Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Fall! Reading Roundup: Part 1

It feels like I haven't done a reading roundup in a while because I've actually stayed on top of my review writing! I guess that is pretty representative of my summer—it was gloriously relaxed after what was a very hectic, stressful spring. WELL, it's back to a busy fall with work and class (last semester!) and too many other things on the docket that seem to keep me busy nearly every waking hour. (So maybe some of those "things" are actually just binge-watching Revenge, but it's still an important thing!) Anyway, it's time I play catch up before I get unmotivated from being too far behind...

Alice Mattison's When We Argued All Night is an epic story of friendship, following two Brooklyn boys Harold and Artie through several decades of their lives. Beginning in 1936, we meet two young men who are full of ideals, trying to find their place in world that feels chaotic. Through their personal lives (jobs and wives and children) and what's happening in the world around them (World War II, the Red Scare, and Flower Power), Harold and Artie remain each other's counterpart and confidante. Somehow.

Harold and Artie have the type of friendship that seems incredibly toxic because it's so competitive. They feud like crazy, but we have to somehow believe that their relationship behind the words the author put on the page is actually full of love and respect. I couldn't really feel it...because they were both just so selfish! I didn't find either of them very likable—their flaws were certainly apparent!—but I enjoyed the book because I liked the structure of the story. I love the multi-generational saga; I love reading about characters strongly shaped by their time. So while this book may supposed to have been about friendship, I liked the historical aspect better. Peter Lefcourt's An American Family has that same sweeping saga structure.

Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante is one of the very first books I got from a publisher as a result of this blog...which means it's been sitting on my shelf a long time! This was the perfect choice to follow When We Argued All Night because I knew it would be light, enjoyable, and really fit the mood I wanted. (Sometimes, you just have to save a book for years, waiting for the right moment to read it!) This story centers around Victoria, the eldest daughter of Argentine immigrants who have made their life in California owning a popular Argentine restaurant. Victoria has always been deeply connected to her family and culture, helping with the restaurant at the expense of her own dreams. She's never had much of a relationship; she wasn't ambitious with college; and she's never thought much about it until an old school and family friend, Eric, returns and reminds her about a life outside their close-knit Argentine community.

This actually reminded me quite a bit of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, just in terms of theme and characterization. But that's not to say this is just a re-telling of that story with a different culture. Victoria is her own character, and it's enjoyable to see her determination and success as she blossoms on her own. Definitely a quick and fun light read that's the perfect antidote to the heavier stuff.

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