Books I Read This Week 2020 – 06

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I also have an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The New Life of Hugo Gardner (2.5 stars): This is a complicated novel for me to rate or review. I read About Schmidt back when it came out but considering it’s been almost 25 years, I don’t think I remember enough of it to be sure I am accurate, however, this book felt like a similar book to me. Not in sense of plot, in that Schmidt was always very disgruntled and pretty much complained about everything. But in the sense that this novel reads like a character study of an elderly man.

Hugo Gardner is in his 80s and his wife of some 40 years decides to leave him to be with someone else. Hugo is wealthy and well regarded (as an ex-bureau chief of a magazine, etc.) and has two children with whom he doesn’t have great relationships. This is the story of what happens to him post-divorce.

Here’s the spoiler: nothing happens. I mean there’s not much of a plot in this story. Which usually would not bother me at all. I prefer character-driven stories. I love quiet stories where nothing much happens.


But in return I need something to happen to the character. I need the character to grow in some way. To learn something about themselves. To acknowledge or ponder some truths. Something that makes me feel like reading the story was worthwhile because we both learned something from it.

Alas, I didn’t feel that way in this story. There were parts that made me laugh (especially the part where he thanks Gore for inventing the internet.) There were parts that made me cringe. There was so much where I couldn’t tell if the author was trying to be clever or whatever and it just didn’t really land with me. The character seemed both full of himself and I found myself pitying him at parts.

I didn’t hate my time with this story. I think Begley is a good writer and I found the book readable and enjoyable in parts. I mostly felt like I wasn’t sure what the point of this whole story was. What did he learn from the divorce? How did he grow from the experience? It all just felt empty to me. I understand the author was maybe trying to make a point with this character but it just didn’t work for me.

with gratitude to edelweiss and Doubleday Books for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Fifth Risk (3.5 stars): I think I might have filled my quota of books related to this administration. I’ve read way too many of them over the last few years and at this point, I am not learning anything new. Lewis’ book was more interesting because of its focus on the US Department of Energy and I’ve learned a bunch and am now officially worried of course. His storytelling style is always engaging and the people behind the stories are always fascinating so I don’t regret reading this but I’ve liked his other books more.

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties (3.5 stars): I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I was going to. I am not sure why I didn’t think it was going to be all that interesting but it was well written and well narrated and a thought-provoking story about a woman who is a bit older than I am going through a divorce and having to deal with figuring out how to move through that. It was an enjoyable read.

Things in Jars (3.5 stars): I started this book right in the middle of a major release at work so my brain was completely full and this is one of those books that really appreciates your attention. I loved the characters and the quirky weirdness of the book and I think at a different time it would have rated even higher for me. If you don’t like weird, unusual books, this is not the book for you. But, for me, it was a very enjoyable read.

The Operator (4 stars): I was fascinated by the premise of this story when I read about it. Vivian Dalton, a switchboard operator, eavesdrops on conversations regularly and hears a secret that’s about to change her life. The story starts and moves a little slower than I’d like and when you finally hear the secret, it’s unclear whether it’s actually a big deal or not. The emotions in this story, in fact, all seem muted. You can mostly tell what the characters are feeling by what they do more than what they say (which might be a reflection of the times, I am not sure.)

There are a handful of plot lines in the story and they weave through in and out of each other at times. There’s a small or big surprise in each story and by the end of the book I found myself attached to the characters, hopeful for second chances all around.

I really enjoyed the time I spent with this beautiful story.

With gratitude to edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

And there we go, another week of reading in 2020.

Books I Read this Week 2020 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

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