Monday, 25 July 2016

The Portable Veblen

I did enjoy The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie. It’s dark and funny with a biting wit and compassionate heart. 

It features a likeable heroine who is named after the economist Thorstein Veblen. Like her namesake Veblen abhors conspicuous consumption. When her doctor boyfriend Paul buys a humane trap for the squirrel in her loft which keeps him awake at night Veblen is appalled:
‘... she began to think bitterly about how phenomena in the natural world no longer inspired reverence and reflection, but translated instead into excuses for shopping sprees. Squirrels=trap. Winter’s ragged hand=Outdoor World. Summer’s dog days reigned=Target.’
Paul is lovable too, but his ambition causes conflict in their relationship particularly when he enters the corporate world of big pharma. The passages on the clinical trials at the war veterans hospital are harrowing and heartbreaking but tempered by a recurring squirrel motif, a charming love story and a deliciously described Palo Alto landscape.
What’s on your summer reading list? I’m thinking Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies which is out in paperback and I’m looking forward to reading LaRose by Louise Erdrich.


Sunday Taylor said...

This sounds good! I'll be reading "Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes.

Anbolyn said...

I haven't tried The Portable Veblen because I heard a bad report from a coworker, but your thoughts might make me re-evaluate my decision.
I read LaRose and loved it - one of my favorite books of the year so far. I didn't, however, care for Fates & Furies so will be interested to see what you think.
I'm about to start the new Shirley Jackson bio by Ruth Franklin and Miss Jane by Brad Watson.

Nadia A said...

I've had this one on my kindle for quite some time, seems like I should definitely read it soon. Sounds like a fun one.

I tried reading Fates & Furies, but couldn't engage with it - so, I gave up on it. I'm wondering what you'll think of it.

I've been thinking of reading LaRose, too. It seems to be calling out to me, so I think its finally time to pick it up.

I'm not sure what I want to read next, maybe some Jean Rhys or Joan Didion.

Stefanie said...

I very much enjoyed this book. It was quirky and darkly funny and even though the happy ending felt a bit forced, it was still a good read.

Grad said...

I'm on the fence about this one, mainly because there are so many things I really, really want to read and I'm not sure this one calls to me. I am currently reading The Vanishing Velazquez by Laura Cumming and LOVING it! Half of it is the story of John Snare, who in the mid 1800s believed he had found a "lost Velazquez" painting of Charles I (as a Prince) and the devastating effect it had on his life, and a mini-biography and art history lesson of Velazquez and his work. Truly truly fascinating and beautifully written. Probably the best thing I've read so far this year.

Penny O'Neill said...

This sounds good - on my list it goes.
I've just started "Paper Hearts" by Meg Wiviott. A Young Adult book about a young girl in Auschwitz who makes an origami heart for a friend - a forbidden act. It is written in poetic form.

Kat said...

It's on my TBR! I first got interested when it made the Bailey Womens Prize shortlist and I enjoyed your review. Now that someone I know has read it...

Vintage Reading said...

Sunday, never read Julian Fellowes, but I'm always interested in your recommendations!

Anbolyn, sorry your co-worker didn't like The Portable Veb - not everybody's cup of tea. Her style is not unlike Karen Joy Fowler if that helps! Still haven't read LaRose!

Nadia, I loved The Wide Sargasso Sea. Particularly good if read in conjunction with Jane Eyre!

Stefanie, yes I'd not thought about the ending. I suppose it was conventional. I did love Veb though!

Grad, you've sold it to me! I do like books about art.

Penny, thanks for the recommendation I do occasionally read YA books so I will look out for this.

Kat, I think you will like it Kat - please review on your blog as I'd like to know what you think.