Sunday, May 06, 2007

Identity

The last three books I've read have been scary, disturbing stories. All three have had something to do with the idea of identity.

The first one (book #29 of 2007) was The Chimney Sweeper's Boy, by Barbara Vine. After a writer dies, his family begins to find out that he was not exactly what he seemed to be. This one also touches on creativity, and writing, and how an author uses life and turns it into art. I couldn't stop reading this but I won't look for more by this author, who is also Ruth Rendell. I've tried to read a couple of her novels written under that name and haven't liked them much.

Book #30 was Monday Mourning, by Kathy Reichs. Tempe Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, and there are other novels about her but I don't think I'll seek them out. To her and those of her profession, identity is in the remains people leave behind them. The details of her job were fascinating, but the style irritated me (lots of super-short sentences) and I had to skim large sections because I was learning more than I wanted to about the horrible things people do to each other.

And then there was book #31, which I just finished and thought was brilliant. It was The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers. It's about the nature of consciousness, what it means to be sane and to be human, head injury, ecology, cranes, a family, siblings... I can't even list all the elements of the story. But they all come together in a wonderfully satisfying way, leaving you thinking and asking questions and wanting more. Most of all, it's about identity - how do we know who we are and what is real? You have to read this book.

5 comments:

Tricia said...

I can relate to your experience with #29 and #30. I just finished a mystery novel, recommended by friends, that I really didn't enjoy but that I felt drawn to finish. I'm glad I finished it, because otherwise I would have been forever curious about how it turned out, but I won't be reading any more in the series!

p.s. I just requested The Echo Maker from my public library.

Ruth said...

Hey Tricia, I hope you like The Echo Maker as much as I did. I looked at the reviews on Amazon and it appears people either loved it or hated it.

Tricia said...

I found it ... odd. But interesting. I didn't hate it, but I'm not sure I loved it either! It was strangely unsettling, as you said. I'm now reading The Last Chinese Chef, having heard an interview with the author recently. (I'm only about 10 pages in, so no time to form an opinion yet)

Wendy said...

Ruth, I just finished reading The Echo Maker for The Saturday Review of Books Challenge (I chose it from your review of the novel!). Here is *my* review!

Ruth said...

Wow, Wendy, I'm honored! Thanks for sharing your review. I'm glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did.