed with the way she built to the climax. I especially liked the scene in which her son is ill and so is the dog and it falls to her young daughter to try to bring down the fever of her big brother because Mom can't cope. I'm going to write a sentence about that favorite scene and the climax for posterity but make the text white so it won't be visible and ruin it for anyone (but you can highlight it if you'd like).

When the dog is poisoned, her son becomes violently ill, and the main character can neither get out of the apartment because of a difficult lock or call out for help because both her cellphone and home phone are non-functional, she finds her daughter putting wet pennies on her son's forehead to cool his fever. 

The biggest problem I had with The Days of Abandonment was that it was just too vulgar for my taste and I had trouble liking the heroine, even when she began to finally started to cope with life as a single mother, so I'm iffy on recommendation. And, yet, you can't help but notice the author's skill and it certainly made me look forward to the Neapolitan series even more. So I don't regret reading it (but it's going into the donation box). 

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  1. The cat's paw stepping on your book- made me think the feline disapproves of it! haha. And oh man, that Remo sounds kinda awful. Sometimes older books are amusing in how awful they are, and other times they're just plain awful!

    1. If I was looking for feline disapproval, I would have put Remo in front of her! LOL. Nah, I just like trying to pose books with cats and I frequently get the paws stepping on covers with Isabel.

      Remo was indeed awful. Yes, exactly. Sometimes you can just laugh at the awfulness. Sometimes it grates on your nerves. Remo belongs to my son so I can't dispose of it but it's certainly not one I'd keep around, otherwise!!!

    2. Does your son like it? Or hasn't he read it yet

    3. Yes, he enjoyed it and said he actually has a couple books from the series that preceded the movie. He lives in a teeny apartment so I can't foist it on him, yet. LOL He's a speed reader so he's actually read almost every book he owns, some of them several times.


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