You know the sort. Not just big in size, but big in breadth and depth and meaning. The sort of books referred to in this way:
This (insert name of book) is so-and-so's (insert author's name) Big Book.
I've read a couple of books like this lately. Here is what I thought of them.
Cutting for Stone (Vintage)by Abraham Verghese
It seemed like everyone in blogland was reading this in 2009 and everyone was loving it. It appeared on 'best of' lists left and right, so of course I thought I'd read it too. I couldn't possibly give you a decent summary of this book except to say: a saga of conjoined twins, born in Ethiopia and separated at birth, they are orphans and raised by physicians thus they become involved in the medical field themselves.
Cutting for Stone ticks all the boxes. Well written. Check. Political upheaval. Check. Coming of age. Check. Love triangle. Check. Detailed medical scenes. Check.
This is a book that I thought was very, very, good but it never hit that sweet spot for me. That perfect reading experience/can't put it down/totally blissed out experience that I crave and only comes along a few times a year and I was sort of expecting with this. I never felt completely emotionally invested until the very end and it wasn't enough. 4.5 stars out of 5 if you know what I mean.
Small Island: A Novelby Andrea Levy
This book won some big prizes and was recommended to me by a few people so I finally gave it a whirl. This is the story of 4 people, 2 married couples, whose lives become intertwined. The time is post-war London in 1948. Hortense and Gilbert are Jamaican immigrants. They are confounded by the fact that everyone seems to think that Jamaica is in Africa. They have come from a country where they look like everyone else to one where they can't help but stand out. Queenie is their landlord and is married to Bernard. He still hasn't come home from the war and while Queenie wonders where he is, she doesn't seem all that concerned about it. We go back in time to get to know these four souls to discover how they came to be where they are now.
Small Island grew on me. I was feeling iffy about it at the beginning, there was a fair amount of dialect/slang/improper English (sorry cannot come up with the right word here!) that I am really not a fan of reading. I worried that it would carry through the entire book but it wound up being an amount that wasn't too distracting. As I got to know the characters I liked this book more and more. I was most moved by Gilbert's story of joining the British war effort as an airman. The surprise and dismay he felt at the discrimination he experienced made my heart ache.
I thought the story flowed really well until we got to Bernard's back story. His experience of war was so jarring compared to the other stories and he was a harder character to feel warmly towards. The end of the book came together so well. It was surprising and heartbreaking, tender at times and even a bit karmically mysterious. It was a good solid read. Like Cutting for Stone, it wasn't perfect for me but still highly recommended.
In other bookish news, have you seen this?? Frightening times indeed.