Sunday, September 4, 2022

First Lines: August 2022 edition

I didn't have any photos of Wuthering Heights
so we will have to make do with this photo
of Golan Heights

These are the first lines of the books I finished reading in August.  If there is a theme this month, it could be “Books That Reminded Me of Wuthering Heights In Some Way.”  Three of this month’s books did, anyway.



Book 1

Shadow had done three years in prison.  He was big enough, and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time.



Book 2

One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people—a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes.


Book 3

When I was six, my father took me to Grand Central Terminal in New York to see the imposing bronze statue of my great-great-great grandfather “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt.



Book 4

The Piano Teacher’s Pupil

‘The Brahms?’ she said.  ‘Shall we struggle through the Brahms?’  The boy, whose first lesson with Miss Nightingale this was, said nothing.  But gazing at the silent metronome, he smiled a little, as if the silence pleased him.


Book 5

From above, from a distance, the marks in the dust formed a tight circle.  The circle was far from perfect, with a distorted edge that grew thick, then thin, and then broke completely in places.  It also wasn’t empty.


Book 6

Chapter One:  Breakfast Rolls

One fine summer’s morning the sun peeped over the hills and looked down upon the valley of Silverstream.  It was so early that there was really very little for him to see except the cows belonging to Twelve-Trees Farm in the meadows by the river. 


The titles and authors revealed:



Book 1

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  First published 2001 (465 pages).  10th Anniversary edition, with 12,000 additional words, published in 2011.   565 pages.

I read this for book club.  My review at this link.   It is like Wuthering Heights in that I didn’t love reading the book, but I keep thinking about it.


Book 2

 Upstream by Mary Oliver (essays by the poet).  2016.  187 pages.

This book provided a lovely respite from the world.   I was completely in the mood for these essays, which feature discussion of nature and a few American writers.  This book was not in any way like Wuthering Heights.

This is my photo of a stream that is probably
 in New England, so close enough
 to Cape Cod, where Mary Oliver lived.


Book 3

Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty

by Anderson Cooper  and Katherine Howe.   336 pages.  2021.

Pretty good read - expos√© of a rich but unhappy family, the ancestors of Anderson Cooper, journalist for CNN TV news.  Cornelius Vanderbilt used some of his money to found the university that bears his name.  (6+ degrees of separation: I studied in France for a semester via the Vanderbilt-in-France program.)  A few generations later, the mother and daughter both had the same name – just like in Wuthering Heights.  I was confused about which Gloria was which, at any point. I guess this practice of parents naming their children after themselves is more prevalent than I had realized. 

Book 4

Last stories by William Trevor.  Published 2014.  240 pages.

Ten short stories, published posthumously (as near as I can tell). 

Short stories are not my favorite genre.  I read this to fulfill the Summer Library Bingo square for a book with the word “last” in the title. I tried two other books in this category, and they did not grab me at all.  

These are well-written stories, but with short stories I always feel that I am not able to get to know the characters well enough, and there is usually a macabre or sad twist to the plot.  I would like to read more by this author, if time permits.  His work made the shortlist for the Booker Prize five times.   It’s a stretch to relate these short stories to Wuthering Heights, but there was one story that takes place partly on a remote farm.


Book 5

The Lost Man by Jane Harper .  2019.  353 pages.

It’s about a dead man and his distrustful family, all in the stark and blazing-hot Australian outback. I thought it was well told, with interesting characters.  I started out with the audio book, because it was available, but it was hard to understand, because of the Australian accent.  I switched to the kindle version to finish it, but in my head the Australian accent was always rolling around.  

This book reminded me a lot of Wuthering Heights – both have a family that mistreats each other, who live off in the middle of nowhere, with very little interaction with the outside world.  I was fascinated to learn about The School of the Air, which is a real thing.  I read this book for book club, but sadly will not be able to attend the discussion.

I don't have a photo of the Australian outback, so
this photo of the Thar Desert in Pakistan will have to suffice.
The crowd includes my Mom, Dad, brother, me,
 and my father's cousin's family.
I am the one in the pink chunni (head scarf).
April 1990.


Book 6

Miss Buncle’s Book, by D.E. Stevenson.  Published 1934.  304 pages.

A book set in a small English village in the 1930s.  A woman in need of money writes a roman √† clef about all the people in her town.  Matrons are insulted, barbs are traded, but nearly nothing of great consequence happens.  There is tea drinking and hot buttered toast and a happy ending.  It was a bit of a challenge to keep track of all the actual townspeople plus the fictional townspeople, but I didn’t worry about it too much.  The major villain is named Mrs. Featherstone Hogg.  This book is part of the Furrowed Middlebrow set of books.  I picked this one because it was available on Kindle from our library.


Did not finish 

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman.  2019. 400 pages. 

I might come back to it.  It was just too fraught at the beginning for me to get through to the better part.  Yes, I was too anxious to read a book about anxious people. The book club folks agreed with me about the beginning, but said about half-way through it became well worth it, and there was redemption.

As always, I love to hear what you are reading.