Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Story of Forgetting

Story of Forgetting: A Novel

First of all, I have to announce that I think that I may have broken two records in May: the first I am a little embarrassed about (but not really)-I bought twelve books in May; and secondly, I read eight books in May!

I really loved The Story of Forgetting, a debut novel by Stefan Merrill Block.  I fell in love with the writing.  The first line of the book: 
"I never found a way to fill all the silence."
And from the second page:

"But still.  Even if the words go straight from my mouth  to oblivion, the fundamental truth of my life is so simple, the saying of it makes me feel so foolish I can hardly bear to say it at all:
I was in love with my brother's wife." 
You just have to read each page to understand the beauty of the writing. 

The story began narrated by Abel Haggard, an elderly hunchback man who lived alone on his family's farm outside of Dallas, Texas.  Everyone who he had loved was dead or gone.  The other narrator of this book was Seth, a teenager who lived hundreds of miles away in Austin, Texas.  Seth was slowly losing his mother to Alzheimer's.  While Abel ruminated and reminisced about his life, Seth was determined to find out about his mother's past and locate her long-lost relatives in order to find out if his mother's disease had been in her family.

As Abel wrote:

"Perhaps it was better when it (the disease of his family) went unnamed.  There was a time when it was only the mysterious affliction of the Haggards, the madness that seized my mother and grandfather and great-grandfather, and undoubtedly countless others before them, but of course, in its unsparing erasure, there's no way to know for certain just how many. Just as there is no way to know how or why it makes its claims."

Seth worked hard on researching his mother's illness.  He learned of her variant of the disease that had been identified and then began visiting those people around the Austin area who had been diagnosed with the same variant.

There is a story of Isodora that is told through-out the book, sometimes beginning before a chapter but not always.  The story had been brought over to the United States by Charles and Millicent Haggard, and was passed down through the years to each generation.  Throughout the years, Seth's mother would tell him that:

"There are places where you can cross." 
She was referring to the story of Isodora, just as Abel's mother had with him.

I just found this book to be truly beautiful and so well told.  I can't wait to read more of his work!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Clifton Chronicles

Only Time Will Tell was written by Jeffrey Archer in 2011.  It is the first of seven novels of the Clifton Chronicles.  I must be crazy to have gotten involved in reading the first one, but I did at the recommendation of a friend. (I still haven't finished the last book of the Outlander series!).  My intention was to only read this first of the chronicles and then return to my to-be-read piles.  However, after the surprise ending of the book, I ordered the second one right away...and that is how the whole seven series went!  I ended up reading all of them.  Thankfully, while they appear to be quite large books, they are very easy and quick to read.  I hadn't read anything by Jeffrey Archer for over 30 years.  I think I may have been missing out.  The characters are very well developed and the writing is compelling. 

As I said the Chronicles begins with Only Time Will Tell.  It is the story of Harry Clifton, born to a widow, who worked as a waitress to make ends meet in England.  The book begins with a Prelude told by Harry's mother, Maisie, dated 1919.  The first chapter of the book begins with:
"I was told that my father was killed in the war." 
Harry had been told that his father was killed in the war and so he and his mother lived with his grandparents and his Uncle Stan.  Harry attended a private boarding school after he had earned a choral scholarship.  There he met Giles Barrington and they became best friends.  As Harry got older, he learned how his father had really died and realized that he may be the son of Giles' father.
By the end of the first book it was 1940.  Harry had been studying at Oxford and decided he would join the navy and return to Oxford after the war ended.

The Chronicles go on to tell the stories of various characters, all surrounding Harry, his family and friends.  Each section of the books is narrated by one of the characters.  The story goes on until 1992.

I was surprised at how well the author threaded in all the history of the times into the books.  So, readers, be warned, each book of the Chronicles ends with a cliff-hangar, that leaves you wanting more!