Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Last of Her Kind

I have been thinking about the intersecting set of books Jenny likes and books I like (that is the correct term, isn't it? like in a Venn diagram, with the circle of books I like and the [much larger] circle of books Jenny likes, and then the two circles overlap with the books we both like?).

At any rate, the list begins with Jane Austen and goes on to Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin*, A.L. Kennedy's Paradise, and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love (I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones that jump to mind). I think what characterizes these books is that they are fiercely intelligent, and they take a close and nuanced look at complex characters in complex social and emotional situations (not sure whether it is incidental or central that they are largely by women writers).

Newest addition to the set: Sigrid Nunez's 2006 novel The Last of Her Kind, which I'm almost certain Jenny recommended to me. About forty years in the life of a working-class girl who enters Barnard in 1968, her rich radical roommate, and her hippie runaway sister, this is one of those books that has it all: fascinating characters, compelling and unexpected plot, social panorama, big issues, emotional nuance, memory, drugs, friendship, family, class, race, politics, literature. The writing itself, at the sentence level, which is usually so important to me, is not that exciting, but the book as a whole is pretty much stunning.

Here's a more thorough, and equally rave, review from Salon.

*Correct title thanks to Postacademic.

1 comment:

postacademic said...

Isn't it _We Need to talk about Kevin_ or something more like that? (a title I remember for obvious autobiographical reasons). Have you read her new one?