All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. When a novel has won the Pulitzer Prize, my esteem probably doesn't add much of a notch in the author's belt but Mr. Doerr can consider his belt notched. This book is just lovely. Lovely. I worried about the characters when I put it down. I mean, in a novel about a blind teenage girl and a young German soldier whose stories eventually intertwine in Nazi-occupied France, everyone is probably not going to be okay in the end. Oh, and there is a cursed jewel. And spies, and codes. Did I mention Nazis?
The physical descriptions, often through the senses of the blind Marie-Laure, convey her world brilliantly. Young Werner, the soldier, who we meet with his sister as children in an orphanage, is equally compelling. I'm not sure how to categorize this novel. Historical literary fiction – magical realism? Read it and let me know what you think. Also the thing with the snails. Did that mean something in particular, like symbolically...?
Conclave by Robert Harris. Not by the guy who wrote Silence of the Lambs, just to get that out of the way. That's Thomas Harris. I was under that misapprehension for the first several pages I'll be honest, and it was kind of confusing. I kept expecting the pope's death to be the thing the book was about, but no, the pope's death was simply the catalyst for the conclave. As in the title of the book. Duh. Let's just say I've been pretty tired by bedtime lately so haven't had a lot of intellectual fuel left in the tank for cracking the really tough mysteries... Anyhow, this novel was not really a mystery in itself though there were several sort-of mystery subplots, most of which turned out to be red herrings.
Since I seem to want to label genres this month, I guess I'd call this novel a papal procedural. And it's amazingly gripping. Honestly, it was a page turner. I would not have anticipated that! A conclave is the process by the cardinals to elect a new pope, and it is done in absolute secrecy. This novel provides what seemed to me to be a realistic window into age-old procedures, base human politicking, and sincere search for the divine. Fascinating. Many plot twists, with a particularly big one at the end. Maybe over the top, but it was a good ride.
The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly. Generally speaking, can't go wrong with a Harry Bosch novel. In this one, Harry has retired from the LAPD and is working as a private detective, while also picking up shifts in the understaffed small town San Fernando police department. His half brother Mickey Haller (aka "The Lincoln Lawyer") makes an appearance, but fortunately Connelly doesn't get carried away with the cuteness as he sometimes does with Haller.
There's an old guy billionaire, a search for an heir, a fountain pen, DNA, some corporate shenanigans, a serial rapist, a Vietnam connection, and some interesting new cop characters added to the Bosch world. Harry's balancing act between his private work and cop work adds to the interest because he's supposed to keep them separate. Of course, he's not great at following rules, and of course it adds to the drama all around. I don't imagine this entry is actually goodbye for Hieronymous, but if it was, it wouldn't be a bad way to go.
You may be wondering... is Frances reading what Canada Reads? I AM NOT. I just couldn't be arsed. Maybe next year.