Saturday, 15 March 2014

Still Life with Breadcrumbs

After a hectic week at work it was a relief to spend a whole evening reading on Thursday.  In fact I ended up reading into the early hours of the morning because I wanted to know what would happen next in Anna Quindlen's new novel Still Life with Breadcrumbs (although I'd kinda guessed.)

I read my first Quindlen novel a couple of years ago and I thought it was good but not great.  This one I liked much better.  It's about 60 year old Rebecca Winter (how many novels have a 60 year old heroine?) who was once a highly successful photographer who became something of a cult figure in the art world and a household name after her success with a series of domestic images. 

Now divorced, alone, strapped for cash with ailing parents she can no longer afford to live in her New York apartment and rents a rural isolated cottage.  Enter Jim the roofer who clears a raccoon from her loft, sorts out her firewood and clears her drive with a snow plough during a blizzard.  (Wouldn't you fall for a man who can drive a snow plough?)  Jim is a working man with a kind heart, no pretensions and a habit of saying 'Ah hell.'  He's also 44.  Quite a bit younger than Rebecca and it's nice to see a role-reversal relationship in a novel. 

Well I won't say what happened next but I enjoyed spending time in the company of these likeable characters and this self-assured author.  This novel reminded me a little of Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap an old favourite of mine.

Lots of contemporary fiction I want to read at the moment, Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. The new novel from Jean Hanff Korelitz You Should Have Known and Ann Patchett's memoir The Story of a Happy Marriage.  Alas, they are all in hardback and I've pretty much blown my hardback budget for this year and it's only March!

Although I don't knit or make quilts I'm a regular reader of Jane Brocket's blog and I think she writes very perceptive book posts.  I do like her thoughts on the pleasures and freedom of blogging in this post.


Audrey said...

I just had to return this to the library unread, but I'm going to put myself back on the list because I've heard so many good things about it. I've never read A.Q.
PS Nice to see you in the sidebar! -- it's a lovely picture!)

Audrey said...

OK, I feel silly now, because it isn't you. I didn't read carefully. But it's still a lovely picture1 :)

Vintage Reading said...

I wish I did look like Louise Erdrich, Audrey! She's quite a beauty.

Nan said...

I haven't read other AQ fiction because the subject matter was always tough for me to read about, but this one seems different. It seems cheerier? I plan to give it a try. Thanks for this.

Penny O'Neill said...

I haven't read Anna Quindlen in forever and a day. Your review here makes me want to rectify that. Years ago, our book group discussed "One True Thing" and we still remark on what a good discussion we had.

Thank you for this review.

EllenBinNYC said...

By all means please get hold of a copy of The Story of a Happy Marriage. Patchett is a long time favorite of mine, but I was not familiar with her essays, nor did I realize that she wrote essays. They are brilliant, each and every one. I was given a copy of the Anna Q. and look forward to it after reading your review.

JoAnn said...

I've enjoyed Anna Quindlen's novels and love her nonfiction. It's exciting that this novel has a 60 year old heroine and I look forward to reading it soon. There are so many wonderful books out now... certainly understand how the hard-cover budget is busted!!

Sunday Taylor said...

It is coincidental that you mentioned "Still Life with Breadcrumbs" as I was just reading about it this morning in the NY Times. I haven't read anything by Anna Quindlen in a long time and this books sounds very appealing. Thanks so much for your review!

Ellen said...

I haven't read any Anna Quindlan before, but this sounds very good. I'm about to start The Goldfinch as I'm just finishing The Bell Jar again , after reading Andrew Wilson's excellent biography on Sylvia Plath's early years.

Anbolyn said...

I've never paid much attention to Quindlen because I just assumed her novels wouldn't be for me. But...this one does sound very appealing, especially with the age of the main character. I was also intrigued when I saw that it was chosen for the Baileys Prize longlist.

Kat said...

Nicola, I've only read one novel by Quindlen--hated it! Blessings, as I remember, was about an abandoned baby who brings everybody together in the book.

But since this is an Orange Prize contender (whoops! Bailey), I'll have to try it. Also I know you have good taste.:)

Peggy Arthurs said...

Never read Quinlan but will definitely get this book at the library! 60 is not far off for me! Isolated cottage, sounds like a wonderful setting.

Cathy Daniel said...

I like the sound of this one (heroine nearer my age!) and I would definitely fall for a man who could tackle a Raccoon, let alone a snow plough. I dip into Jane Brocket occasionally, so I'll go have a look. xCathy

Susan said...

This book sounds like fun! I haven't read her yet, though I have heard of her. I quite like the plot of this one. Thanks for a lovely review, Vintage. It is good to see a few older heroines coming back in books, isn't it?

Vintage Reading said...

Nan, yes this one is quite uplifting, give it a go.

Penny, once our book group 'was asked to leave' the pub because we were having such a passionate discussion we didn't notice it was closing!

Ellen, I've read the Patchett now, it was indeed good. Loved her musings on writing.

JoAnn, yes I think the last two years have been wonderful for contemporary fiction.

Sunday, I'm rather fond of the NY Times bestseller list. It's often quite literary and I get a few recommendations from it. Hope you enjoy the AQ!

Ellen, yes I read the Wilson biog of SP, too. Rather good, I thought. Loved The Goldfinch, too, glad it won a prize last week.

Anbolyn, yes AQ has not really been on my radar in a big way but this novel I liked!

Kat, often my tastes coincide with yours so I think you will like this. No refunds if you don't!

Peggy, we need more older heroines in fiction, hope you enjoy this!

Cathy, yay for older heroines!

Susan, it's an enjoyable read and quite uplifting, hope you like it!

Caroline said...

I noticed the comments on Quindlen's book having a heroine of over 60 - which is unusual. I have a theme on my blog about older women in fiction, which means I review one book every two months with an older woman (ie older than about 55). The blog is Bookword. Please visit and see if you are interested.
Thanks for the review. I'm waiting for the paperback.

Vintage Reading said...

Caroline, checking your blog out right now!

Amy said...

Glad to read your thoughts on this one. My reaction to Quindlen has been similar: good but not great. Will look forward to reading this eventually.