Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reading Spells

I go through spells where I read one book after the next, followed by long periods in which I read nothing but blogs and news articles. My book reading spells are correlated with greater happiness, but I don't know if I'm happy because I read books or if I read books because I'm happy. Either works for me.

In the space of four days, I finished two books I really enjoyed. The first is "Wench," by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. "Wench" follows four mistresses and their slave masters in the 1840s and 50s. The story focuses on Lizzie, who loves her master and has two children with him. Each summer the masters take their mistresses off their respective plantations up to a "resort" in Southwest Ohio (between Dayton and Columbus and north of Cincinnati). For the first time in their lives, they meet other black people who are not enslaved. Despite her special status, Lizzie begins to realize the freedom that she and her children lack. The book moves quickly, and I think it could have gone on for another hundred pages.

The other book I finished is "Divergent," by Veronica Roth. If you liked "The Hunger Games" (which I loved), you'll really enjoy "Divergent." It's set in a future Chicago (the Sears Tower is now called "The Hub") and society is divided into five factions, each of which values a different virtue: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor. Beatrice, the protagonist, has been raised in Abnegation; members of this faction value selflessness above all else. They dress in plain gray clothes, eat plain food. and leave the walls of their homes unadorned. They serve and defer to others. At age sixteen, based on an aptitude test, boys and girls must choose which faction they will join for the rest of their lives. Most stay with the one in which they were raised, but if they choose another, they are basically excommunicated from their families. Beatrice's choice affects everyone in unexpected ways. She is a strong young female character, and she guides us through the story in first-person present. Like "Wench," this a quick read. But this one ends in a cliffhanger. The sequel, "Insurgent," comes out next year, and I wish I didn't have to wait so long.

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