Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mini Reviews: Charlotte's Web, The Marriage Plot, Mornings in Jenin, and Friday Night Lights

Title: Charlotte's Web
Author: E.B. White
Publisher: Harper Collins, 1952

 Summary in a Sentence: Wilbur, the pig, is desolate when he discovers that he is destined to be the farmer's Christmas dinner until his spider friend, Charlotte, decides to help him.

My Thoughts:
Ah, where do I start? This book was a life-shaping force in the early years of my life. So many memories flooded back to me as I re-read it for the first time in almost 20 years. I actually re-read the exact copy I first opened in fourth grade, and was tickled to see all the underlined words that I looked up for vocabulary activities at school. All I can say is that if you've somehow gotten this far in life without reading this book, fix it. Now.

Title: The Marriage Plot
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011

Summary in a Sentence: English major Madeleine Hanna must choose between two suitors while working on her senior thesis on the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels.

My Thoughts:
The Marriage Plot is a coming-of-age tale, a travel narrative, and a story of dealing with mental illness, with some literary criticism and 80s pop-culture references thrown in for good measure. Most of all, it's an enjoyable, readable, character-driven, multi-layered novel that will satisfy those looking for a good story as well as those who want to read a little deeper.  Recommended for fans of literary fiction, Jonathan Franzen in particular. For an in-depth review, check out Things Mean a Lot.

Title: Mornings in Jenin
Author: Susan Abulhawa
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2010

Summary in a Sentence: Four generations of a Palestinian family struggle to survive during more than sixty years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, finding themselves on both sides of the fighting.

My Thoughts:
I started this book knowing embarrassingly little about the history of Palestine and Israel. At first, I was a little intimidated, especially when I opened the book to see a diagram of characters to keep them straight. Nevertheless, Nancy Pearl suggested it, and Nancy Pearl is my rockstar librarian hero, so I left any doubts in the dust and read on. It was an intense, sometimes hard to read novel that planted a seed of curiosity about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict within me. I definitely want to read more on the subject, preferably non-fiction next time for balance.Check out Aarti's review over at BookLust.

Title: Friday Night Lights
Author: H.G. Bissinger
Publisher: Addison-Wesley, 1990

Summary in a Sentence: Follows the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers, a high school football team in Odessa, Texas, exploring the lives of the players and the impact of the championship team on the small town.

My Thoughts:
Bissinger is a genius. Why, you may ask? Because, dear readers, I have absolutely no interest in football whatsoever. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Despite this severe lack of interest, I couldn't stop reading this book! To say it is a book about a high school football team is very misleading; it is so much more. It also deals with economic diversity, race, and tradition. For example, Permian High, one of the main high schools in Odessa, TX, and the focus of Bissinger's work, was integrated just 8 years before the book was written in 1990. Bissinger's book is a character study of the citizens of Odessa, as well as a commentary on the history and interpersonal relations of this small town.


    JaneGS said...

    Friday Night Lights sounds good, and I am not into football at all. I love it when a writer can make any topic interesting and relevant.

    A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

    Definitely. Another author who always does that for me is Tony Horwitz. I'm currently reading his Confederates in the Attic. He has that highly narrative form of writing that I love in nonfiction.

    Ryan said...

    I am dying to read A Marriage Plot. Seems like I'm the last person in the world who hasn't. Have you read Middlesex or The Virgin Suicides yet?

    A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

    @Ryan: I've read Virgin Suicides but not Middlesex. What about you?

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