Wednesday reading roundup: August 24

This Wednesday's reading roundup includes Re Jane, The Girl Under the Olive Tree, and Harry Mount's Odyssey.Last week, my schedule finally overcame me, and I missed my weekly Wednesday reading roundup. And I do mean I missed it!

This week, I am back in form. And, as ever, I’m thankful to Taking on a World of Words for the weekly inspiration of WWW Wednesday and to Coffee and Cats for introducing me to it.

What are you currently reading?

I’m still working on The Odyssey by Homer. My book club book pushed it to the back burner this week. Now it’s back at the top of my list … assuming another book doesn’t grab my attention. That is always a possibility (gulp).

What did you recently finish reading?

I finished The Girl Under the Olive Tree by Leah Fleming. This book had been languishing in my Nook library for who-knows-how-long. It’s nice to tick another title off my terrifyingly long #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks list.

As I mentioned previously, this novel appealed to me for its depictions of life in WWII occupied Greece. It has a frame narrative: In 2001, octogenarian Penny prepares to travel from her home in England to Crete to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Crete. The trip inspires her to reflect on her time there working for the Greek resistance. With that, we travel back to Athens in the pre-war years.

Penny (who has Greek heritage on her father’s side) ostensibly goes there to visit her sister, who is married to a diplomat. In reality, Penny wants to study architecture and break away from her family’s socialite expectations. When war breaks out and she’s meant to go home, she chooses to stay behind. We know Penny will survive, since she narrates the “present” chapters. The question is how and at what cost.

I also read Re Jane by Patricia Park, the aforementioned book club selection. I found this contemporary take on Jane Eyre compulsively readable. If I could have read it straight through, I would have. As it is, I bulldozed through it in two days. True, I was on a deadline for my book club meeting. But the more I read, the more invested I felt in Jane’s journey. Also, the writing is lovely.

Jane is Korean on her mother’s side and white American on her father’s. Raised in the Korean enclave of Flushing, Queens by her maternal uncle and his family, she grows up feeling always on the margins, as if she never fully belongs. Like Jane Eyre’s journey, Jane Re’s is about finding herself and creating a life that feels whole to her. It’s not plot-driven, exactly. Mostly, I felt invested in what would happen to this young woman, in discovering whether – or how – she would find fulfillment. Woven throughout the story are poignant insights about identity, how we interpret our experiences, and what it means to find, or create, home.

I also finished Harry Mount’s Odyssey: Ancient Greece in the Footsteps of Odysseus by Harry Mount. Mount traces Odysseus’ long and winding path from Troy home to Ithaca and writes about the various places he visits and their history. It’s full of fascinating (and sometimes salacious) tidbits about life in the ancient world. At the time of his trip, Mount was also getting over a breakup … that he initiated. His self-deprecating (so very British) reflection on his relationship is quite touching and his dry humor (see previous parenthetical) charming.

I loved this book first and foremost for Mount’s enthusiasm for Ancient Greece. I cannot help but appreciate an author who harbors such love for my maternal homeland. But also, he made me want to visit every one of these sites. He even made me want to learn Ancient Greek!

What do you think you’ll read next?

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe fell to the wayside over the last few weeks. I set it aside after an Unbearably Sad Thing happened. But I would like to get back to it after I finish The Odyssey.

I’m also feeling in the mood for one of M. C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth murder mysteries.

I might also like to read something autumnal to get in the spirit of the upcoming season. Though I’ve no idea what title will do that for me. Any suggestions?

4 Replies to “Wednesday reading roundup: August 24”

  1. Good luck getting through the Odyssey. I don’t think I’ve ever made it. Happy reading and thanks for participating in WWW Wednesday!

  2. Bravo on continuing on with lingering books, and finishing two! And thanks for writing about “Re Jane”, which I hadn’t heard about, and which sounds SO COOL!

    I hope that you’re enjoying your weekend and that the Unbearably Sad Thing is over and done with and hasn’t lingered. And if it is lingering, I hope things turn out all right as soon as possible and that you find comfort in many places, real and imaginary.

    1. So, I’m so sorry I was very unclear in my post: The Unbearably Sad Thing happens in Things Fall Apart. I love the writing a lot, but this one event happens that made it so hard for me to continue reading.

      I really enjoyed Re Jane. Like A Man Called Ove, it was picked by one of the women in my book club. I didn’t know anything about it other than it was a contemporary spin on Jane Eyre. So it was a very pleasant discovery (as was A Man Called Ove!). It reminded me how fun it can be to get lost in a good book when you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen. 🙂

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