So this was fabulous. Going to write it as if you know the ending, because really, this book was published in 1929 so at this point it’s no longer a spoiler…
Set in the First World War, it’s the story of an American ambulance driver in the Italian Army on the Italian front who falls in love with a Scottish nurse. There are descriptions of attacks, life behind the front lines, losing friends and the general unhappiness of war, which provide the setting for this love story.
Not knowing much about this book going in, other than it does not end well, I was surprised that the American was fighting with the Italians, and that the British nurse I’d heard so much about was actually Scottish. Some may argue Scottish/British, same deal — I am 1/4 Scottish and will argue differently.
So the American falls in love with this Scottish lady and I have to say I wasn’t interested in the story until the end when they escape together. That’s when I really got hooked, maybe because I knew of the tragedy that was about to ensue.
I have the edition of this with all of the alternate endings, where the baby lives, and it is so interesting to see how Hemingway worked through the various ways it could end. There are pages where photocopies of his writing with the actual scratchings out of lines and notes in the margins are visible, and it is fascinating to get a glimpse of his writing process.
Ultimately, the ending of A Farewell to Arms was beautiful in its simplicity. The final line:
“After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.”
That just hits me in the gut. So sad, but then again, what’s he supposed to do? His almost-wife and baby just died, he doesn’t seem to have anyone left in the world, so he walks back to the hotel in the rain. Tragic.
I liked this a lot, but did not love it as much as The Sun Also Rises. I am glad I read it because now I feel more legitimate in my claims that I am a fan of Hemingway.
Back in 2005 I was browsing the stacks in the public library in my city, looking for something to read. This was before the days of Goodreads and book blogs when my reading was a little less planned out than it is currently. I still sometimes just wander around the stacks, looking for covers that appeal to me. I love spontaneous discovery.
On this day, I found a book that led to me reading 17 (!) more. Killing Floor by Lee Child. The main character is Jack Reacher, an old military policeman who is a loner on the road, is very large, approximately 6’5 I think, drinks a lot of coffee and never owns more than one outfit at a time. He buys new clothes and trashes the old ones, because he doesn’t like to carry stuff around. There’s a murder in the town he’s passing through in Georgia, and somehow he’s arrested for murder. Suspense, mystery and crime-solving ensue.
These books are no literary masterpieces, but I enjoy a larger than life character who is just too ridiculous to exist in the real world. Also, I enjoy predictability in my reading sometimes. I know what I’m getting when I pick up a Jack Reacher book. He’s on the road, he gets involved in some sort of crime, people are usually out to get him for some reason, he usually meets a lady friend, and talks a lot about how he doesn’t like to be tied down.
There’s currently 18 in the series, with a couple of shorter stories included in there, one of which is from Jack Reacher’s perspective as a child.
I introduced my fiance’s dad to this series and he loves it. Maybe your dad would too! Or maybe you would. I love it. But don’t get me started about how Tom Cruise ruined what could have been a great movie franchise. Tom Cruise is a full foot smaller than Jack Reacher is supposed to be, and nowhere near as badass. It still makes me angry to think about!!!
So, sometimes I do choose a book by its cover. When I saw this beauty on display in my local public library, I couldn’t help but pick it up.
The plot seemed interesting, so even though it was quite long, I decided to bring it home and try to read it.
A little bit about the plot from Goodreads:
“From James Meek, the award-winning author of the international bestseller The People’s Act of Love, comes a rich and intricate novel about everything that matters to us now: children, celebrity, secrets and shame, the quest for youth, loyalty and betrayal, falls from grace, acts of terror, and the wonderful, terrible inescapability of family.
Ritchie Shepherd, an aging pop star and a producer of a reality show for teen talent, is starting to trip over his own lies. Maybe filming a documentary about his father, Captain Shepherd, a British soldier executed by Northern Irish guerrillas, will redeem him.
His sister, Bec, is getting closer and closer to a vaccine for malaria. When she’s not in Tanzania harvesting field samples, she’s peering through a microscope at her own blood to chart the risky treatment she’s testing on herself. She’s as addicted to honesty as Ritchie is to trickery.
Val Oatman is the editor of a powerful tabloid newspaper. The self-appointed conscience of the nation, scourge of hypocrites and cheats, he believes he will marry beautiful Bec.
Alex Comrie, a gene therapist (and formerly the drummer in Ritchie’s band), is battling his mortally ill uncle, a brilliant and domineering scientist, over whether Alex might actually have discovered a cure for aging. Alex, too, believes he will marry Bec.
Colum O’Donabháin has just been released from prison, having served a twenty-five-year sentence for putting a gun to Captain Shepherd’s head when he refused to give up an informer. He now writes poetry.
Their stories meet and tangle in this bighearted epic that is also shrewd, starkly funny, and utterly of the moment. The Heart Broke In is fiction with the reverberating resonance of truth.”
A lot going on, right?? Well let me tell you a little bit about my experience reading this book. I have a really bad habit of reading the first 50-75 pages of a book and then abandoning it if it doesn’t immediately catch my interest. I figure, if I’m not enjoying something, why bother continuing? I almost did not finish this one. It did not immediately catch me. As I was about to abandon it, my good friend Alixe was visiting and she told me that she always finishes her books no matter what, because “if they’re bad I want to know for sure that they’re really bad,” or something like that. So I decided to challenge myself to keep going with this and finish. And you know what? I’m glad I did.
