Books I Read This Month - March 2014

The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
A children's book writer struggles with the emotional downfall of his marriage after his three-year-old daughter is kidnapped in a supermarket. While the book is slow in parts, especially when it deals with the man's serving on a political board that makes policies concerning literacy in education, it goes really deep into his psyche and details how the loss of his daughter has affected all facets of his life. The themes of childhood innocence and the social construction of adult behavior pervade. It's a tough read sometimes, but worth it for those who are able to slog through. I still love Ian McEwan after this book. He's still my favorite author of all time, even though this isn't one of my favorites of his books.

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
Another book where a girl goes missing, and a writer is involved, but very different from The Child in Time. The missing girl here is teenage Milla who is nannying for two young girls for a summer. The parents, a writer and a chef, are having struggles in their marriage, and a few other members of the community receive narrative focus along with this family. This digs into the pain we feel when someone we know goes missing or dies, and how this pain can separate us from those around us. The writing is gorgeous.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
A nine-year-old boy who is rather naive moves with his family to a house outside a concentration camp, because his father is a highly-ranked officer of some kind stationed there to make decisions about the camp. The boy secretly walks along the fence one day and meets another nine-year-old boy, a Jew inside the camp. Their friendship builds the core of the story and is touching, especially when the main character's naivety shows through where the reader knows what's going on and he doesn't. The ending does not seem realistic to me at all, and neither does the extent of the main character's ignorance, even though he is only nine, but the message of the story is powerful enough to make up for the places where the book stretches the reader's suspension of disbelief.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
This book affected me more than I thought it would. In the aftermath of the book, I was quite sad for a day or two. I've read The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns by John Green, and this one made me cry nearly as much as TFIOS, even though the premise is completely different. This is a bit similar to Paper Towns, though I didn't like that one nearly as much. A socially awkward boy goes to a boarding school and falls in love with a wild, passionate, self-destructive girl who only loves him back as a friend. Her character is obviously selfish and a bit bitchy, but still, as a reader, I sympathized with her and empathized with Pudge, the narrator. Halfway through the book there is a twist that turns the narrative on its head and calls for some emotional reeling. I wish I had read this book a long time ago, when I was a teenager. But I'd still highly recommend it now.