This winter, due to certain complications in my life, I had more time to read than I usually allow. Since early December, I’ve been drowning in other writers’ stories. I’m sharing links to the better stories that I read. Subsequent posts will cover books in other genre categories.
In my reading odyssey this winter, I managed to include some literary fiction amid the deluge of genre fiction I read. (Note that I share the viewpoint that “literary” is just another genre category.) For the purpose of these reviews, I’m labeling these books “coming of age” stories.
All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel – Anthony Doerr
I suppose this could also be in the historical fiction section. It takes place leading up to and through WWII, and features alternating viewpoints of a young French blind girl and a young German peasant who’s an engineering genius. The story has them inexorably moving to meet over years and thousands of miles. It’s very beautifully written, and many people love this book to death.
I’ll keep my negative comments to myself, except to say “Cold Mountain.”
Brown Girl Dreaming (Newbery Honor Book) – Jacqueline Woodson
This book deserves every award. It’s hauntingly beautiful.
And I hope it replaces House on Mango Street as the required diversity reading for high school freshmen.
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan/L’amica geniale series:
If you read literary reviews or browse the New Books literary table in bookstores, Elena Ferrante’s series was everywhere this winter. These stories are touted for her deep, personal (some say autobiographical, but the author is silent) stories of growing up poor but intelligent in Naples after World War II. The local society is trying to transition from its medieval and fascist past to the twentieth century, but its world still seethes with deep class divides and the ever-present corrupt and criminal Camorra.
These are big books, and if you’re curious, try My Brilliant Friend.
As for the rest of the series, I found Books 2 and 3 repetitive and relatively pointless—as if someone read Anthony Trollope, but didn’t really get what he was doing as far as literary structure and theme. Although these are described as a deep interior investigation of women’s world in Naples, I found the characters annoying and unbelievable.
My recommendation: If you want to read about Naples, read Maurizio de Giovanni’s books.
The Edge of Nowhere (Saratoga Woods Book 1) – Elizabeth George
This is a new series in the YA category by mystery-writer George. I’m including it in the “coming of age” section because the character development and insights are so wonderfully rich. I have to go see what happens to this character in the next volume—as soon as the Kindle price drops. This story is also wonderfully rich in “place”—Whidbey Island is a character in itself.
This Charming Man (Queen City Boys Book 1) – Ajax Bell
I didn’t just read this book—I copy edited and produced the print and ebook editions.
However, it’s a good read, so I’m including it in the list.
This is not a M/M romance—it’s a coming-of-age story set in the early Nineties in Seattle, focusing on the second coming-of-age trials of a 25-year-old gay man. He found himself once coming out in high school. This story is a classic rendition of what happens in your mid-to-late twenties, when it’s time to grow beyond your college friends to become your true self.