A few days ago I started a column recommending spring vacation reading in a variety of genres. But much of what goes into the enjoyment of a book is personal preference for the subject matter, so below you’ll find two other genre recommendations. While the previous two books were lighter reads, these two might appeal to readers who want something to make them think.
3. Mystery/Suspense: The Innocent by Ian McEwan
Leonard Marnham is a young, naive British man assigned to work in secret as part of a British-American surveillance team in post WWII Berlin. The history provides a tense atmosphere. Throw into the mix top-secret government work, the sexy and mysterious Maria, and of course Leonard, a lovable straight-arrow who doesn’t know what he’s in for, both regarding his new job and his first romantic liaison, and you’ve got a recipe for a great psychological thriller.
Which makes perfect sense, as Ian McEwan is a master at realistically depicting the psychological and social ramifications of unthinkable events. The Innocent builds a steady momentum of ratcheting suspense that culminates only in its final pages, and for anyone who’s a fan of suspense novels or psychological thrillers, it’s worth checking out.
4. Literary: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Shriver’s novel documentating the first-person, fictional account of the events leading up to a school shooting from the eyes of the shooter’s mother is remarkable for several reasons. The first is its form. Written as an epistolary novel (a rare find these days), the story unfolds over the course of a number of lengthy letters Eva (the shooter’s mother) is writing to her estranged husband Franklin. For any aspiring writers out there, this book is worth reading merely for a study on this technique. The letters lend a sense of immediacy and legitimacy to the prose, ultimately increasing the emotional impact of the story.
Perhaps more remarkable than this somewhat unusual manner of storytelling is the fact that Shriver tells the reader what the climax is within the first chapter (Eva’s son will murder a number of his classmates) and still manages to make said climax disturbing, surprising, and ultimately moving, all the while being careful not to have the reader feel mislead.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is not a light read–not in content and not in prose style. It is, however, a truly compelling story of a budding sociopath penned by a skilled writer.
Over the next few days I will post the conclusion to my spring vacation recommended reading. If you like my columns, please subscribe!