Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Book Report: Some Nostalgia

I continue to get better, day by day. I think I finally have my brain back, which is exciting. I've been lost in a fog, and I now can actually think again. Last week, if I had to do any serious analytical thinking, I had to take a nap afterward. Now I just need my voice back. I still have that sort of raspy and congested sound, and I've almost forgotten what my real voice sounds like. I was mentally running through a presentation I'm giving later this month, and even in my head, I was imagining my voice as all raspy and congested sounding. Then I realized that in the book I was reading, in my head I "heard" all the characters sounding like they'd been sick. The last time I did that was when I had knee surgery, and I found myself imagining all the characters in any book I read as being on crutches.

I'm a bit behind on book reports. I didn't manage to read much while I was sick because of that inability to concentrate, and some of the books I read recently I don't really want to discuss (they're not what I'd really recommend).

One that I did love and that may become the next thing I find myself pushing to random people in bookstores was The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice (daughter of lyricist Tim Rice). It's a sort of coming-of-age novel set in post-war England. An eighteen-year-old girl in London for the day is waiting for a bus when another girl talks her into sharing a cab, and through that chance meeting she gains a new friend and entry into an entirely different world. The book really explores the generational and cultural gap created by the war, where the adults knew the pre-war life and the teens don't remember a life that wasn't shaped by the war. These are the kids who grew up during air raids and blackouts, who lost fathers, who had to leave their homes and who haven't ever lived without wartime rationing (which didn't end entirely until the 1950s). These are also the kids who are discovering rock and roll, with the girls totally obsessed with Johnnie Ray, but then the heroine's uncle in Louisiana (her aunt was a war bride), gives them a record by this kid he heard sing at the Louisiana Hayride who's going to change everything.

This book reminds me a lot of I Capture the Castle, and in a sense, the main characters in that book could have been the parents of the main characters in this one. The two books are set twenty years apart, and it's a sign of just how much things changed in that time that they seem to belong to different worlds.

I must admit that The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets pushed a lot of my buttons, since it involves England, a time period somewhat related to WWII (and deals with the aftermath of the war), swanky parties and weekends at a manor house. So, yeah, I was pretty much there, but I also liked the characters, and there's some real wit in the writing. Rice's next book is coming out this spring, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

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