The Sunday Salon: Eureka!

It’s finally happened:  I’ve discovered a really good book.

A few weeks ago, summing up my September reading, I described the month as “a string of mostly average reads,” and fervently hoped for better things in October.  Edith Wharton’s Summer was a bright spot (read my review), but I hadn’t yet encountered a truly unputdownable book.  Until now.  My current read, Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth,  is shaping up to be one of those knock-your-socks off books.  Amazon describes this World War I memoir:

In 1914, just as war was declared, 20 year-old Vera Brittain was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later, her life—and that of her whole generation—had been irrevocably changed in a way that no one could have imagined in the tranquil pre-war era. Testament of Youth is Brittain’s account of how she lost the man she loved, nursed the wounded, survived those agonizing years, and emerged into an altered world. A passionate record of a lost generation, it made Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time. It still retains the power to shock, move, and enthrall readers today.

I first heard about this book from a LibraryThing member’s rave review.  A couple months later, Booksnob published a fabulous in-depth review.  I added the book to my Paperbackswap wishlist and was delighted when my wish was granted (although by that time I’d already decided to borrow it from the library if need be).  Now I’ve read just over 200 of this book’s 660 pages, and am completely immersed in Vera Brittain’s life.  She was a tremendously strong character, advocating for women’s rights and challenging societal convention by pursuing university education.  And I can sense that the real substance of this memoir will make World War I “real” in a way I haven’t experienced before.  I’ll have more to say about that when I finish the book.

This week also brought two exciting new arrivals to my tbr pile.  Thanks to winning a Belletrista giveaway, I was the lucky recipient of a lovely Belle tote bag and two books:

  • Before you Suffocate your own Fool Self is a collection of short stories by a young African-American author named Danielle Evans.  It offers a contemporary view of racial issues, and I think I’ll enjoy discovering a new voice.  Belletrista’s review was written by a friend of mine, and I really trust her judgment.  Update: this book is also reviewed in today’s New York Times Book Review.
  • To Mervas is translated from the Swedish, and the review in Belletrista has me intrigued both about the plot and the story’s beautiful language.

Having just this week decided to read more spontaneously, I’m certain I’ll read one of these books in the next few weeks.  And while I’m leaning towards one of them now, when the time comes I’ll choose the one that best suits my mood.  That’s what my “un-project” is all about!

Did you make any pleasant discoveries this week?

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Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

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17 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Eureka!

  1. I’m so glad you’re loving Testament of Youth! You’ll need something seriously fluffy after you’ve finished it…

    • Cushla, do you realize that you’re the LibraryThing member mentioned above? I curled up and devoured another 100 pages of this amazing book this afternoon. All I can say is, wow.

      And yes, I’m thinking about something lighter to follow …

  2. It’s so great when you find a really excellent book, especially when you’ve been sailing along in a sea of mediocrity. I found one a few weeks ago, and it was a breath of fresh air.

    Looking forward to hearing more about it. Enjoy! 🙂

  3. When those books come along and our wee socks are knocked right off, with heart, soul and mind engaged, it makes being able to read such an extraordinary gift, doesn’t it.

    Really glad it was YOU who won the Belle bookbag and books. To Mervas looks like an Archipelago publication…is it?

    • Tui, I love that first sentence.

      And yes To Mervas is an Archipelago publication. I have heard a lot about them but never read any, so that’s another reason to look forward to it. Although it could prove disastrous for my pocketbook … 🙂

  4. Oh you are going to love it! Glad my review prompted you getting a copy – it’s one of those books that blows you away and changes your perspective on things. I’m not sure she’s as good with fiction, but when she’s writing non fiction, Vera Brittain knows how to pack a punch and bring tears to your eyes. Enjoy!

  5. This book is one of my favourites (your blog came up on my google alerts for Vera Brittain). Greetings!
    I can strongly recommend her wartime diaries: “Chronicle of Youth” and also a collection of letters to and from her brother & his friends: “Letters from a Lost Generation”.

    • Josephine, thanks for stopping by! I suppose you’ll get another Google alert when I write my review 🙂

      Also, thanks for the recommendations for further reading.

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