I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
April 8, 2019
Oops. I wrote this post, then with all the excitement over Nashville’s cherry blossom trees, totally forgot to publish it. So today, I’m righting that wrong for the many tens of readers who come here FOR THE BOOK REVIEWS.
I read some fantastic books last month, including a novel that just might end up being one of my favorites of the year. Here are my thoughts on all of the above.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris (4/5 stars)
When an opportunistic young Slovakian Jew finds himself unexpectedly transported to Auschwitz during World War II, he uses wits and kindness to survive. This novel is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov’s harrowing time at the Nazis’ most notorious death camp. He managed to cheat death and even find love in the camp by seizing opportunities when they came, being good to the people around him, and doing his best to keep a positive attitude about his survival in the face of unimaginable horror.
Although the writing style at times veers toward melodrama, the story itself is so compelling that it transcends the writing. I loved reading the notes on the real Lale Sokolov at the end of the book and learning about his life after Auschwitz. I also appreciated that this book had a different perspective on the Holocaust, focusing on Jews in the camps who chose to ingratiate themselves to their Nazi captors and make themselves indispensable in order to survive. I don’t think there was any shame in this, but it’s understandable that they later suffered guilt over not taking a stand against the Nazis while they were in the camps.
Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (5/5 stars)
Olive Kitteridge is a sharp-tongued, no nonsense school teacher, wife and mother living in small-town Maine. We get to know her over the years in a series of short stories, some about Olive, others about townspeople who come across Olive at some point in the story. It sounds like a simple enough premise, and it is — But with her incredible writing talent and keen eye for human nature, Elizabeth Strout manages to go much, much deeper.
I read many of these stories with a lump in my throat, even crying at the end of a few. Strout has a knack for exposing some of the darkest and most frightening thoughts and emotions we all have/will have as we age, but often don’t want think about or admit to. There’s plenty of sobering realism in Olive Kitteridge about growing older, dysfunctional relationships between parents and their adult children and between husbands and wives, and the cruelty humans too often show one other, but there’s also hope and a reminder that we need to live each day to the fullest, devote serious time and effort to our relationships with family members and friends, and appreciate all we have at every phase of our lives — because none of it lasts forever.
I really loved this book. It just might end up being the best book I read in 2019. I noticed Strout has a sequel coming out this year and I. Can’t. Wait.
Sadie, by Courtney Summers (4/5 stars)
Sadie is cleverly written and makes for a good dark crime fiction read. We bounce back and forth between a true crime podcast about a murdered teenager and her missing sister and the POV of the missing sister herself — Sadie. It turns out Sadie knows who killed her little sister and why, and she’s run away in order to seek revenge for her sister’s murder.
Sadie’s point-of-view is especially well done and makes me want to read more of Courtney Summers’ books. I listened to the audiobook version and I recommend it — It’s a full-cast production, the novel’s podcast is designed to sound like an actual podcast, and it really brings the book to life, although it’s agonizingly clear that some of the bit parts were read by total novices — A few characters sound like the guy in line behind you at the DMV was asked to read the part cold and it’s actually painful to hear them read!
I think I would have liked this book even more if it didn’t feel so much like a YA copy of Winter’s Bone, which was a true masterpiece of a novel. I couldn’t help but repeatedly compare the two and it madeSadie come up painfully short. However, on its own, Sadie is solid.
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (4/5 stars)
In 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain starts a journal and chronicles her family’s daily life in the ruined castle they reside in. The Mortmains are bohemian and mired in poverty, but things are about to change, and we get to witness them through Cassandra’s eyes.
I Capture the Castle was sheer joy to read. Cassandra is wonderfully charming and it’s easy to become smitten by the entire cast of characters, as well as their castle and quirky British village they call home. If you loved Nancy Mitford’s novels and E.F. Benson’s Lucia series as much as I did, you will definitely enjoy this novel as well. This book would make a delightful Cold Comfort Farm-style movie. I only wish Dodie Smith had chosen to continue Cassandra’s story in a future novel — The ending is unsatisfying in that there are some loose ends that beg to be neatly tied up.
Meaty, by Samantha Irby (4/5 stars)
I listened to the audiobook of this collection of essays and highly recommend it. Samantha Irby reads her essays in this hilarious deadpan that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a coffee shop together exchanging embarrassing moment stories and laughing your asses off.
This is Irby’s debut collection of essays, so it’s not quite as polished as We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, but if you liked that book, I think you’ll like this one as well. Although she covers some of the same themes in both books, she manages to keep from sounding repetitive — Each book complements the other.
Not only does Irby make me laugh harder than any other female writer to date, I can’t help but be impressed by her honesty and indomitable, never-say-die spirit in the face of some really hard knocks. She offers proof that you can triumph no matter what kind of shit life dishes out, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
4 stars out of 5 only because this book includes a hella lot of recipes and a reeeaaaaalllly long description of her TV pilot idea, so I didn’t like it quite as much as her latest book. You should still read it, though.
The Disappearances, by Emily Bain (3/5 stars)
When Aila Quinn’s mother dies and her father leaves to fight in World War II, she and her younger brother are sent to live with her mother’s best friend from childhood in the small town of Sterling, where both girls grew up. Aila soon discovers Sterling holds many secrets — All of its residents are plagued by disappearances. Every seven years, something they love — their senses of taste and smell, for example — mysteriously disappears, and no has been able to figure out why. It’s up to Aila and her new friends to solve the mystery.
While I probably would have LOVED this book at 12, it’s understandably lightweight by adult standards. I listened to it on audiobook and it was compelling enough to get through, but it was a little too heavy on the teen-friendly plot points for my taste. Your tween daughter who loves to read will definitely enjoy it and unlike many YA novels I’ve read lately, it’s completely clean — No sex scenes or cursing!
Got recommendations of your own or thoughts on what I’ve read? Share them in the comments! I’d love to hear what you think of Elizabeth Strout in particular, if you’ve read any of her novels — I find it fascinating that readers seem to either love her or hate her.
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