Friday, February 1, 2013

Seven Quick Takes Volume III: 2012 Book Round Up

Seven Long Takes, Sit Still

1. The Exposition

February 1, the time honored day when casual readers everywhere look back through their Kindle list from the year preceding and sift through what left an impression on them. You didn't know that? Jeez, get out much?

I actually did a whole lot of novel reading way back in the year 2012, mostly due to the fact that I got a Kindle for Christmas, and most of the year I had a nursling who demanded complete silence and no distraction for his "nee." So we spent, truly, many happy moments together, and I must say,the happiest experience of breastfeeding ever, giving me time to enjoy my little one alone, and to read some great stuff. And other mediocre stuff, and other just stuff. And much of what I read has been talked and talked to death that the stories are almost meaningless, (Hunger Games anyone?) so these here are what I want to remember I read last year.

2. The Bleak

All that fuzzy criticism of Tolstoy finally came into focus when I read Kreutzer Sonata. G.K. Chesterton rightly summarized my feelings for the literary giant thusly: "We know not what to do with this small and noisy moralist who inhabits one corner of a good and great man." Yes. Perhaps my favorite psychological literary explorer, in this bleak look at the state of Christian humanity, Tolstoy makes a case that is exactly the antithesis of John Paul II's "Theology of the Body." Precisely, that it is impossible for a Christian to marry because the inherit evil nature of Man reduces all individuals to unredeemable dog slobber. But hot damn, so well told! 

*Runners up in this category: 

  • Henry James' Princess Cassimassima and Daisy Miller 
  • Maggie: a Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane 
  • Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy 
  • Jenny by the pre-conversion Sigrid Undset.
*All excellent story tellers, all plagued with Naturalist tendencies.

3. The Thought Provoking

What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha. A debut novel narrated by a novelist struggling to find inspiration after publishing his well received debut novel. Yawn. But thought provoking nevertheless. I couldn't help from loathing the narrator and could care less about his happiness or that of Sophie Wilder, his self-inflicted victim heroine. But the story of her conversion and descent was told truthfully enough that I found myself really stuck in thought over the outcome, and if I agreed with Beha's assessment of the probability of it. To do  him justice, I do believe he dealt with the issues of faith and the Catholic Church with surprising fairness, and therefore worthy of a head scratching or two.

* Runner up: The House of Gentlefolk by Ivan Turgenev

4. A Little More Positive Now: The Biography

Children's novelist Jennifer Roy tells in free verse the forgotten story of Syvia Perlmutter, one of only three children to survive the Lodz ghetto of Poland during WWII. Scrupulously capturing the horrors of poverty, near starvation and survivalist confinement through the eyes of a child, this novella had me crying right along with Syvia in the cold, dark basement where she was hidden, and exhaling in relief at her inevitable War end's release. Excellent.

*Runner up: Rose: My Life in Service by Rosina Harrison

5. Plain Old Fun 

I ate up every single page of this surprisingly rambunctious and naughty Henry Fielding novel from timeline-wise, the Age of Enlightenment really, 1749. I was prepared for bawdiness a la Moll Flanders, but the situational humor had me at housemaid's mysterious bastard. A worthy read, if only for the cleverness and life-of-their-own chapter headings. 

*Runners up:

  • Lady Susan and Love and Friendship by a young Jane Austen
  • Curtain: Poirot's Last Case by Agatha Christie
  • My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

6. The Redeeming

Illuminated initial showing Tobit reclining, with a swallow above

The Book of Tobit by God - haha! That's how it is actually listed on my Kindle.

How have I never even run across this? Probably because most of the Bibles I own are based in rebellious Protestantism I guess. Totally blown out of the water with this one. It just seemed so...Catholic, like it could have been written by Paul VI or something. Filled with hope and a sense that the world has purpose and meaning and God's willingness to call us His own, I am going to have to read some really insightful theological criticism to even scratch the surface of what is happening here (blinded by sparrows' droppings? Some luck!)

*Runner up: The Father's Tale by Michael O'Brien

7. The Sustaining

No book on this list had a greater impact on me than An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, and I haven't even been able to read beyond Chapter V. And yes, I am aware it is not a novel, at all. But the epistolary approach St. Francis takes makes the reader feel as if he is engaging with the St. himself, and the insights cut straight to the core of the reader's shortcomings. But so much love, so much love contained therein. I have read those first five chapters several times and feel a hesitancy to move forward, knowing that where he takes me will be Somewhere indeed. "Believe me, dear Child," coaxes the saint, "devotion is the sweetest of the sweets, the queen of virtues, the perfection of love." And you believe him.


Not sure I should even link here to good old Fulwiler and her Quick Takes seeing as it bears no resemblance, but hey, I of the Web Log live dangerously. But I would like to thank the canny Laura of This Felicitous Life, off whom I stole this idea for a book look back. Thanks! 


  1. Nice! More ideas for my to-read list here!

    In your comment on my blog, you mentioned In This House of Breade. Not sure whether I made this clear but it IS fiction. Very engaging, I think. I have a hard time with non-fiction too. It has to be short and snappy. Or at least something I can just read in little bits at a time.

  2. Book of Tobit and Intro to Devout Life, next on my list. Tom Jones is in my top 10. Two books I keep picking up and then giving up on: The Power and the Glory and Brideshead. Should I persevere? Now can you write a small book-sized review on Island of the world?


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