Monday, September 1, 2008

My Challenges

Reading challenges are a significant and fun part of the book world, and the book blogger world in particular. I've managed to enroll myself in a series of challenges since getting more involved in the book talk world, and I'm going to highlight some of them over the next couple of weeks. Today I'm starting with my very first challenge, the one that got me interested in reading challenges generally. That's the 50 Book Challenge that I found on Librarything. The principle is very simple: read fifty books over the course of a year. I started with it last year, and I was unsuccessful. It seems strange to me know, but I didn't have a whole lot of reading time last year. This year I'm doing much better. I'm up to thirty-five books thus far, so I should surely make it. Other people are doing larger challenges: 75 or 100 books, but I'll aim for fifty first. If I reach that goal this year, I may go for more.

In honor of that challenge, today I'm reviewing one of the books I read for that challenge: Floating in My Mother's Palm by Ursula Hegi.

This is a short novel that in many ways reads more like a collection of essays. It's a series of short vignettes about the people who live in a small German town in the 1950s. The narrator is a teenage girl, born just after WWII, and much of the novel deals with the consequences of war for the various townspeople. This is a town populated by a truly eclectic cast of characters. Hegi does an excellent job of delving deep into and developing each of her characters and their relationships to one another. This is the same town that was the focus of Hegi's novel Stones from the River, which is set in the same town in the interwar period and WWII. Some of the characters appear also in Stones, some do not, and they don't necessarily occupy the same places in each book. Trudi Montag, the central character in Stones from the River is far less sympathetic and far less interesting in this book; here she appears to be little more than the town gossip. From publication dates it appears that Hegi wrote this book before she wrote Stones from the River, though I read them in the opposite order. The characters and life of the town are far more fully developed in Stones, though character development is still clearly Hegi's forte, even in this book. For those interested in Hegi's work, I recommend reading Stones first. Had I not had the background I did from Stones, I think I would have found this book less interesting.

Ursula Hegi, Stones from the River (Vintage, 1990) ISBN: 0679731156

1 comment:

tanabata said...

Reading challenges are really addicting but they're fun! I've heard of Stones from the River but haven't yet read anything by Hegi. Thanks for the reminder.