I finished I, Claudius! It was great! The ending took me totally by surprise – I knew I was almost done, but then I turned the page expecting more and that was it. I had slumped a little about 2/3 through, probably because I started to get that feeling of how much more crappy stuff can happen? A lot, it turns out. I need a little break, but then I might attempt the miniseries and the sequel.
In the meantime, the big book news in my world is that I finally got around to reading Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow. It had been recommended by Babelbabe, and I had read A Thread of Grace and thought it was great, and I was sort of saving The Sparrow for a rainy day* because I knew I would like it. I even picked up a copy from the library’s shelf of donations for sale, so I could read it at a moment’s notice. I picked it up on Sunday night for a little bedtime reading, and it was awfully hard to put down to go to sleep.
The best way I can describe it (or the experience of reading any really captivating book) is this: you start a book, sort of a doorway into another experience. And sometimes you step through for a while, and forget a little bit about the world behind you. And those are good books. And some books, you just peek through and think “I can imagine how someone would like it over there, but nothing is pulling me through.” And books like this? You step into the other room and close the door.** Every once in a while, you remember the door is back there, and you step out for a moment to eat or sleep or talk to other people. But you’re entirely capable of sitting on the couch and downing several chapters while your roommate watches a movie, without being truly distracted. And, okay, let’s pull this metaphor to death and describe the experience of finishing the book as leaving that door ajar, so that even though you’re not in the other room anymore, you still get the occasional glimpse.
So I spent most of Sunday afternoon and evening reading the book. I came home from church, chatted with K, ate some toast and tea, and sat down with the book. Somewhere around 10 pm, I realized that my eyes were tired and I had less than 100 pages left. I felt like I needed a break, physically and emotionally, so I saved the end for this morning. Here’s my Goodreads review:
Wow. If the premise of this book sounds at all interesting to you, and if you have some time to devote to being completely addicted to a book, don’t pass this by. Even if you don’t have time to be addicted, it will be worth it. I’m not a big sci-fi person as a rule, but the combination of spiritual struggles, friendships, travel, anthropology, linguistics, and, yes, humor, was so engrossing that I practically swallowed this book whole. It’s that rare combination of a completely engaging and expertly written – like a delicious but healthy meal, like dinner and dessert at the same time. I want the sequel NOW but my sanity might require a small break. Say, a few hours.
*Actually, it hailed. One minute it was sunny, less than five minutes later the ground was white.
**I’m cracking myself up here, remembering a Sunday school class in high school, where we listened to some spiritual talk on tape, and the guy had this very polished English accent and described death “as though they had stepped into the other room and closed the door.” I think you had to be there. Although perhaps it’s appropriate that I’m associating these two things, because the book is definitely centered around faith – “the risks and beauties of religious faith,” Russell says in the readers’ guide. And it feels rare – especially in contemporary stuff – to find fiction that really deals with faith in any meaningful way. I don’t want preachy and I don’t want warm fuzzies – I want to see characters that feel real dealing with life.