On the Bookshelf Pt. 6

Summer has flown by much quicker than I anticipated, but there was plenty of time to be a bookworm. Below I’ve included some recent titles I’ve read, for you to consider yourself! What was your favorite novel of the summer? Share them in comments!

To start, I’m still not sure I liked My Dark Vanessa. It was a tug of war to get through. I guess this is a good book club title because there’s a lot to discuss. 5 pages in, I thought this was going to be nothing but problematic. Instead, it was just uber complicated. It explores the psychological impact of a clearly inappropriate student teacher relationship. I was shocked by the fallout at the end of the school year and surprised that Jenny was trying to be a supportive friend to Vanessa.
The plot only thickens from there, because she again pursued a relationship with Strane after she turned 18. While Strane was out of line to pursue a student, adults in a crummy relationship is a different story. The story alternates between 2000 and 2017, when Strane is accused by another student of abuse, in the “Me Too” era. And while Taylor’s story didn’t seem credible, can inappropriate conduct be construed as on par with physical abuse? I think it’s a disservice to combine traumas into a one size fits all explanation. But would Taylor’s story have held more weight because of Vanessa?
While I can appreciate the nuance, Vanessa was right to be reluctant, her relationship with Strane wasn’t cookie cutter. In her therapy sessions, she is made aware that the man she thought she loved abused her. I guess I was bummed out in the end because I felt like we only saw a partial breakthrough for Vanessa, with lots of questions left unanswered.

Psychotherapist Theo Farber becomes obsessed with Alicia Berenson, a painter who murdered her husband, Gabriel. She is placed in The Grove, a psychiatric hospital, and she has stopped speaking entirely. Six years later Theo applies for a job, expressly to meet the still silent Alicia, in hopes of treating her. The story of why proceeds to be unraveled. There were so many red herrings, I actually didn’t see the twist coming. I thought it was a character with almost no involvement, haha. The chapters were short and suspenseful like a Patterson novel. This mystery thriller is also in the works for movie adaptation!

I feel like I have been reading some heavy content lately, so this summer I wanted to get some books with lighter concepts. City of Girls was an offered title, and I’m so happy it was. It was like a novel combination of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with that anxiousness of Almost Famous. So it’s 1940 and Vivian is from upstate and according to her parents, loafing, so they send her to Manhattan to live with her aunt. Aunt Peg owns an underground theater where we get introduced to a band of characters. They are unconventional, hilarious and their story was as frivolous and dramatic as it was sobering and heartfelt. Even secondary characters like Mr. Herbert and Olive were charming. As the story goes on, America is on the cusp of joining World War 2 efforts, but Vivian fumbles in a faux pas, resulting in seriously unfair consequences (by today’s standard). She’s determined to live her life fully and we get to see her follow through and experience ups and downs as she, and the city, have to make changes as life goes on. This might be my favorite book I’ve read this year.

A vacation to Majorca sounds very nice about now and it was the perfect setting for The Lemon Grove. This was another more carefree title I was hoping would be an entertaining summer read. Jenn, the main character and narrator, made some odd observations in early chapters that were almost discouraging, but her character develops really well throughout the story. She and her husband, Greg, take an annual holiday in Deia, but she thinks the trip will be ruined when they are joined by Greg’s daughter, Emma and her new boyfriend, Nathan.
After an couple awkward lunches though, she finds herself attracted to her stepdaughter’s boyfriend. He was an opaque character, so the novel still felt a bit clunky at this point. However, after a close call on a family outing, the plot really picks up speed. It weaves around a sun soaked island, building up suspense in an exciting and detailed, but unaggressive manner, before it’s finale. I actually would have enjoyed another chapter or two!

First off, I was on Google almost every time I got to reading this novel. I have to say, the history of Bangkok is intense. There’s been government coups, resistance and tumultuous regime. The city’s name has been changed multiple times. Residents call it Krungthep, which is still a shortened moniker. Thai food is personally one of my favorite cuisine’s. It was surprising to learn it wasn’t more widely accepted until the 90s! One last fun fact, I also ended up going down another Google rabbit hole of the best Thai beaches and have now have a whole vacation planned haha.

As for the actual novel, it centers around one house that has had several residents across the passage of time. I would have liked to read a little more from Phineas, since he was the character from colonial exploration and it was such a different time. I loved Nee and Nok’s storyline. The sisters were beautifully developed characters and it was easy to see how modern times impacted them and how they lived. Honestly, I forgot about Clyde. He was introduced in the beginning of the book and then not mentioned until the end. I suppose it made sense, because he was an expat who finally returned to his homeland, but it felt more like a loose end being tied up rather than a significant part of the story. Take a cultural dip (within a fictional realm, of course) into one of the world’s most vibrant, evolving cities.

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