Recent read #19 - 20

One quite obvious tip I have for those of you who are eagerly awaiting new books to come out this summer is to check out the authors' previous works.  In reading about the hoopla behind Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog, I picked up her first novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum.  As it was released in 1997, I was able to find used, cheap versions online and could also get a sense of whether or not I would enjoy her writing style.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum is the story of the life of Ruby Lennox, from conception by her playboy father and perpetually unhappy mother, and examines the dynamics of her family.  She grows up in 1950's England with two older sisters, above the petshop that her family owns.  The novel examines the honest and sometimes dark feelings that family members have toward one another - the resent of the mother toward her children and the life of a housewife, the jealousy of a child toward a sibling.  In addition, there are flashbacks of Ruby's ancestors that slowly unravel the family history for the reader, although the flashbacks are only the appetizers and side dishes to the main course of Ruby's life. 

I enjoy buying books.  I like new books, used books, ex-library books, books that have fallen apart and need to be rubber-banded or taped back together again.  I also enjoy e-books for one simple reason.  When I travel, I spend 90% of my time on a plane and in the airport terminal reading.  More often than not, I will finish one and spend the next 30 minutes browsing the airport bookstores for something interesting that will last the return flight home.  With an e-book, particularly an e-book bookstore, I have my wishlist tagged and can download the next book I want in the matter of seconds.  Sometimes, the books on my wishlist are not "airplane reading material" (I'll explain that at a later date) and that is how I found The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Shaffert. 

What a delightful little book it turned out to be.  What caught me was the online dustjacket - the main character of the story is Essie Myles, an 83-year old obituary writer.  Essie, or "S" by her great-granddaughter, is old, ancient even, and lives in a small town where she pens the obituary section for the local newspaper.  She is a spunky and lively character and refuses to believe that old age means provides one with any dignity or rest.  The events of the small town drive its characters into different adventures and side plots.  However mainly the book for me developed and presented the character of someone who is old but refuses to abide by her age.  If I am lucky enough to reach the ripe old age of 83, I wish to have the energy and attitude of Essie.


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