Easy Reads

This week, the Booker Shortlist and the Giller Longlist were announced. Thus, my library queue got crazy again, and there's going to be a whole lot of Literature up in here pretty soon. It seems appropriate, then, that I just polished off a total snack-book, Emma Forrest's Cherries in the Snow*.

Having read Forrest's memoir, Your Voice in my Head just recently, I was a bit distracted by knowing which details of Cherries were "write what you know," and unavoidably making conjecture as to which other details were true. Forrest's personality is evident in Cherries, which is smart, funny, and just slightly raunchy. The main character, Sadie, is a young, hip English Jewish girl living in New York (as is Forrest). As the novel begins she's in a relationship with an older man, a journalist. I believe Forrest mentioned a long-time relationship with an older playwright in Your Voice. I began to wonder how much of the stilted sex life in the first part of the book was fiction, and how the older man (men?) in her life felt about that.
The novel is a chick-lit romp through makeup and love, with a feisty eight-year old thrown in. No startling new territory here. Kate Carraway's The Globe & Mail review of Your Voice in My Head says of Forrest's earlier fiction
I and other twentysomething disaffecteds read half-sunk in lukewarm bathwater, searching for instruction and connection with her characters, all of them good bad girls, messy and wanting.
This intrigued me, but I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more in my teens and 20s. For me, it was possible to believe in those years that a man like the love-interest Marley was on the horizon. Marley is a prince-charming composite, perfect for Emma Forrest, BEST LOVAH EVER (really? at 24 you get this? really?) with a dark distant-past, enough cash to go around, who falls in love with our protagonist almost instantly, but not slavishly. Ten years ago I could easily dream that I too would one day have a glamourous job at a cosmetics company in the big city... oh, shit; I do have a job a cosmetics company in the big city. Anyway, what I mean is, this is all delightful fantasy stuff but at this point in my life Cherries is the sort of thing that entertains only while I'm reading it. To really care about a book like this one probably needs to be able to feel like they could put themselves into the main character and I was wholly unable to do so. I really, really loved Forrest's memoir, and I look forward to any forthcoming work. I suspect it will speak to me more than Cherries in the Snow.

Something I never, ever stop loving is a big old multi-generational epic. Peter Behrens' The O'Briens is a good choice if you're in the mood for such. The reviews I've seen mention his first (and, they say, better) novel The Law of Dreams, which won the Governor General's award. Since I haven't read that one I haven't any comparative complaints. The O'Briens begins before WWI and ends in the 1960s, following the fortunes of Joe O'Brien and his extended family. Again, from The Globe and Mail:
We see no consequence more dire than his wife being angry with him, but even then we’re not sure whether she wants to leave him because of his drinking binges or because she has fallen in love with J. Krishnamurti.
That's valid, but I didn't really mind the lack of big drama. Some bad things happen, but everyone's pretty much okay in the end, and I don't have a particular issue with that treatment. The O'Briens is a story, not an opera.
I read a lot of Judith Krantz and Barbara Taylor Bradford novels years ago, and the way The O'Briens deals mostly with the lives of the privileged felt similar. Some might take that comparison as an insult, I don't know, but it's certainly not meant that way. Those books, as with The O'Briens, were easy and engaging, over 500 pages and 50-plus fictional years.
As for quibbles, I do have a couple. The O'Briens is most interesting in its early going, usually when focusing on the matriarch, Iseult, and it does suffer sometimes from possible behavioral anachronisms (for example, I'm not sure how easy it would be for a woman to leave her husband and flee the country with her children in 1931, or if many women would even think of the possibility). As well, there was a stand-out magical sperm phallacy (I coined it that day, yes the "ph" is intentional) early on that had quite a few of my Twitter pals giggling**. Otherwise, it's a fine read, and sometimes just "fine" is exactly what I want.

Okay, awardies and fall lists. Let's do this. *rolls up sleeves*

*That review is a random Google find, and a lovely little review it is!
**My tweet: "Her firm white belly loaded with mystery." Oh bugger off, it's JIZZ not the Arc of the Covenant.

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