In the High Peaks

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

3 Books Finished, One to Go, & Onward to Fall Reading

 On this tropically rainy day, I spent much of it reading, and finished my 19th book, Writers and Lovers by Lily King (2020). Casey, a young woman of 30, has been immersed in writing her first novel for the past 6 years. This book follows her through the final year of writing after a move to Boston. King shows us all of Casey's life at age 30. Her life as a waitress in Harvard Square is miserable but lavishly entertaining, her squalid apartment, her relationships, one with a man her own age and one with a famous writer just emerging from the devastation of having lost his wife. The tone, the voice, everything about this book is vibrant, super-charged with vitality, despite Casey's angst. An excellent read! The Boston setting was loads of fun.

On a much more somber note, I devoured A History of Present Illness (18) by Anna DeForest. The unnamed narrator is a young medical student, and this novel is not linear. It is actually composed of anecdotes and scenes of her encounters with the unnamed, unwritten bible of the medical profession, all the parts which are the opposite of the axiom "First do no harm." Unsurprisingly, the author is a palliative care physician as well as a neurologist and this is her debut novel. It's short, but because it's plotless, I don't think it could be called a novella. It's impossible not to identify with the medical student's introduction to surgery, autopsies, cadaver class, and end-of-life care. DeForest highlights the least humane aspects of medicine. If you have any interest in recent medical fiction, I do recommend it. The handling of controversial medical topics is unique.

And I finally finished Rumer Godden: A Storyteller's Life (17) by Anne Chisholm (1999). Godden had a fascinating life, having lived in British colonial India until 1944-45, when she was 37, at which time she moved to England. She lived in the Bay of Bengal as a child, in what is now Bangladesh, Calcutta, and during WWII lived in Kashmir. (Actually not under British control at the time she lived there.) She later made many return trips, some of them for movies made from her books. She wrote voluminously--and couldn't resist writing children's books as well. I look forward to reading many more of her novels. 

Books I'm looking forward to in September:  I am a diehard fan of Ian McEwan, so Lessons is on my list. Since it's a hefty one, I'll probably buy it. Anne Cleeves has a new Vera Stanhope novel arriving on September 6, so I'll be reading that.  

On hold now at the library is Julian Barnes's (another favorite author) Elizabeth Finch and Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah, the new Nobel Prizewinner. #20 will be one of these two.


  1. I enjoyed Writers and Lovers - especially the setting and main character. Congrats on rounding in on that #20 Book of Summer. I will meet that goal as well likely but, I did swap out about 6 titles from my original list. I'm busy making my fall list but, I will probably still read a few more from my summer list for another 1-2 weeks.

    A History of a Present Illness sounds like I may have this on my TBR list. The title is so familiar.

    1. Hi Diane,
      Yes, the setting was a plus that added to my enjoyment of what was a great novel. I loved Casey's character as well.
      I swapped out at least 6 books, and I think maybe 8 in total. Several of my books on the original list were duds, and some have not been available. But I will say that I truly enjoyed almost all of the books I read. It was fun, during a season that is my least favorite.

  2. So many interesting books here, Judith! Writers and Lovers was one of my favorite 2021 reads. I'm wondering if you might enjoy her short story collection, Five Tuesdays in Winter. I read that in 2021, too.

    I've just put A History of Present Illness on hold at the library, and you've piqued my interest in Rumer Godden. Planning to read In this House of Brede in 2023.

    I'm looking forward to Elizabeth Finch, but didn't know Ian McEwan had a new novel. Excited about Elizabeth Strout and Celeste Ng's fall releases, too.

    1. Thanks, JoAnn, for letting me know about Lily King's short story collection. I would like to read more of her work. I also understand she has several previous novels as well, the most highly acclaimed being Euphoria. But I have so much to read this fall!
      I think you'll find A History of Present Illness will give you lots to chomp on. Will be fascinated to hear what you think of it!
      And yes, Ian McEwan's Lessons is highly anticipated. It's supposedly a return to the style and themes of some of his earlier novels.

  3. Two Under the Indian Sun is the very appealing memoir written by Rumer and her sister Jon about their childhood in India. I must have my grandmother's copy because she removed the dust jacket (as was briefly the fashion in the 50s or 60s) but helpfully left a section of it tucked inside.

    1. Yes, I received this one as a Christmas gift shortly after it was published when I was a very young teen and found it fascinating. Their childhood was British colonial India then, but is Bangladesh today.