Sunday, December 30, 2012

War is Hell on My Reading Equilibrium

A couple of beautiful, trying novels that stuck to my gut, with war at their centers.

This is a book I am in love with. A desert island kind of book. Ignore the 'teen' categorization - don't discount it for any of the reasons that you might sometimes discount a book - and sink into Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity. At its center is the friendship between Verity and Maddie, young women assisting the British war effort in October, 1943, when Maddie's plane is shot down over France and Verity is captured by the Gestapo. Verity's astounding character emerges as she writes a closely-monitored confession that is mostly a paean to Maddie and the story of their unlikely but deep and everlasting friendship. When the story switches to Maddie's POV, the true depth of Verity's intelligence and devotion both to her friend and to Britain is revealed. I listened to the audio of this, and can't stress enough how gorgeously Morven Christie (as Verity) and Lucy Gaskell (as Maddie) narrated. They're both actresses, mostly doing British TV, but I hope they've been bitten by the narration bug after this project, because both were a real pleasure to hear. Christie in particular was a phenom with a wide range of accents and emotions, and Gaskell had me in tears more than once with just her tone as she approached a section of text that would have had had me in tears, regardless. Preemptive tears - one of the special benefits of a well-narrated audiobook. At any rate, text, narration, semaphore, whatever your format - this is a so so worth it book. Enjoy (for the portrait of an extraordinary friendship, not so much for the tears, and how much war destroys beauty, etc.)

Also emerging from WWII, Mark Helprin's In Sunlight and In Shadow is set primarily in New York City in 1947. Harry Copeland was a pathfinder in the war - he and his team of paratroopers were charged with ranging ahead to bring the troops safely to their next engagement. Post-war, he returns to an expected life running the family business, until he runs across heiress and singer Catherine Thomas Hale, which changes everything for them. Their instant connection causes them both to adjust their course, forcing them to seek the most essential parts of themselves in order to be together. The city of New York is as much a character as Henry or Catherine, and Helprin transmits it with such evocative lyricism that I actually had wistful thoughts about moving there. (I... am not a New York life kind of gal.) There's a great deal of fun language to surf in this novel, which is a good thing since it's 700+ pages (30 hours on audio.) Narrator Sean Runnette seemed to be as much a fan of the language and the pacing and movement as I was, though I wish he'd differentiated the character voices a good bit more. I didn't think, starting a 30 hour book, that I'd be impatient for it to continue as I approached the end, but this is a world I didn't want to leave. Helprin had that effect on me with Freddy and Fredericka, the only other of his I've read, and I clearly ought to put him on my ever-expanding list of 'novelists to seek out.' This one is very different, but Harry's pathfinding in a post-war America will stick with me for ages to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment