Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon: Follow-up

I participated in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This post is a collection of reviews I wrote about books completed during the readathon. These reviews were originally shared on Goodreads, which was one of my goals for the readathon, and are quite short.

Books finished:

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (FINISHED; net change: 115 pages)
  2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine (FINISHED; net change: 59 pages)
  3. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (FINISHED; net change: 121 pages)
  4. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman (FINISHED; net change: 98 pages)
  5. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (FINISHED; net change: 76 pages)

Reviews:

1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This book was… interesting. I blazed through it in four days. As a memoir of grieving, it invoked memories of my own grieving process and connected with me emotionally, but the author and I have very different life experiences, and this was almost enough to pull me out of the experience. Didion moves in wealthy, well-connected television and literary circles, and while I’d love some day to be as published and celebrated and connected as she is, that experience is currently very remote to me.

When mentioning her famous friends, she cites the fact they are famous, which is very distancing, and feels a bit like name-dropping. Other reviewers here are quick to remind us that this is a hallmark of her style, this coolness and emotional distance, but I think the critique is still valid: for a memoir about grief, such distance seems a little bewildering. However, it is still well-written and emotionally stirring, even if my own grief memoir would (will) look nothing like it.

2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine

I blazed through a good chunk of this last year and then put it down for several months. The last 1/4 or so seemed to lag a bit — not sure precisely how it was different than the start, but my interest waned.

This book is absolutely only for Supernatural fans — it fills in a bit of backstory, as well as giving a greater sense of John, who we know comparatively little about. Written as a journal, it includes a mix of personal musings, notes about anniversaries and birthdays, and the kind of esoterica you’d expect to find in a hunter’s notebook. I gave it four stars because it lost me for a bit, but it’s still an interesting and enjoyable read.

3. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

This book was hard, but also amazing. The narrator’s unique voice obscures and reveals, and the revelations are perfectly timed and wondrous. Though the reader does not learn the precise nature of the narrator’s crime, it doesn’t truly matter, in the end. Masterfully crafted, and well-worth the read.

4. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman

The construction of this book is interesting, featuring a selection of Lowell’s poems, followed by a critical essay examining the Sapphic imagery of her work in the context of her relationship with Ada Russell, and ending with a sequence of poems that reimagine the courtship and relationship between Lowell and Russell.

Of this, I very much enjoyed the essay, and the context it gave allowed me to better appreciate Lowell’s poetry. By comparison, the poems at the end, the work of Mary Meriam, seem a bit childish. Lowell’s work involves lush description, vivid detail, and sly eroticism. Meriam’s work, particularly the sonnets that begin the sequence, is flat. The rhyming in the sonnets is a trifle unimaginative, and the diction is oddly inconsistent; overall, Meriam’s work is a bit of a let-down, when compared to the clever writing of Lillian Faderman’s essay and Lowell’s own vibrant poetry.

5. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, and it was referenced in The Year of Magical Thinking, so I decided to finally dust it off and read it.

This book is very intense. The introduction by Lewis’s stepson gives further insight to the creation of the book, but even without this context, the reader is drawn in. Lewis’s grief is raw and near, and it makes even this dedicated apologist question everything he knows and feels. He grappled with feelings of guilt and sorrow and anger in personal journals following his wife’s death. Later, upon reading them again, he decided to publish them, in the hopes they might help others facing loss heal a little more.

Here, Lewis is not the eloquent and impassioned writer of Christian apologetics, but merely a man of deep faith struggling to get through the loss of the woman he loved. He looked unflinchingly at his own crisis of faith and then shared it with the world, an act of courage. He survived, got himself through one of the hardest times in any person’s life; this book might help anyone else do the same.

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

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