The End Of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
I read Bindu’s review of The End Of Your Life Book Club on her blog a few months back, and knew I had to read it. Little did I know when I expressed an interest in reading the book that Bindu would surprise me by sending over a copy! Thanks a ton, dear!
Mary Anne Schwalbe, the author’s mother, is dying of cancer. She has, at the most, a few months to go. The author finds a way to spend more time with her in her last days on earth – accompanying her to chemotherapy sessions and other doctor visits. One day, he asks her a casual question – ‘What book are you reading?’ This leads to a conversation that is so deep and satisfying that they decide to make it a regular feature of their lives. Slowly and gradually, over the course of a few more hospital visits, an informal book club of two is born. Amidst book discussions, a lot of things are discussed – from politics and social issues to life in general and reflections on time gone by. The book club becomes much more than a book club, it turns into a way for a son to bond deeper with his mother. It is this non-fictional book club that the author writes about in The End Of Your Life Book Club.
As the book unfolds, you get to know what a wonderful woman Mary Anne Schwalbe was, her love of life, her belief in the essential goodness of people and her contagious enthusiasm for several world issues. The fact that she had cancer that was killing her did make her angry and sad, but didn’t deter her from the way she wanted to live her last days even one bit. I saw a lot of myself in Mary Anne Schwalbe, and a lot of the kind of person I want to become. I fell in love with her by the time I finished reading the book – I wanted to have a heart-to-heart conversation with her. If I could choose how to die, it would be in her way – living life to the fullest till the very last breath.
I loved the book to the core, though it was not an easy read for me. It moved me to bits, lodging a sense of sweet sadness in my throat. I felt it was a powerful read. I did, however, have the sense that a lot of bits and pieces of what might have been the original manuscript for the book had been chopped off – heavy editing, maybe? For this reason, the story appears disjointed and it seems as if the author has lost his spark in between paragraphs. It is not just me, there are many other readers who have observed the same, judging from Goodreads reviews. That said, the book still comes across as powerful. I cannot imagine what it would have been had its originality been retained.
The End Of Your Life Book Club is something I would heartily recommend to each and every one of you.
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
The Sugar Queen is the story of Josey, the frustrated daughter of a deceased rich man, who was the hero of the small town she lives in, and an extremely overbearing mother. She wants to lead her life her way, but is unable to get away from the shadow of her mother. To make matters worse, she is in love with Adam, her mailman. Life, as she has known it, turns upside down when she discovers Della Lee, a waitress in a local diner, hiding in her closet.
I bought this book because it fell into the genre of magical realism, and I wanted something Joanne Harris-ish to read. I saw some great reviews for the book across blog world, too. Sadly, I was utterly disappointed with it. The story is oh-so-predictable, and the writing was not special either. There are touches of magic realism in the story, but quite awkwardly woven in, as if just thrown in for the sake of throwing them in. Every character is hiding secrets, which turn out to be not so interesting when revealed. Most characters seem to know exactly what they want in life, but do not go for it, sinking deeper into a quagmire every passing day. Josey and her friend Chloe seem especially clueless about how to do things that are right for them, which was very tiring for me as a reader.
Overall, this was not at all my cup of tea. I would want to read more books by the author, though, as they have some rather interesting story lines.
The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
I didn’t enjoy Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency at all, when I read it a couple of years ago. I was, hence, apprehensive about picking up more of his books. When I read about his Sunday Philosophy Club series, though, the premise sounded too tempting to not buy the first book immediately. I wasn’t too happy this time around, either, but was definitely not entirely disappointed.
The Sunday Philosophy Club is the story of Isabel Dalhousie, a 30-something spinster, editor of a philosophy magazine, art lover and wannabe sleuth. When she sees a young man falling to his death at a concert that she goes to, she has the feeling that it is not an accident, as the police and media want people to believe. She doesn’t have any qualifications or experience as a real-life detective, but she has good connections in the small town of Edinburgh, where she has lived all her life. Slowly and gradually, she begins to investigate the matter of the young man’s death, in her own way. What does she uncover? Was it really an accident or something else? You need to read the book to find that out!
Isabel Dalhousie gives the impression of someone who is a tad pompous and conservative at times, but is extremely perceptive, understanding, flexible, modern and accommodating at other times. Her insights into the problems of the modern-day world are interesting, as are the doses of easy-to-understand philosophy scattered liberally throughout the book. These insights make the book slightly more drawn out than it would have been, had it been just another suspense thriller, but I felt they added a nice touch to it. They bring out the character of Isabel Dalhousie beautifully and, like most human beings, she has her own faults and foibles. That said, I did feel she was jumping to conclusions way too often, and adopting a very simplistic approach towards things in the course of her investigation. The end of the book disappointed me, honestly, but, overall, I liked the book.
I would definitely like to read the other books in the series, and get to know more about Isabel Dalhousie, touted by some readers as the No. 2 detective.
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts about them?
What are you reading at the moment?