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The Week in Books

Normally I post on Thursday’s about the books I’ve finished.  And I’ve had a ton of time to read while I’ve been away from my daughter and home responsibilities while traveling for my shoulder tests.  I read two hours a day, at least.  So you’d think I’d have all kinds of books I could post about, right?

londonYeah, the thing is, I’ve been reading a book that my Kindle said would take me 32 hours to finish.  It’s London: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd.  And it’s 1154 pages.  I once read a quote that said something like, if it takes you longer than two weeks to read a novel, you haven’t really read it.  I’m not sure who said that, but I generally agree.  Novels are meant to transport you to new worlds, a chance to immerse yourself in other lives and try on other characters and personalities.  You can’t do that by dipping in and out of it here and there.  It takes a commitment.  Like any relationship, you need to spend time on it.

And London is a demanding relationship.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful one.  But it is demanding.  Both intellectually and emotionally.  And I’m about 65% of the way through, so we still have a lot of ground to cover.

So there are two things that stand out to me that I love about it from the get go.  First, the chapters themselves are each almost like a short story or a novella within a novel.  So while the book is going to take me over 30 hours to finish, each chapter takes more like 2 or 3, and I feel as if I’ve had a good meal when finishing it.  I feel like we’ve covered some ground, London and I.  It’s satisfying to have the book broken up like that.

Second, I am enjoying the build up and additions of families to the story.  It starts out with a family living on the southern shore of the Thames just before the Romans arrived.  So we then have stories of a family, through descendants, who live in London down through the ages.  Roman times.  Saxon times.  The Conquest.  Medieval England.  The Tudors, and Elizabethan England.  I’m just onto James I now, but what started out with just one family has since expanded as cousins and marriages occur.  Certain characteristics stay within each family, their fortunes rise and fall as the decades pass, and you really get a sense of how the past informs and shapes each new generation.

Here’s what I can say about London so far.  First, this is definitely a case of eBooks allowing me to pick and choose a book that I don’t think I would have bought in print.  I would have been way too intimidated by its heft.  I’m sure you could use the print version to train for weightlifting competitions.  Seriously, it’s massive.  When I first saw how long my Kindle thought it would take me to read it I was sure it was a mistake.  There’s no way I would carry something like that onto a plane.  Actually, with my broken shoulder, I doubt I could carry it at all!

Second, the writing is beautiful.  It varies and in turns is simple as well as structured and poetic.  The words are just a joy to read.  I’m enjoying the characters and the story, and I admire Rutherfurd for even attempting something this vast.  I know he’s done it with other cities as well, but it just seems like such a feat, to try to capture London as a living, breathing entity in something as finite as a book.

So, perhaps by next week I will be on to something else.  For now, I’m basking in this book, savoring it.  There’s certainly enough of it.