Thursday, August 04, 2005

I'm just not a non-fiction kind of gal

I'm trying really hard to appreciate the detailed research that clearly went into London: 1945 but I'm having a hard time following or even finding the momentum to the prose. I don't see how the NYTimes could call the book "thoroughly engrossing" when my perception of the first chapter was a long list of statistics, broken up with quotes by eye witnesses. I know history can be written in a more interesting fashion than this--I actually read the entirety of Stephen Ambrose's book about Lewis and Clark, Undaunted Courage and thought it was a terrific read (I wouldn't choose it over a good novel, but I would choose it over a crummy novel and that's pretty high praise for non-fiction coming from me).

I really wanted to like London: 1945 partly because I thought it might help me understand my somewhat unknowable mother (she doesn't intend to be unknowable, she's just British in that way). She was born in 1941 in London during the Blitz and I keep trying to imagine her as a 4 year old kid and my lovely grandmother trying to raise 3 young children in the city being described in the book. I've made it to chapter 3, but even with my own imaginative constructs supporting the book's narrative doldrums I don't think I'll be able to finish it before it is due back to the library (someone else has requested it so I can't renew.)

Besides there are other temptations on the horizon--the library just sent me an email that Ian McEwan's Saturday is being held for me. As pissy as I was when I found out that The New Yorker had published part of it as a short story, it was a damn fine short story and hopefully will be a damn fine novel.

1 comment:

Julie said...

I'm not a non-fiction kind of gal, either, though I'm trying to expand my boundaries. If you want fiction about post-war London, you might check out one of our recent book club choices, Loitering with Intent, by Muriel Spark. More recently we read Atonement by Ian McEwen, which was a damn fine novel, and I hope you'll keep us posted on how you like Saturday.