Sunday, October 12, 2008

After a brief delay...

Back to the book list.

I’ve been neglecting this a bit due to the pressures of a new job, etc., but I’m still reading as much as I can. (Did I mention that the town library is only one block from me? Last week my friend C. saw the boy and I (and the dog) taking a walk. She was sure that something was wrong, because we were heading away from the library.)

I’m up to book #160, "Saving Francesca" by Melina Marchetta.

There’s a couple of great things about this book. First of all, it’s Australian, and Australian literature is something about which I am woefully ignorant. (Why is that? I’m up to date on Canadian lit and British lit and even mostly au courant about American lit, but the Aussies have completely slipped under my radar. Weird.) The second great thing about this book is that it’s by the lady who wrote “Looking for Alibrandi.” That was a wonderful book about a teenaged girl who suddenly meets her father and has to form a completely new relationship with him…. I loved it. (I loved it so much that I kept it, even though it belongs to my mother. Thanks, mom!) I saw "Saving Francesca" in the school library the other day and snatched it up, hoping it would be good… I was not disappointed, the book was wonderful.

It’s about a girl (Francesca, obviously) whose dynamic, strong willed, opinionated, successful mother one day stops getting out of bed. She has slipped into a serious depression just as Francesca starts a new year at a different school: one that was, until the arrival of her and her classmates, a boy’s school.

Marchetta did a fabulous job of the first person narrative. First person is tricky because you’re trying to do two things at once: tell the story of the person who is the main character, while at the same time telling the reader what is really happening. At its best it’s about a narrator who is either reliable (you trust that what they say is true) or unreliable (you know that they are telling the story as they believe it to be, not as it necessarily is). At its worst, first person is irritating and self reflective and doesn’t work. Francesca is one of those narrators who begins as unreliable (but as the reader, you always begin by believing the narrator) and who gradually begins to understand what is really going on.

Another reason why I loved this book is because the author is a teacher, and she knows her kids. You can always tell an author who is writing about youth but hasn’t had enough exposure to them to be able to tell the truth. Adolescence is brutal, and the best thing you can say about it is that it doesn’t last. Marchetta understands that, and gives her readers hope that they just might make it through, too.

I read a lot. (You already know that.) One of the reasons I read so much is in hope of a book like this: one that makes me love reading all over again.

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