Summary: Wow, this was so good! Engaging, well written, clearly explained, inspiring.
I love discovering forgotten pieces of history and this is a greaSummary: Wow, this was so good! Engaging, well written, clearly explained, inspiring.
I love discovering forgotten pieces of history and this is a great one, one that should be more well known. However, it will likely come as a surprise to most people to learn that the work of NACA (later NASA) during WWII and through the moon landing relied on the work of a large group of black, female mathematicians. These exceptional women made technical advances possible with their talent and drove social change with their optimism and determination. Focusing on four women who worked at NASA during this time period, Margot Lee Shetterly brings this story to life.
Shetterly's personal connection to and enthusiasm for this story immediately won me over. It made me more enthusiastic and more engaged throughout the rest of the book. It helped that she also did a great job balancing the personal and technical information. As someone who knows nothing about aeronautics or aerospace engineering, I found her explanations fascinating and easy to follow. I also found the personal stories incredibly moving. I found the women in this story inspirational for their technical prowess; for their passion for their work; for their willingness to fight discrimination to do that work; and for the selflessness with which they helped one another.
The structure of the story was also well done. Told chronologically, the author shares the stories of four women of different ages, who grew up and worked at NACA/NASA at different times. This allowed the author to tell the big picture story of how America and NACA/NASA changed over time, while staying grounded in personal stories. Even if you're not someone who usually picks up nonfiction, I'd recommend this engaging narrative. I found it compulsively readable and an inspiration.
Summary: I adore Ann Patchett's writing and her plots always interest me, but the endings of her books always feel anticlimactic to me.
When Bert CousiSummary: I adore Ann Patchett's writing and her plots always interest me, but the endings of her books always feel anticlimactic to me.
When Bert Cousin decided to crash Franny Keating's christening party, he had no intention of kissing her mother. That one, unpremeditated act however, ended both of their marriages and irreversibly altered the lives of their children. Through five decades and one tragic accident, the Cousin and Keating children became a tight-knit group. The many issues hidden under the surface of their relationships were largely ignore until Franny's affair with famous author Leon Posen lead to his publication of a book revealing their story.
I've read two of Ann Patchett's previous books, Bel Canto and State of Wonder, drawn in by their fascinating plots and gorgeous covers. In both cases, as with this book, I fell in love with Patchett's writing. Her skill is largely beyond my ability to describe. Her writing is just precisely how I expect writing to be. It's beautiful and so engrossing that I'm still completely absorbed in the story as I enjoy her writing. I don't know how she does it.
The reason I would give four, not five, stars to this book and the previous two that I've read is that felt that something was missing. I haven't reviewed the previous two books because I couldn't figure out what that was. I think I can finally explain it. I am simply always expecting something more in terms of the plot. More of a big reveal, more climactic of a confrontation, more dramatic of an ending. Like Neil Gaiman, before I discovered The View From the Cheapseats, Ann Patchett is an author I will probably continue to try again and again until I find the book that works for me. Her writing is so fantastic, I'm certain she can write a book that take my breath away. I just haven't found it yet.
Summary:A book to pick up more for beautiful, poetic writing and character study than for the action. Very surreal.
"Set in a Scottish caravan park durSummary: A book to pick up more for beautiful, poetic writing and character study than for the action. Very surreal.
"Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter – it is snowing in Jerusalem, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to arrive off the coast of Scotland – THE SUNLIGHT PILGRIMS tells the story of a small Scottish community living through what people have begun to think is the end of times. Bodies are found frozen in the street with their eyes open, euthanasia has become an acceptable response to economic collapse, schooling and health care are run primarily on a voluntary basis. But daily life carries on: Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London who is grieving for his mother and his grandmother, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night – to begin his life anew." (Source)
Reading the description of this book and knowing the author wrote The Panopticon, I was worried this book would be too gritty and dark for me. Although the subject matter is pretty dark, I didn't find this to be true. The feel of the book wasn't dark and gritty, but surreal and dreamlike. Nothing happened that I would describe as magical realism, but some scenes were close. Some descriptions were so poetic or so colored by the characters' emotions they almost didn't feel real.
Part of what made me risk picking up a book I feared would be too dark is that I love post-apocalyptic stories, especially those that show civilization collapsing. Given the genre, I expected a more action-packed book, perhaps filled with rampant violence and looting. Again, I was wrong. The possible end of the world in frozen darkness was merely a backdrop for Dylan's emotional journey. This was very much a character driven story. I both liked and disliked that about it. I was amazed by the mood the author captured and loved her writing, but I was left feeling as though not much had happened by the end.
This is a pretty strange book. For all that it's not magical realism, it reminds me of 1Q84more than anything else. I'd say pick it up if you're more in the mood for something with great writing and characters than something more focused on plot. Just be ready for something pretty unique.