And by "grown-up" I do not mean 50 Shades of Grey or any of its sequels...I mean recent winner of the Orange Prize, Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles and Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge. In non-fiction I recently read That Woman by Anne Sebba about the life of Wallis Simpson, who not surprisingly to me anyway, is not a person I feel I can admire.
The Song of Achilles begins when Patroclus and Achilles are boys and continues until after both are dead. The premise is that over time their friendship grew into a strong, love relationship, not one of the traditional dalliances that often happened between powerful men and their much younger military proteges. It is a truly interesting premise as Homer tells in The Illiad, Achilles was so distraught at the Patroclus' death that when he killed Hector he dragged his dead body around behind his chariot for days, until King Priam came to humbly ask for the return of his son's body. While the death of a close friend is devastating it seems a strong reaction given what both cultures believed about the honor due a fallen warrior. Miller's supposition that perhaps there was more to their friendship would certainly explain Achilles' intense behavior. The book is well-written, moves through the beginnings of their relationship at an appropriate pace, then takes us quickly to the war where there is much more of interest swirling around affecting them as life's pressures affect all couples.
The best part of having read the book is that Miller is coming to my local bookshop next week for a reading and signing. I am very excited.
Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale had Joshilyn Jackson overtones for me. I do mean this as a compliment as I like Jackson's work very much. Faith Bass Darling wakes one night firm in her belief that the Lord has told her to sell her family's precious antiques at one enormous garage sale. Afterwards she will be able to die in peace. For anyone who is an antique collector, reading about Faith selling Tiffany lamps for $5 and Stickley furniture pieces for $20 is painful, but it does all work with the greater cause of finding peace if only Faith can stay focused and remember why she is out in her yard taking money from strangers. Throw in a family tragedy, a Prodigal daughter, and a small town mentality and you have a delightful, but quick read.
Finally, just before school ended I read That Woman by Anne Sebba about Wallis Simpson. I waited quite a while for my turn to come to get this book from the library. I also must mention that I while I love reading about "real" people in non-fiction, I rarely find it as engaging as fiction. This is why I try to listen to most of my non-fiction. This however was an excellently written and absorbing story.
Let me start by saying that this book confirmed my belief that rich people are nuts. And royal rich people are no exception. It seems likely that England was fortunate not to have had David as its king during WWII. Outside his possible Nazi leanings, he was just insane. Without giving anything away I can say that their story was not the grand love story we have been served. The author also makes some jumps using some thin facts to arrive at possibly dubious conclusions. This does not bother me (as it does a friend of mine), I just ask that the author tell what is known and that his/her guess is just a guess.
Ok, so not finally, I also need to mention another YA novel I read called Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. While it is YA historical fiction, most of the YAs I know would not like this book. It is the story of Verity's work for England before her capture by the Nazis in France. It is also the parallel story of Maddie, Verity's friend and the pilot who flew her into France for her mission. It is fascination in format and according to the author's note, as close to possible true as it can be without being non-fiction. It was not fast paced enough for the young readers I know, but for anyone interested in WWII and intricately written characters, it is a wonder. There should not be a sequel to this story as it stands alone so beautifully, but I do hope Wein will take on another historical topic.