I don’t know why I resisted Goodreads for so long, but I finally got an account! I went a little insane and started marking everything I have ever read (a surprisingly addictive activity), so now my Goodreads suggests some very obscure and niche historical nonfiction based on college textbooks alongside contemporary middle grade fiction that seems roughly 10 years too late. Whatever, though, it was a fun taking mental inventory of things I’ve read.
More importantly, though, I’m done reading book #8, book #9, and book #10! As usual, all very different, all very good. Last week I finished The Lynching by Laurence Leamer; it actually doesn’t come out until June but I highly recommend everyone read it when it does. After that, I read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and most recently finished Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.
So, The Lynching. It’s the story of the court case in Alabama in the 1980’s that ultimately brought an end to one of largest Klu Klux Klan organizations in America at the time, The United Klans of America. The case stemmed from the murder of 19-year-old Michael Donald in 1981; the court ruled that Donald was lynched, leading to the first time in almost 100 years that a white man was sentenced to death for killing a black man in Alabama.
Obviously, it’s not the most lighthearted topic. The book reads like a suspense novel though, I did not want to put it down. Leamer is so great at providing flashbacks and detailed character profiles, which made me feel invested in everyone I was reading about. It’s pretty disturbing to think about how relatively recently all of this took place, but it also disturbed me to realize I learned nothing about this case at any point in school. This all took place on the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement, and yet it feels like something that’s relatively looked over in history.
After this book was The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I fell head over heels in love with this book; it is so, so good. I was reading some other readers’ reviews on Goodreads and a lot of people actually hated this book, calling it needlessly pretentious. I did not feel that way, but I don’t think my opinion is an unpopular one because it spent forever on the NYTimes bestseller list.
The novel is originally French, so I read a translation by Alison Anderson. It’s about the concierge of a hotel in France and a 12-year-old tenant living in said hotel with her wealthy family. Both the concierge, Renée, and the girl, Paloma, have way-above-average intelligence and get by flying under the radar and observing all that goes on in the lives of the wealthy who surround them daily.
The book switches perspectives between these two, and I found them to be some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read. The book is dry and funny and eventually heartbreaking and so beautiful. I loved it so much, I plan to reread it. This is not a great synopsis because I feel too emotionally invested, but everyone should read it.
Then last but not least, Be Frank With Me. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It’s about a Pulitzer-prize winning reclusive author named M.M. Banning who is being forced out of hiding because she’s run out of money and needs to sell another book. A new assistant to Banning’s editor, Alice, is charged with flying out to California to offer live-in assistant services for the author while she works, mainly as the nanny to her son, Frank.
Frank is, simply put, different. There’s an allusion to a sort of aspergers disorder, but he’s never diagnosed in the novel. He doesn’t like his things touched and he doesn’t like to be touched, he’s a 9-year-old classic movie fanatic, he wears old-timey costume-looking suits, and he memorizes facts like it’s his job. The novel that ensues is sometimes funny and sometimes emotional as Alice tries to ensure the unfriendly Banning is actually writing something while navigating the chaos that can sometimes result from Frank.
The one thing about this book that didn’t click with me (and the reason it only got 4 stars on Goodreads instead of 5) was the narrator. Alice was deadpan and sometimes funny, but I just didn’t buy her as a character. I also felt frustrated by her more than I was rooting for her. Maybe that was just me, but I felt like I could have gotten more invested in the book overall if someone else was telling me the story. It was still a touching novel and a well-told story with a satisfying ending.
Now let’s all be friends on Goodreads. ◊