Friday, June 29, 2007

Review: Summer Reading

I'm stealing this book reviewing format (with permission!) from Dewey over at The Hidden Side of a Leaf. I have such a hard time knowing what to say, I thought having a format might help.

Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer
Rating: 3 1/2 stars

What led you to pick up this book? I think I read a blurb about it in Shelf Awareness. But basically, I liked the title - it is summer, after all!

Summarize the plot, but don’t give away the ending! It revolves around a "summer reading book club" (I didn't know there were such things) in the Hamptons called the Page Turners. Trophy second wife Lissy Snyder longs to be part of the glamourous crowd and is delighted to be invited to join the book club (even though she's dyslexic). Retired English professor Angela Graves supplements her pension leading such groups. And local girl Michelle Cutty cooks for, cleans up after, and resents the "weekenders". Each woman is struggling with something - Lissy is now the unwilling stepmother of her husband’s hostile children; Michelle can’t get her fisherman boyfriend to commit, and Angela still carries the shameful memory of a long-ago, disastrous love affair.

What did you like most about the book? I liked the "bookishness" of it. I enjoyed that it was three stories in one. I also enjoyed the Hamptons setting. Though I haven't made it there yet, I've been intrigued by the Hamptons since I read Further Lane by James Brady.

What did you like least? Even though they're important parts of the story, I didn't really like shallowness of Lissy or Angela's attitude towards her past behaviour. While it's not the author's fault at all, I also didn't like that I hadn't read any of the books mentioned. Maybe it will spur me on to read Villette.

Who would enjoy this book? Why? I think former literature majors would enjoy it, especially if they've read the books. And also people in book clubs. As a book clubber, I always get a kick out of books about book clubs.

Share a favourite scene from the book. I enjoyed Angela's attempts to teach the Page Turners about literature, such as the importance of "seeing oneself in the fictional other." It reminded me I need to be a more careful reader. And I was amused when, after being told by Angela that literature teaches us how to live, rich, shallow Lissy thinks all about her pretty, equally shallow friends and her beautiful home and decides "she didn't need anything else from literature, she already knew how to live."

Another scene that stands out is the very terrible play Angela attends and how she's so kind to the young actors afterwards.

What about the ending? Did it make you want to throw the book across the room? No, it was fine. But while I like happy endings, I do I agree with one review that noted all three characters got quick, happy endings to wrap everything up nicely. But then, that's what you want in summer reading, really. :-).

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