For the most part, my October reading was mosty light and fun,..
The Elizabeth Peters was read on the flight home from Scotland, and discarded. The 2nd Louise Penny, A Fatal Grace, was read on the same flight and not discarded. I've enjoyed reading the Gamache novels. I find them charming and entertaining, and yet they always also trigger my reflective instincts; they form a nice balance between something I just simply enjoy for its own sake, like eating a really good meal, and yes the descriptions of food help, as do the personal relationships formed between Inspector Gamache and the Three Pines Community, while at the same time satisfying some elemental craving for something more.
Cormac McCarthy's novel, Suttree, was the most difficult novel I read. It may, in fact, be too sophisticated for me. The prose and the simultaneously wry and achingly sad portrayals of citizens on the margins of society were powerful and occasionally wrenchingly beautiful, but I struggled with the straightforward story line which was at times seemed lacking in narrative complexity, treading as it was some intellectual and moral space between autobiography and fiction. Perhaps I just wanted more of a "read, read", more Gamache, a change of voice, but something I could still curl up and get lost in. Suttree did not really offer that kind of enveloping narrative, but what it does offer is something that I believe reveals insight into McCarthy's later novels, and may in fact be the kind of novel that reveals itself slowly, opening new vistas with each reading.
The novel I enjoyed the most was Mohsin Hamid's Exit West; in fact I enjoyed it so much I read it twice. It is, in some ways, an odd little novel, told in a third person that puts the reader at some remove from the characters, and yet dealing simultaneously with struggles that are quite current and also quite personal. At times, one perhaps wishes for a deeper emotional connection, and yet at the same time I think it is the absence of that connection that elevates the book into an almost allegorical state of reflection, a state that is enhanced in my opinion by Hamid's technique of using magical doors to replace the struggle of actual immigration. He does this well, making the movement transitional in a way that reflects on more than just changes in physical space, mixing allegory with a story that is simply good, and engaging on its own merits. Hamid challenges our preconceptions and reminds us that loss and change are part of the human condition, that we are all migrants, all find ourselves in places not of our choosing with no understanding of what will unfold. Exactly through his prose, his scattered snapshots of a changing world superimposed on a story of a young couple as they move through massive change, the shared distance and tenderness he uses in his characterizations, Hamid is sharing with us the way “loss unites humanity, unites every human being, the temporary nature of our being-ness, and our shared sorrow, the heartache we each carry and yet too often refuse to acknowledge in one another.” It is a book both melancholy and filled with hope.
I reread Joshua Applestone's Butcher's Guide to Well Raised Meats when I returned from Scotland. Applestone was once my local butcher, and I had originally read the book when it was published. I reread it because I returned from Scotland wanting eggs with the deep orange yolks and firm thick whites like I had in Scotland, and which I still missed from my farmer in Hyde Park. But while thinking about eggs, I also realized another farmer I had supported was closing and I needed to rethink and review my meat choices as well. Thank goodness there are still farmers I love to support, but I need to also explore more options. I have not made much progress on that particular mission, and local farmer's markets will soon close for the season, but it is an ongoing process. I'm currently in the middle of reading Big Chicken, on Lisa's recommendation, and that may add some refinements to my choices as well, but I haven't yet read enough of the book to access how it will affect my search. But of course I am biased anyway. I want food that is humanely raised, and sustainable, and has good flavor, feeling it is better to pay more and eat less of something truly satisfying, a desire that also aligns well with my increasingly strong opinion that whenever we think we can get more for less we are bargaining with the devil.