Mini-reviews: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell; Memento Mori by Muriel Spark; and The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

March was the month of the read-along for me: I hosted one, and participated in two others. Because I’ve written about and discussed these books to death, I decided to resort to mini-reviews to wrap things up.

Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Genre: Historical fiction, speculative fiction
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the library
First line: Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints.

This book will probably go down in history as one of the most unusual reading experiences I’ve ever had – and one I’m so glad I finally found time for. Cloud Atlas has a unique structure, one that has been described as a “Russian nesting doll.” To me, it was like going up a short staircase, resting on the landing for a while, and then coming back down the other side. If you read each section separately, it would be hard to imagine that they were written by the same author – he was able to so deftly create a unique voice for each section. The writing is beautiful, the themes are still making me think, and I won’t soon forget this book. The only thing that kept me from giving it five stars is that the structure made the ending a bit anti-climactic. I still loved it, though, and if you give it a try, keep in mind that the first section is one of the most difficult. Keep pressing on; you won’t be sorry. Thanks so much to Care and Melissa for hosting the read-along.

Title: Memento Mori
Author: Muriel Spark
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: New Directions
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Dame Lettie Colston refilled her fountain pen and continued her letter: “One of these days I hope you will write as brilliantly on a happier theme…”

Memento Mori was the first selection for this year’s Faith and Fiction discussions, hosted by Amy at My Friend Amy. It is a short book with a huge message – “Remember you must die.” The book follows several aging characters who start to receive anonymous phone calls with that simple, profound sentence being the only thing spoken. The writing is humorous and the book definitely made me think, but I didn’t connect enough with the characters to make it a “love it!” type of book. It did provoke a great discussion at Amy’s blog, though!

Title: The Yellow House
Author: Patricia Falvey
Genre: Historical fiction, Irish fiction
Publisher: Center Street
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: I remember the summers best, when the days rested in the long arms of the evening and the sounds around Slieve Gullion were as muted as a benediction.

Secrets are the cancer of families. Like tumors, they grow ever larger, and if they are not removed, they suffocate the mind and spirit and spawn madness. As long as they remain, they cast a shadow on every truth that is uttered, clouding it, constricting it, distorting it. Secrets hurt the secret keeper as much as the poor souls from whom the secret is kept. And even once the secret is out, its shadow echoes into the future, the remnants of its memory leaving us vigilant and fearful.

The Yellow House will definitely appear on my “best of 2012” list for historical fiction. Patricia Falvey is a beautiful wordsmith, and she has written the perfect character-driven historical novel. The book follows Eileen from right before World War I through the partitioning of Ireland from Northern Ireland. Eileen is drawn toward two men: James, a Catholic fighting for independence; and Owen, a Quaker mill-owner. Her struggle between these very different men mirrors Northern Ireland’s struggle between it’s two identities. I adored this book – and the discussions that it prompted among those of us who read it. Falvey’s other novel, The Linen Queen, is going to the top of my to-read list.

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16 Responses to Mini-reviews: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell; Memento Mori by Muriel Spark; and The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    A friend of mine came over the other day and borrowed my copy of The Yellow House – I need to make sure I get it back!!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathy – yes, that’s one you’ll definitely want returned. 🙂

  2. Anna says:

    I adored The Yellow House, too. Thanks so much for hosting the read-along. I’ll get your review on War Through the Generations soon.

  3. Melissa
    Twitter: avidreader12

    You had a busy readalong month! I’m glad you joined ours. It was a completely unique book.

  4. Stephanie says:

    The only Muriel Spark book I have read is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and I found it so boring that I have been scared ever since to read one of her other books!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Stephanie – I’ve heard of Jean Brodie, but didn’t put it together with the same author!

  5. Laurel-Rain Snow
    Twitter: laurelrainsnow

    I’ve been noticing The Yellow House around the blogs…and now I MUST read it! Thanks!

  6. Tracey (My Four Bucks)
    Twitter: My4Bucks

    Cloud Atlas is one of the books that you either love or hate and I haven’t been game enough to read it yet, but thanks for your review. You obviously enjoyed it and didn’t find it too overwhelming.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Tracey – No, it wasn’t overwhelming – and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it translates on film!

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