Sunday, September 13, 2009

1 Part Truth, 2 Parts Mystery

A History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage
This book traces the history of civilization through six broadly defined eras in which the primary drink was beer, wine, liquor, coffee, tea, and finally cola. I most enjoyed the first three sections (beer, wine and liquor) because they dealt with civilizations from thousands of years ago. Once the book got to more modern times the premise sometimes felt stretched. For example, the author cited first taxes on whiskey and later those on tea as inciting the American revolution. While they certainly both contributed, the author tried to make the same point twice and didn't really acknowledge the inconsistency. Even so, it was an interesting book and made me think a lot more about what I drink!

The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters
After World War II, England was at a crossroads in that many parts of it were modern, but in the countryside buildings and social mores had not changed for centuries. This novel follows a family of country gentry as they deal with these changes. However, it's a bit of a mystery and a ghost story. I'm not usually a big fan of these types of things, but The Little Stranger was well written; it remained creepy without slipping over into ridiculousness. The narrator, a doctor, acted as a device to win over the skeptical reader (such as myself). The writing is good and I'm interested in seeing what else Sarah Waters has written.

The Lace Reader
, Brunonia Barry
This one came recommended from Erin and I'm so glad she lent it to me. The novel follows the homecoming of Towner Whitney, a self-proclaimed "unreliable narrator" who returns to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts for the first time in fifteen years. In this book nothing is as it seems; the witches are on the good side and a popular preacher is abusive. As the story progresses, the reader learns more about why Towner left Salem so long ago and how it impacted the entire community. The title comes from a special talent of the Whitney women; they can "read" lace and see the future. The book is mystical without being unrealistic and draws you completely into Towner's life. Quick everyone, ask Erin if you can borrow it next!

No comments: