100 in ’11: Sittenfeld, Ishiguro and van Draanen

American Wife – Curtis Sittenfeld

Summary: Opposites attract. A tale of class, gender and political politics (er, couldn’t think of a more eloquent way to phrase that) and the discrepancies between the image we project and the inner reality.

We all know this is a thinly veiled fictional account of what George W and Laura Bush’s relationship might be like. So it perturbs me that I could relate so closely to it. I love that Laura is such a fully-fleshed out character and that Sittenfeld seems fundamentally interested, not unlike myself, in matters of race, class and human relations. While there are interesting episodes in Laura’s early life, it’s not until she marries and is ingratiated into her husband’s clan – and these were the chapters I most enjoyed. I was enthralled but simultaneously revulsed by the trappings of upper-class wealth, and the nature of living inside a political bubble. It definitely drove home the fact that I could never be involved in politics in any way; I could never be with a politician, nor could I jump the fence and become a spin doctor. That said, there were plenty of unnecessary descriptions of outfits and decor, and the entire novel loses momentum in the final section. (But if you give up, I urge you to turn to the last page for a great twist.)

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Summary: Creepy somewhat sci-fi tale of a dystopic England that’s ultimately a reflection on human nature, our relations to others, and life on earth itself.

Warning: I’m going to be a little spoiler-y here. What starts off as an idyllic recounting of life at boarding school quickly takes on darker undertones as the characters come to realise their destiny. I was left wondering: why did they choose the kinds of people they did? What did the organ harvests involve, exactly? But the way Ishiguro frames the narrative is really not about those details atall. Rather, it’s a beautiful, if, bleak, story of dignity, acceptance, forgiveness, belonging, and pure human decency. It’s haunting but somewhat hollow, not unlike the lives of the clones.

Flipped – Wendelin van Draanen

Summary: Cute tale of adolescent love told from alternating viewpoints.

A fun, light-hearted read that reminds us of the need for second chances and that appearances can be deceiving. Juli falls for Bryce the moment she sees him, but he wants nothing more than to shake her off. By the time he comes to realise her worth, she’s wondering if he’s all he’s cracked up to be. And his own family could do with a bit of redemption; Juli’s lot might be broke, but it’s for a good reason – Bryce’s side cast judgement from across the street without ever bothering to dig deeper.

 

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