All of these very different people are somehow connected through the tangled webs that are weaved in social structures. This book shows both the good side of humanity and the bad. People do incredibly good things, and people do incredibly terrible things. There are plot elements that deal with music, science, the IRA and poetry, but mostly it is a book about friendships and relationships. There is one moment where a character makes a decision to do something to help her family, that may seem morally wrong to most people, but it makes you sit and question, how do we define what is right and what is wrong? Who is the decider? And it makes you realize that people have a lot of secrets. Not just in books, but in everyday life people make decisions and do things that are hard choices, ones that they don’t necessarily share with the world.
I don’t usually read contemporary fiction, and I find long books daunting, so this over 400-page tome was a challenge, but a good one. It helped that the chapters were short. I don’t think I will be rushing to pick up James Meek’s other novel, but I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone in order to finish The Heart Broke In.
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
I initially gave this book five stars on Goodreads, but after sleeping on it I changed my rating to four stars. Let me explain. I loved the way the book was written. Loved getting the perspective of Bee, loved learning about characters through their correspondence, and really related to the character of Bernadette. Bernadette is an oddball who suffers from anxiety, specifically social anxiety, which is also something I struggle with. So sometimes when she was behaving irrationally I was just thinking “Yep, sounds about right, do what you gotta do Bernadette.” I love that this book felt a bit like an onion, with all these different layers that you keep peeling away until you get to the heart of the issues. I also loved the satirical aspect, mocking private schools, crazy in-denial mothers who think their children are perfect, and the culture of Microsoft. With all that being said, I think the ending could have been better. I won’t ruin anything for you with spoilers, but I’ll just say this – I don’t like loose ends and issues that are unresolved. So instead of five stars, I give Where’d You Go Bernadette a very solid four.
“Eva is walking by the river one afternoon when a body floats to the surface of the icy water. She tells her daughter to wait patiently while she calls the police, but when she reaches the phone box Eva dials another number altogether. The dead man, Egil, has been missing for months, and it doesn’t take long for Inspector Sejer and his team to establish that he was the victim of a very violent killer. But the trail has gone cold. It’s as puzzling as another unsolved case on Sejer’s desk: the murder of a prostitute who was found dead just before Egil went missing. While Sejer is trying to piece together the fragments of a seemingly impossible case, Eva gets a phone call late one night. A stranger speaks and then swiftly hangs up. Eva looks out into the darkness and listens. All is quiet.”
So, according to my Goodreads account, I started this book on February 11, and I just finished it today!! It’s funny how time gets away from you when you’re dealing with various health issues and grad school and such. However, I gotta say, this did sit untouched on my bedside table for a while because I was just not feeling it. Until the other night!! I got through the first 100 pages and then it really picked up.
I think maybe it was slow at first because it’s the first book in the Inspector Sejer series, so there was a lot of setting up characters and such. The Inspector is your typical loner police officer that you see in a lot of Scandinavian Crime Fiction (see: Wallander series by Henning Mankell, Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo). What’s interesting about Sejer is that he likes skydiving!! And he’s a bit older than some of the other main characters in this genre, as he is a grandfather.
As for the story – the crime seemed really confusing, and kind of boring at first. Then all of a sudden there is a huge twist that I DID NOT SEE COMING. I will not say anymore, because that would ruin the book, but I will say that this is worth slogging through the first half to get to the second half. I read last night until my eyes were drooping and I had to go to sleep, then picked it up again this afternoon as soon as I had time, because I just had to finish it immediately. I really like when a book surprises me like this. I’ll admit, I am a book-abandoner, I will just ditch a book if I don’t like it. Sometimes I wonder if I miss out on books that have potential to improve as you read on, but at the same time, I don’t want to spend time on something I don’t enjoy. I didn’t abandon this one because I had actually purchased it as opposed to just getting it from the library — and I’m so glad I didn’t!! I would recommend this author for sure.
Do you abandon books if you don’t like them after the first bit of reading?
“A 14-year old girl is raped at one of the Salvation Army summer camps. Twelve years later, at a Christmas concert in a square in Oslo, a Salvation Army soldier is executed by a man in the crowd. A press photographer has caught a suspect on one of the photos of the concert. Beate Lønn, the identification expert, is confused by how the face can change from one photo to the next. Inspector Harry Hole’s search for the faceless man takes place on the seamy side of the city, among those who seek eternal – or just momentary – redemption. And the gunman has not yet completed his mission.”
This wasn’t my favourite in the series. I feel like I didn’t get to spend as much time with the characters that I have come to love (Beate, Halvorsen, Rakel and Oleg) and that their storylines were just sort of put off to the side as secondary. The murder mystery was interesting to a certain extent, but it got very twisted and very complicated, maybe a little bit too much. I will definitely keep reading the series. I feel like this book sets up a lot of things for the next book, such as where is Harry’s relationship with Rakel going to go? What will happen to Moller? Is the new head of the department going to cause problems?
I love Nesbo and Harry Hole, so I still enjoyed this, it just was my least favourite of the series so far.