Here what I read on my long flights from Melbourne to Boston and back...the movies were absolute crap so I'm glad I brought several books.
1. Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey. I made it a goal of mine to read more books by Australian authors, and decided to start with Peter Carey, who has twice won the Man Booker prize and was on the short list again this year. Oscar and Lucinda isn't a traditional love story- set in 19th century England and Australia, it tells the tale of two people who don't quite fit into society and connect through their mutual love of gambling. Oscar is a kindhearted but misunderstood clergyman, and Lucinda is a lonely orphan who buys a glassworks in Sydney with her inheritance. It's a long and dense book, but an enjoyable one, with a refreshingly unexpected ending. Now I want to see the movie.
2. How to Be Good, by Nick Hornby. Although I've seen several movies based upon his books (About a Boy, which I loved, and High Fidelity, which I disliked), I've never read anything by Nick Hornby before. Unfortunately, I think I made a disappointing choice. In How to be Good, the protagonist Kate Carr is fed up with her marriage to bitter and sarcastic David. However, David soon changes his tune and decides to become "good," in the most sanctimonious way possible. The book didn't do too much for me, as it's about two unhappy people in an unhappy relationship, but lacks the depth to keep things interesting.
3. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh. First off, Evelyn Waugh is a man. Who knew? And Brideshead is a place, one of those big fancy English houses where the idle rich dwell. The protagonist Charles Ryder befriends wealthy and charming Sebastian Flyte during their first year at university and becomes a witness of and participant in Flyte family dramas for decades to come. Supposedly Catholicism is the major theme of the novel (Waugh converted to Catholicism as an adult), but I didn't notice it as much as the alcoholism and repressed homosexuality. I liked the book but wasn't crazy about it...could it be that I've finally tired of reading about rich English people who live in houses with names? Perhaps.
4. Brava, Valentine, by Adriana Trigiani. Hey, one can't be high-brow all the time. Brava, Valentine is the second in a series about Valentine Roncalli, a New Yorker from a boisterous Italian-American family who takes the reigns of the family business, custom women's footwear. This is the type of book that when you're reading it on an airplane a woman in her 50s with enormous hair, leather skin, and an abundance of gold jewelry will lean over and say to you conspiratorially, "great book." Strangely enough, both of my parents are hooked on the Valentine series. Sure, they're fun to read, and I much preferred Brava, Valentine to the first book of the series, Very Valentine. Still not Pulitzer material, but at least the author dropped the annoying habit of meticulously describing each character's outfit every time they appeared. So I guess this means I'll be reading the next one :)