Recent Reads: Sweet Tooth, Winter Garden, Firefly Lane

I made it one of my goals this year to read 27 books (for my 27th year…get it? So deep), and I’m currently about two books behind the pace I need to keep. However, the end of the semester is in sight (thank god), so hopefully I’m about to become a reading machine (of non-legal books) once more. Anyway, here’s a look at books four, five, and six:

sweet tooth, winter garden, firefly lane

Sweet Tooth (Ian McEwan): I’ve read lots of McEwan’s work, and he has a style that I find distinct – and that I enjoy – but that I struggle to describe. Maybe it’s that, even when describing mundane events, the prose is so smooth and detailed that I can easily become engrossed in it? I’m not sure, but I do like his writing. And I liked Sweet Tooth, although the I found much of the book slow moving and I felt like many of the references to events in 1970s England were matters I couldn’t fully appreciate or understand. This book was a slow burn, but I especially liked the last chapter which, through a neat narrative trick, makes you rethink much of what came before.

Winter Garden (Kristin Hannah): This book tells the story of two daughters learning about their mother, Anya’s, past in Russia. It strongly reminded me of another book I read recently, The Storyteller, in that both novels revolve around an elderly woman telling her descendants a horrific story about surviving an atrocity during WW2 (here, the Siege of Leningrad; in The Storyteller, the Holocaust). And as with The Storyteller, I found the historical portion of the novel much more compelling than the novel’s present; even though it’s difficult to read about the conditions in Leningrad, you won’t be able to put the book down. I was ready to declare that I loved this book until I got to the very ending…there’s a “twist” that seems unnecessary. The book should have ended a few pages earlier, with the conclusion of Anya’s story and her reconciliation with her two daughters. The development that follows is ridiculous and cheapens the story’s power.

Firefly Lane (Kristin Hannah): After reading two Kristin Hannah books back-to-back, I can definitely say I liked Winter Garden much better than this one. The problem I had with Firefly Lane was that it’s a story about two best friends, and one of them is extremely unlikeable. It’s hard to enjoy a story where you find one of the main characters to be selfish, insensitive, and just annoying. This book also reminded me a lot of Judy Bloom’s Summer Sisters – two best friends, one “good” and one “bad,” and a guy who seems to love both of them at different times. However, Summer Sisters was much better executed and more compelling; this novel seems lacking in comparison. Firefly Lane is an easy read, and it’s entertaining enough, but I didn’t like it much.

(Reading 27 new-to-me books is part of my 27 for 27 list. These are books #4-6. Find books #1-3 here.)

All images via Goodreads

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