Human frailty, unreliable narrators, and unrequited love were common threads. And of course, those perpetually nagging questions about the meaning of life, and the nature of truth.
Memories of My Melancholy Whores, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
An old man decides to give himself a special present for his 90th birthday: deflowering a virgin. Things don't turn out as neatly planned. Within a year he is a changed man, and by the time the novella ends on the morning of his 91st birthday, “It was, at last, real life, with my heart safe and condemned to die of happy love in the joyful agony of any day after my hundredth birthday.” The character is a bit misoginistic, but I still enjoy the insights into aging and what it means to be young at heart.
Bishop’s Man, by Linden MacIntyre
Amazing and complex story about a Roman Catholic priest who finds himself 'the Bishop's Man' - someone who helps avoid scandals fueled by indiscretions. He actually lies to get into the priesthood and by the end of the novel has broken most of the commandments and committed each of the seven deadly sins. And he's one of the good guys!
Galore, by Michael Crummey
Tall tales from Newfoundland and the story of four generations. The cast of characters includes: a mute albino who is cut from the belly of a whale; a jealous husband who returns as a ghost to witness his widow having sex with the village priest for decades; an aged opera singer who seduces a young teen-aged boy; the miserly millionaire who doesn't realize he loves his wife until she's dead and gone. Unrequited love is a common curse in these very carnal stories. This would make a great mini-series.
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova
In an ironic twist, a Harvard professor and internationally renowned neuroscientist is diagnosed with Alzheimers at the young age of 52. The story is told from her point of view and addresses issues like memory and intelligence as identity. What makes us who we are? The author is a neuroscientist herself and drew from case histories to create a story that rings true.
Boy in the Moon, by Ian Brown
One of my favourite columnists, this book is the memoir of a father caring for his profoundly disabled son. He doesn't shy away from the difficult facts, like the monumental costs of caring for his son (millions of dollars over the course of his lifetime); or the questions about the 'value' of someone's life or how to best care for the severely disabled. Extremely well written, difficult to finish, but well worth the effort.
“Sometimes watching him,” Brown writes, “is like looking at the man in the moon – but you know there is actually no man there. But if Walker is so insubstantial, why does he feel so important? What is he trying to show me?”
Stories: All New Tales, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio
Weird little short stories that the editors chose because they keep the readers asking, ".... and then what happened?" Quirky and unexpected, with contributors ranging from Joyce Carole Oats, Jodi Picoult and others. Short stories are great - quick bites with lasting food for thought. I can 'hear' these when I read them. Well-chosen and provocative.
The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson
This is the second installment in the trilogy... Memorable characters, forgettable plot, but lots of fun and easy to read.
I picked this up for Rob because the illustrations were so incredible. It is all about the creation of the world's first 'official' atlas, published in Antwerp in 1570. Colour plates of what the world was thought to look like, and lots of historical context. A bit dry and academic but beautiful to look at!