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Three more good books to read, including one by JK Rowling

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 2:12 pm

Three good books have come to light since I last wrote about my reading.

First, “Claire of the Sea Light,” by Edwidge Danticat. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is lovely and tender and I kept reading it, not wanting to put it down. It takes place in a small seaside town in Haiti, and it is a picture of what life is like there.

Claire is a wonderful child whose mother died when she was born. Her father, a marvelous character, takes her to her mother’s grave every year on her birthday. Now it is her 7th birthday. Her father, a fisherman, wants the best for his daughter and feels he must give her to the shopkeeper to raise. And thereby hangs the tale.

It is not a thick book; I almost wish it were. There is good reading on every page. We see the community come together to help the widow, whose husband loses his life while fishing. We meet Max Senior, who is a remarkable, truly dedicated educator. And I could go on and on. Let me just sum up by saying this is a charming, well-worth-reading book — and I am reserving two others written by the author.

Sue Grafton’s “V Is for Vengeance” is next. I had forgotten what a good storyteller Grafton is. Actually, I stopped reading her writing some time ago, maybe around “I Is for —.” I was weary of reading what everyone was wearing. But I had been reading some rather heavy stuff and needed a vacation, so the librarian produced two Graftons, and I’m glad.

In this one, as almost always set in Santa Teresa, Kinsey sees a woman shoplifting and tells a salesclerk what she saw. From that act we learn about a large business in which shoplifting is a vital partner. Our Kinsey is hired to prove that the guilty person did not commit suicide because of shame.

There is an interesting subplot that involves a character named Dante; he’s worthy of being the star in his own book. Kinsey’s landlord Henry is gone for too long a time in this book. I miss him when he’s not around helping our heroine. Now if Rosie were to take a trip, I not only wouldn’t miss her, I’d breathe a sigh of relief. But I enjoyed the book.

Then there’s J. K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy.” Set in a small British town, Pagford, we get involved in an election to fill the place on the parish council left vacant when Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly dies. Barry is loved or respected by just about every character in the book. That’s good, because the book is filled with very unpleasant, unlikable characters.

When I mentioned this to my daughter, she reminded me of some for whom I felt sorry or who were rather decent human beings putting up with a lot of guff. They’re not all unpleasant. I felt sorry for Alf, a teenager, whose home life was pretty miserable but who is a good kid. I liked the Indian doctor and was delighted when she finally blows her stack.

There are a few others, but you’ll learn about them when you read the book. However, it takes a while to learn who belongs to whom. In other words, there are so many characters I wanted a genealogical map to remember who was who.

The book is long. The book is very long. The four-letter f word that used to be censored flows abundantly, too generously, in my opinion. The prose is prose — not particularly inventive or imaginative. I loved the Harry Potter books, which were full of creative touches and interesting characters and wonderful magic. And there were twists and turns and surprises. Well, “The Casual Vacancy” has an ending that took me by genuine surprise.

The ending makes it all worthwhile. So go read it.

Betty E. Stein is a retired teacher.