Although I haven’t been able to officially update the blog with our whereabouts (San Diego) and what we’ve been up to (celebrating Finley’s 4th birthday and endless boat projects to prepare for our Mexico departure), I wanted to post an update to the book section of our blog for those interested!
The Pleasure of My Company (Steve Martin)
As tempted as I was to hop on my Kindle and download something new and exciting, I did the *yawn* responsible thing and went to my bookshelf in our cabin and made a selection. This book, The Pleasure of My Company, by Steven Martin (yes, the actor) was short and sweet and I’m glad I finally made my acquaintance with his writing. I had owned a copy of his first novel, Shopgirl, on our first boat (Eleni, our Catalina 30) for oh…about 6 years and never read it. (boo!) and I think I came into his second novella by way of our annual girls’ book exchange. What a lovely little read! At 176 pages, it’s completely approachable and regardless of the author’s style of writing, easy to blast through. Lucky for me, Steve Martin is a fun and easy-to-read author.
The novel tells the story of a highly neurotic man and his path to love (albeit upon mostly unknowing subjects). At first blush, I felt like the book might have been a mistake… uh-oh . . . Another book about someone way too neurotic (I had a bit of’PTSD’ after Paint it Black)… but Martin did such a fantastic job providing color and understandability to Daniel’s life, I found myself plodding along at a quick clip.
If you’re up for a very quick and somewhat easy read (not quite like a “beach read” but something more substantive) and would like to be taken on a journey of empathy and understanding of a character living with OCD (and possibly on the spectrum), Martin does a wonderful job with Pleasure of My Company.
The Last Van Gogh (Alyson Richman)
After completing Martin’s novel in a couple days, I gave myself ‘permission’ to go online and download something– especially exciting given that this author was recommended to me by a good friend whose reading recommendations I trust. This was my first encounter with Alyson Richman’s style of historical fiction, and as I recall, my first historical fiction outside the realm of ancient times. (think Ken Follett and Phillippa Gregory). I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Richman’s style was much more ‘fiction’ than ‘history’ as an initial read and it was not until the Author’s Note at the end did I realize how much fact she had cleverly woven into the story.
The book focuses on Vincent Van Gogh’s final muse, Marguerite Gachet, the oldest daughter of Dr. Gachet, who he had come under the care of later in his short life upon his brother’s recommendations. The story takes place almost entirely in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small French village Dr. Gachet relocates his family to (from Paris) under the auspices of his wife’s medical condition (the reader learns more about that later). Marguerite comes to Van Gogh’s acquaintance when he moves to Auvers for treatment by her father and ends up inspiring Van Gogh to complete 3 portraits of her. (Interesting factoid, Van Gogh completed 77 paintings in as many days–the last days of his life spent in Auvers, which I learned in the Author’s Note at the end, fascinating!).
As one would imagine, this is a love story of sorts, but even if one is only remotely aware of Van Gogh’s life, it’s not hard to foresee that their love story does not have the fairytale ending. Nonetheless, Richman writes so effortlessly in weaving in the historical facts that I quite literally forgot it was true until I got to the end where she allows Marguerite to (almost) address the reader directly saying “As one knows of Van Gogh’s life…” I was jolted back to reality and tried to jog my own memory as to what happened to him at the end of his life.
All told, I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Van Gogh and although I felt sad for Marguerite at the end, any other portrayal of her life would have been (1) likely false and (2) too perfect.
I’m looking forward to picking up another Alyson Richman book and thank my good friend SFK for the recommendation!
Jack 1939 (Francine Matthews)