Jenni's Book List Part Two

Okay, well, like a lot of this site my book section was wildly out of date.  So I intend to every so often pop in here and add a page.  The following page was created in February 2005 and concerns books I've read with in the last 12 months or so. 

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

Wow... you hear about movies really taking license with a book and did the 1995 movie based off of this Maeve Binchy book ever!  I liked the movie well enough but this book almost makes me detest it.  Actually I probly would except for I really thought some of the actors did a great job in it.  The bare bones plot is the same following Benny, Eve, and Nan in their first year of college.  But there are fantastic characters like a grieving mother who befriends Eve, Simon Westward's conflicted little sister, Benny's housekeeper/confidante is entertaining, and Eve's nuns have more time in the book.  There's much more to the Jack/Nan relationship, in fact, Jack himself is just completely different.  It's been a bit of time since I read this but I remember feeling really sorry for Jack's mother in the book and can't recall her at all in the movie so her role must have been greatly expanded as well.  I remember thinking though that her character was a good poster child for why the movie ending was so wrong.  I had a lot more respent for the Benny of the book.  This is one book I wish I had endless time for because I'd love to read it again but there's so many books I've not yet discovered for the first time!  It just made me feel like I was in Ireland.  I read this while in college and quite envied these girls because my four years seemed so boring by comparison!  This is quite lengthy but you'd never know once you got into it!  In fact, may be for St. Patrick's Day I'll allow myself to revisit Benny and Co.

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Another book whose movie was considerably different.  However, this transition was much less against the book's spirit than "Circle" was IMO.  On the surface my life bears little resemblance to Bridget's but I was shocked at all I could relate to.  My friends and I continuously find ourselves alluding to the experiences and thoughts of Bridget and her friends.  Sure we may not have ever freeze-framed Colin Firth's pond scene in "P & P" but we had our share of equally bizarre Christian Bale "rituals".  It's almost creepy the lil ways this book crept into our language and thoughts...   Anyhow, very amusing (it was tempting to put v. amusing there lol) and touching at parts.  I also enjoyed the sequel.  It was goofier and less-relateable but still fun!

Holes by Louis Sachar

I actually read this one before the movie came out!  I work with some very avid readers in the summer and one recommended I read this.  And I loved it.  What I liked best about it was how it intertwined two different stories from two different eras.  The author really makes you think about how all the little things can add up to something big.  And even consider that with out some tragedy, later victories would be impossible.  The plotline kept me reading but it's the underlying philosophy that keeps this book fresh for me.  Stanley is our protagonist who is wrongly accused of a crime and sent to a work camp for boys.  There he becomes part of a search for a treasure and learns about friendship, fate, and what making amends is really about.  The movie was actually very true to the book though I'd still recommend reading this if you've only seen the movie.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This was another book recommended by a co-worker.  Much different than Holes!  This one is a fictional retelling of the life of Israel/Jacob's daughter, Dinah, of Genesis fame.  Dinah is a character little discussed (I remember her being mentioned only in one of my many Theology classes) and, even then, often only as a rape victim.  But Diamant tells a very different and, IMO, more interesting tale.  The book starts with the lives of (half)sisters Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah.  From them we get the famed 12 sons and Dinah.  I just really liked how the author conveyed both the sweetness of childhood and the pain and limits put on women in biblical times (and still in the modern day to varying degrees).  But this isn't just voiceless victims pining away.  This story is packed with really strong, powerful female characters.  The glimpse into the women's spiritual beliefs was of great interest to me.  Great read but be ready for some archetypal anger!  Also if you're very attached to Jacob, Joseph, etc. this may grate on your nerves because they are not sympathically portrayed at most points!   This is another one I would love to reread.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This was an odd case.  I've never so strongly experienced an example of a book just calling out to me.  This one did.  I went into the bookstore at my college to waste some time and saw this and just had to get it.  It's the story of Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old who is brutally raped and murdered by her neighbor.  Susie then narrates her tale from Heaven where she watches her family struggle with first her disappearance and then later the news that she won't be coming home to them.  I thought it was an incredibly moving look at loss and grief and what it can do to people and their relationships.  It's obvious Susie's family would be impacted and Sebold gracefully tells of their struggles.  But she also takes on the emotions and reactions of people on the periphery.  Schoolmates ot Susie's, the cop investigating her murder, and others.  It makes you look at the big picture and think of how strongly we all impact each other.  This is one that I couldn't resist and, in fact, did read a second time.  It was just as touching and sadly beautiful the second time around.  I hope the 2007 movie version keeps the standards of this book.

Lucky by Alice Sebold

This was written before The Lovely Bones if I remember correctly.  It is not fiction.  It's Alice Sebold's memoir of her own rape while a college freshman.  It is harrowing.  I didn't think I would be able to finish the initial chapter which details the actual rape.  But stick with it.  This is incredibly powerful.  Sebold covers the reaction of friends and family, how it impacted her education, the trial, and so much more.  This is no easy read but, I believe, it's worth it.  I feel incredible respect for this author in being brave enough to speak out about rape when society so often urges victims to keep quiet.

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