this week

With the inauguration this week, I thought it would be fitting to start a book I’ve been looking forward to for awhile now.  Curtis Sittenfeld became a writer to watch with her debut novel Prep, about a middle-class, Midwestern girl’s experience at an elite, East Coast boarding school, which was loosely based on her own experiences as a Midwestern girl at an East Coast boarding school. 

Her most recent novel, American Wife,  is also loosely based on real experiences — but not her own.  According to a note in the book, “American Wife is a work of fiction loosely inspired by the life of an American first lady.  Her husband, his parents, and certain prominent members of his administration are recognizable.”  (This first lady is commonly known to be Laura Bush.)  The note goes on to say that the other characters and the incidents surrounding them are entirely imagined.  (The note is – intentionally? – vauge in how true to life the book’s depiction of the protagonist, Alice, is.)   

I’m not far enough into the book yet to identify (for certain, anyway) any of the aforementioned recognizable characters.  But I can say two things.  One, Sittenfeld can write.  The narrative she’s established and the character that is relaying it to the reader are at once striking and relate-able, and I’m eager to return to the story as soon as I get the chance.  Two, it takes some courage to create a fictional version of the sitting (at the time of publication) president.   But Sittenfeld’s courage in her storytelling doesn’t come as a complete shock; Prep, in which the main character develops a critical view of her school, was born out of her own experiences in such an environment, and I would imagine it took a certain amount of courage to put those out into the world as well. 

On other fronts, I’m nearing the halfway point of the audio version of Silas Marner, and I’ve started the first few pages of Robert Cormier’s young adult classic I Am the Cheese.  But I’m guessing American Wife will be holding my focus for the immediate future.

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~ by Molly on January 22, 2009.

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