Friday, February 15, 2013

Two Short Europas

February is Short Book Month for me, meaning I'm only reading books whose spines are thinner than a 1/2 inch and have less than 200 pages. The purpose of this endeavor is to get me reading some novellas and other things that I tend to overlook in my to-be-read piles. So, I read my two Europas this month pretty quickly. They were

The Father and the Foreigner, by Giancarlo de Cataldo, is a crime novel about the father of a disabled child who befriends another father at his son's therapist's office. This other father, Walid, is a man of uncertain origins and professions, but the narrator and he bond over their shared challenges as parents. Walid also impresses him with his flamboyant lifestyle. However, things get murky and the narrator is drawn into a plot to ensnare Walid. I enjoyed this book and was very touched by the relationship between the two men, or the relationship that the narrator projected onto Walid. I liked the thriller aspect too.

Life Form is the latest from Amélie Nothomb, whose books are always worth reading. Of the three of hers I've read, this is my second favorite after Hygiene and the Assassin. It's the story of an epistolary relationship between an author named Amélie Nothomb and a U.S. soldier named Melvin Mapple, an obese man whose compulsive overeating has started to take over his life. What unfolds from here is constantly surprising, engaging and wonderful. I loved this book because its narrator shows a very believable mix of compassion and toughness, and the book ends on one of her absurdist notes which I thought was very fun. It would be an extremely interesting, edgy choice for a book club. There's so much to talk about regarding not just food and war but an author's relationship to her readers, the relationship of writing and how we think of and project ourselves and others, and more.

Next month is either Irish Month or 2013 Releases Month, so we'll see.

FTC disclosure: I received Life Form for review.