Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel

It’s nearing the end of the year, and I’ve only read 83 books, so I’m looking for slim volumes that I can read in one sitting and thoroughly enjoy to try to up my count to 90. Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel certainly fits the bill. As the subtitle reveals, it is a ‘Tragicomic Novel in Letters’ and that’s about all I needed to hear.  Continue reading

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Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

dear-committe-members-ukIf you haven’t noticed by now, you should know that I am a sucker for novels set in academia. I loved the campus novel when I was in grad school and I love it even more now, especially if it is a novel about disillusionment in the academy. Cue Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. This book is laugh out loud funny. It took Herculean feats of strength for me not to read every second sentence out loud to my husband. Continue reading

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

love-ninaSummer seems to be taking over my life, so this review is going to be quick and dirty. That is no slight on Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe, but the sun is shining and I’ve got to get out there.

Love, Nina is a collection of letters Nina wrote to her sister in the 1980s while she was nannying in London. That might not sound great, but it is. Nina is un-selfconsciously funny in a way that can only be compared to Adrian Mole. Her day-to-day life in London is seriously more interesting than my life at any point. Her attempts at cooking sounds woefully inadequate and yet the family she’s working for don’t seem to mind. And everything is commented upon by Alan Bennett and other London luminaries of the day. Continue reading

Letter From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

letters-from-skyeLetters From Skye is one of those novels that shocked me beyond belief. I thought the cover looked boring. It is an epistolary novel, which I often find to be gimmicky. And it is a love story, nay I say romance? All these things together for me do not add up to a promising book. The reason I picked it up was because it is set in Scotland and the period was somewhat interesting to me – the two world wars.

But I can honestly say that once I started reading it I found it difficult to put down. The novel starts as a correspondence between a poet living on the Isle of Skye, off the coast of Scotland and a brash young American fan. By the second or third letter between them I was hooked. In spite of the distance between them, they seemed to connect in a surprising way. I was cheering them on and wanted them to meet, to fall in love, to take things to the next level.

The other thread of the novel involves letters between the Skye poetess’s daughter and her best friend turned fiance during the second world war. In these letters Margaret seeks to learn more about her mother’s life before she was born. Of course, there is a secret there that is revealed not too long after her mother goes missing.

A novel such as this – letters between lovers – could easily slip into the sentimental.That is where Jessica Brockmole‘s great strength lays; she manages to communicate passion, love and longing through well developed characters rather than falling into the predictable tropes of romance. The reason I wanted to keep reading the novel was not because of the romance, but because the characters were so engaging. In addition to (forbidden) love, they had struggles of their own and fears to overcome.

Who would like this book? If you are travelling to Scotland, I highly recommend this book. It gives the contrasting flavors of rural island life as well as the comparatively cosmopolitan life of Edinburgh. Not to be out done, Glasgow also makes a brief appearance. This is also a great novel for those who enjoy the epistolary form. The blogosphere has recently been abuzz over Frances and Bernard, another novel of letters, but I feel that of the two Letters From Skye was more readable.