So with all this writing I’m doing, what am I reading? Here are some of the things:
A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
I looked for this book after meeting the author’s son at a social function. It takes place in World War II, in 1943 when the Italian campaign is just beginning, and it’s about an Italian-American major who’s put in charge of a small coastal town in Sicily. It won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.
A Bell for Adano doesn’t go into the political events of the time — the fall of Mussolini’s government, the German invasion and so on. I think this is because Adano is meant to be such a sleepy and out-of-the-way place. In spite of this, the novel is more of a glimpse of a particular place and time than a study in characters. I’ve read some criticism that the Italian characters in the novel come off as a little stereotyped, but it reminded me a lot of Bill Mauldin’s descriptions of Italy and its people in Up Front. Remember, at this point Italy had been through twenty years of fascist dictatorship. Under fascism, dignity is not a survival trait.
The ending is a little unsatisfying. I kind of want to know what happened to the major after he was sent to Algiers.
Losing Nuka by Kayla Howarth
Her name is Nuka
She lives on the second floor
She’s got those purple eyes
Yes, I think you’ve fought her before…
Sorry, couldn’t resist. One of these days I’m going to do a proper review of Kayla Howarth’s Defective series. She’s taken the old X-Men concept of the superhero as discriminated-against minority and reworked it completely. Her “Immunes” or “Defectives” don’t wear costumes, don’t have secret identities, and above all, don’t try to use their powers to defend the people who fear and resent them. They’re just trying to get by, and their powers are not as much help as you might think. (Really, if you had the ability to microwave things with your hands, how much would it actually improve your life?)
Losing Nuka is the first book in the Litmus series, the sequel series to the Defective trilogy. Nuka James goes in search of her birth mother and manages to find herself in an underground ring where people with various powers engage in MMA fighting. It ends on a cliffhanger, so now I’m going to have to buy the sequel, Protecting William. (I, of course, would never do anything like that to my readers…)
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
I’m actually reading this for my alternate history writing project, The Dead Skunk. It was written at about the right time, and although the Skunkverse is a very different place — a U.S. that lost the War of 1812, a Britain under Queen Charlotte I, a France under a post-Bonaparte Regency Council until Napoleon II comes of age, an already-united Italy under Joachim Murat — there are still some commonalities.
This is the hardest book to read, because I can hardly turn a page that doesn’t have a concept on it that makes me want to stop and chew it over for a while. The ruminations on the effect that even a small change in estate law (primogeniture vs. partible inheritance) can have on families, the state and society are an example of this.
And then there’s everything else on my Kindle that I’m in various stages of reading — Jasper Barlowe’s The Red Crow, Greg Chapman’s Hollow House, Ethan Edgewood’s The Roads We Take, Thomas Hollyday’s Slave Graves, Kate Miller’s Karma Patrol, Nerys Wheatley’s Twenty-Five Percent trilogy, and many, many more.