I’ve finished the four books above within the last week. No beach vacations here, but lots of stolen moments with my iPad, swiping with abandon.
Midnight in Peking by Paul French
Discovered via an interview on NPR, this historical crime book details the murder of a young Englishwoman in pre-WWII China. If you know next to nothing about Chinese history (confession: I had to look up the modern name of Peking), this book will intrigue not only for the description of this gruesome crime scene and seedy underbelly of the city, but also for an understanding of China’s not-so-distant history. The premise (the murder was never solved by law enforcement; the victim’s father’s independent investigation identified the killers but was lost in WWII-era British files) grabs you, but I felt like too many pages were dedicated to the halting and political investigation that revealed little, while the revealing conclusion gallops rapidly in the final pages.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I read it too. I think it’s been thoroughly reviewed by everyone on my dashboard today. Pace yourself appropriately so that, unlike me, you don’t reach a major plot twist just as your eyes are begging you to close up shop and go to sleep.
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
This reimagined version of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence in set in modern-day Northwest England, an insular community of well-to-do Jews. (Apparently, this is quite the literary turnabout as Edith Wharton was a notorious anti-semite? Or so the Internet tells me?) If, like me, you read the original in school (or tried to, and then rented the 1993 movie instead), you’ll appreciate the re-purposed names (Newland Archer is Adam Newman!). The story moves along at a pretty good clip for a plot that involves longing as the primary event, though some secondary characters were dwelled upon with no payoff.
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
This novel is contained entirely in the New England weekend wedding of Winn and Biddy Van Meter’s eldest daughter. While plenty of WASP stereotypes abound, the family’s complex history (both generations ago and painfully recent) will keep you reading, though without the too-common doom, doom, these people will never feel happiness again ending that most family dynamic novels produce. The father’s rehearsal dinner speech had me chuckling with uncomfortable delight.