I’ve been listening up a storm – lots of time as I walk with an audio-book on my iPod. Here’s a couple of books that have made their way into my brain.
The Danish Girl, by David Ebershoff – 5 stars
This is a novel that is based on the true story of Lili Elbe, a woman who began life as a man. Then known as Einar Wegener, he grew up and married, having a successful career as an artist, before deciding to undergo one of the first sexual reassignment surgeries in the world. The novel is largely told from the perspective of his wife, Gerda Gottlieb, who supported Lili’s transition to a woman. The novel explores the emotions of both women, as well as the social stigmas and struggles of the era, although I do believe it glossed over that a bit. Although the novel masterfully explored the story, there are many gaps in the story, due to the fact that Elbe’s medical records were destroyed by bombing during World War II. The Danish Girl was made into a movie in 2016 – I want to check it out!
At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen – 3 stars
Part ghost story, part search for the Loch Ness Monster, At the Water’s Edge is an interesting novel about a couple whose marriage is tested when Madeleine and her husband Ellis have a falling out with Ellis’ rich father. In order to restore the family honor, the two, with a friend, embark on a trip across the Atlantic in a Navy warship in order to find hard evidence of the Loch Ness Monster… Are you still with me!? At any rate, Ellis is a drinker, and well, he does what drinkers do – he destroys the relationship with his wife. I wanted to like this book more since it is by the author of Water for Elephants, but it just fell a bit flat for me. There is a lot of suspension of disbelief required, and it just doesn’t get there for me.
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee – 4 stars
I thought a long time about whether or not I wanted to read this book. Like so many, I grew up with the magic of Atticus Finch and his children, Scout and Jem. I grew up knowing that there were people in the South who did the right thing, when racism was rampant and segregation the law. I heard the rumors about the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, where Atticus is revealed to be racist as well. Could it be true? Dare I find out? Well, the answer is not so simple. It is wrapped up in time, and place, and the law, the constitution and whatever else goes into these things. People today would say that he was. But I learned it is also a story of coming of age, and learning that our parents are not so perfect as we want them to be. They have opinions that are flavored by the world they grew up in, right or wrong, and flaws and shortcomings, just like everyone else. And this is as much a story about learning to break away and truly see our parents as it is about race.