Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

It’s strange to love a book when part of me feels like it shouldn't be good. How does Atkinson keep pulling off these great novels that hardly have a main character and rely on series of coincidences and wrong-place-at-wrong-time encounters? Especially now that I've read the three others in this series, so I know that the people are all going to be interconnected in some way in the end. I don’t have an answer, but she’s done it again with the return of Jackson Brodie in Started Early, Took My Dog. I couldn't put this book down. The story mainly follows an abandoned boy, a retired female cop who impulsively buys a kid from an unfit mother, an actress in the final moments of her sanity before dementia envelopes her, and (of course) Jackson Brodie, former private investigator. Oh, and a dog named The Ambassador.
Two out of three of the other Jackson Brodie books ended up on my top picks of the year. It’s too early to say if this one will make it, but it’s going to be close.

The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb

This is a fascinating and lovely story of a man making his place in Hanoi both during and after the Vietnam War. Hung comes to the city as a young man to apprentice in his uncle’s Pho shop. As Communism takes hold and the war follows, the shop becomes a gathering place for young subversives targeted by the government. In the present day Hung sells Pho from a ramshackle cart on the streets. Despite his greatly reduced circumstances, he still manages to keep those around him fed and cared for. His life is touching in its simplicity.
I really enjoyed this book. It would make a great book club read (I want to discuss with someone whether or not Hung is really the truest Communist of all). The food writing is also fantastic - I had to go out for Pho as soon as I finished reading.

Press Here by Herve Tullet

When the publisher rep first showed me this book she said, “Don’t just flip through, follow the instructions.” I took her advice and I think I laughed the hardest I've ever laughed over a kid’s picture book. Except that it’s not your usual kid’s picture book. The images are very simple – colored dots painted onto white or black backgrounds – but it’s the activity of it that makes it so much fun. The beginning page is one dot with the instructions below to “Press here and turn the page.” Upon turning the page you see that the one dot has become two. I can’t really do it justice here. I recommend you come in, take a minute, and follow the instructions. I bet you’ll be as enchanted as I was. It’s also a great reminder that “interactive” doesn't have to include a touch screen.