Notes From The Sofa

LifeInOurFastLane

When you’re laid up with a broken ankle, you spend a lot of time on the couch reading.

Recently, I spent real quality time in horizontal mode reading the memoir H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, a sharply observed and deeply affecting book. Her writing is elegant and her honesty unflinching. Her gift for metaphor is astonishing.

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MacDonald, a falconer and naturalist,  shape-shifts into the soul of the goshawk, the wild bird of prey she has set out to train, as an attempt to assuage her deep sadness over the sudden death of her father.

The book is structured so that the story alternates, chapter by chapter, between MacDonald’s own memoir and that of author T.H. White. White’s emotionally complex memoir, The Goshawk (published in 1951), with its tragic undertone, acts as a dubbing rod for MacDonald’s maneuvering through her labyrinth of grief.

It’s not often I am lucky enough to read two books back to back that I cannot put down.

allthelight

I have just finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Beautiful prose and structured in alternating chapters similar to MacDonald’s book, it’s a style I’ve come to appreciate because I do most of my reading on the iPhone. I’d rather not put lay down a book until I’ve reached a good stopping point.

Doerr’s novel was riveting. He too is a gifted, elegant writer and, in my opinion, deserving of the Pulitzer Prize bestowed upon him in 2015. Set prior to and during WWII, the plotting is as intricate, colorful and dense as a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

The story of a blind French girl is paralleled with that of an orphaned German boy who was drafted (unwillingly) into the army of the Third Reich as a radio engineer. Doerr has done his research and weaves detailed information  into the novel seamlessly.  The reader comes to care deeply about the characters and their respective fates.

There is one thing I want to mention. Something I have encountered in other novels (most recently, in We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas).

Doerr’s novel has an “epilogue” — in the  guise of a “final chapter.” After sailing through the novel, this last chapter left me disappointed.

Epilogues work well in non-fiction and are often necessary (for example, to provide relevant information that comes to light after publication). In a novel, though, an epilogue does not work for me. In fact, I hate epilogues! An epilogue merely jumps ahead in time that yo me reads like a cop out.

I think it is better to end the book. There’s nothing wrong with an “open-ended” conclusion to a novel. It can set the reader’s imagination on fire.

When you read Doerr’s novel (and I hope you do, because it is excellent), my suggestion is to stop reading after you finish penultimate Chapter 177, dated 1974, titled “Frederick.” I believe this iwouldchave been the perfect place to end this novel.

Try not to read: “Part Thirteen,” “Chapter 178,” which wraps up Doerr’s novel (the title is: “2014”). Permit yourself to bask for a while in the satisfied, wistful feeling bestowed on you by “Chapter 177.”

Epilogues are favorited by Hollywood filmmakers (rewatch Robert Altman’s brilliant satire on Hollywood, a film titled The Player, which drives this point home perfectly by making fun of Hollywood endings, specifically, the scene in the gas chamber with Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts).

ThePlayer

As Billy Holiday famously sang, “Don’t explain.”

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2 Responses to “Notes From The Sofa”

  1. C.C. in Annapolis Says:

    Hang in there Miss Mernaid – know that I am thinking of you – sending lots of love and prayers for your speedy recovery – love Con

  2. sj214carr Says:

    thanks for the wonderful book review and comments on the epilogue. i¹m going to read this book. love Susan

    Ps, I just can¹t get the website to take my post….darn it….but I read them all and love your writing…..Susan

    Susan James Carr Wondrous Nature http://wondrousnature.com/ susan@wondrousnature.com

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