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September 15, 2006

The Year of Pleasures

Note: This review appeared in my monthly newsletter (Jan. 2005). Apologies to those who have previously read it.




The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
Contemporary Fiction
Rating: A+ (5/5 Excellent!)
Top Ten List for 2005



I certainly didn't intend to read two books about widows within the same month. Nonetheless, Good Grief seemed more "fluffy" than The Year of Pleasures. Both women moved quite a distance from the home and community they shared with their husbands, embarking on a new life and livelihood, yet that's where their commonality ends. Unlike Good Grief, which I wasn't that impressed with until it redeemed itself in the second half of the narrative, The Year of Pleasures had me from the very first page. While I thought Good Grief was a decent read, Berg's character dealt with the same issues so much more maturely. Maybe I could relate more to Betta's loss since I'm closer to her age than Sophie's in Good Grief. Or maybe I just hope I would behave with more dignity than Sophie did.

Someone recently asked what questions I would ask of my current read's author. I said I don't think I'd ask her anything, but rather tell her that I love her books and that she always manages to create female characters that I feel I know or would want to know. She can write about the simple act of preparing a meal or unpacking a moving van full of household items and cause me to nod my head in agreement. I love Berg's descriptive voice, pulling me into a home rather than a house. In my mind's eye, I recognize the furnishings, get ideas for my own home, irrationally wish to talk to the main character, if only to say, "Yes! I know exactly how you feel!"

My book is littered with post-it notes like a trail of breadcrumbs marking my way back to the beginning, there to remind me of something someone said or did which caused me to nod my head or quietly mutter, "yes" or "me, too" (for example, the meditative quality of washing dishes by hand). As I turned the final page, I literally whined, "Nooooo!" for I thought I had more time with Betta and didn't realize the remaining pages were the customary "acknowledgments," "about the author," "about the type," etc. Had I not promised the book to a dear friend, I'd start all over and read it a second time. Instead, I'll wait patiently for the laydown date (I had an Advanced Reader Copy) and rush to my local brick & mortar to pick up a beautiful hardcover copy for my permanent collection. This is definitely a keeper, as are all her books.

I could've easily finished the book in one sitting, but chose to put it aside every few chapters, so as to savor the experience. I feel like Berg has returned to her earlier style of narrative. Her previous novel, The Art of Mending, was quite good, but lacked that special magic in which I feel so connected to her characters and their emotional dilemmas. A Year of Pleasures will no doubtedly wind up in my Top Ten for 2005. (And it did!)

8 comments:

  1. Isn't it amazing how differently people can feel about the same book? I didn't much care for this one. Must be our experiences, outlook, or just the time period when we read the book. Who knows, but the concept interests me.

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  2. With a book club I read PULL OF THE MOON by Berg and didn't care for it too much. I will however venture into another one by her someday. What's your favorite?

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  3. Oops! I knew that! LOL Of course, THE YEAR OF PLEASURES is probably your favorite. :) Don't mind me...no coffee yet.

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  4. Booklogged - I've always been curious about why one person would love a book and another despise it - especially when the two people usually share similar reading tastes. I do agree with what you say - I truly believe the enjoyment of a book depends so much on what is going on in one's life and what has been experienced prior to reading a particular book. So many of the books I tend to love have a character I'd either like to be more like or has experienced similar events in their life as I. But not always. Sometimes a book is just so beautifully written yet has absolutely nothing that resonates with my personal experiences. How's that for muddled reasoning? ;)

    Joy - Hmmm, that's a tough question. Maybe Talk Before Sleep because it's the first I read of hers. I've enjoyed almost all her books; some more than others, but overall, she's one I can depend on and I wind up buying her latest release that day it hits the shelves (unless I get very lucky and recieve an ARC from a friend). Speaking of which, there's a new one coming out this winter. It's called The Handmaid and the Carpenter and it lays down on November 7th!!

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  5. I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Berg's, sometimes I finish her books in one sitting. Have you had a chance to read We Are All Welcome Here yet?

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  6. I was a bit meh on this book. I have enjoyed some of her other books a lot more and I guess I didn't feel very connected to this one. But, I definitely agree with you on the way she can describe the simple things and make them so real and inviting.

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  7. Kristen - Yes, I did read it. You can find it by either typing the title in at the top of my Blog header and click on "search this blog" or just go to the archives. I reviewed it on April 28th. I, too, can gulp down Berg's books, but I try desperately to read her books slowly since I know I'll have to wait a while before her next release.

    Iliana - And I didn't feel a strong connection to We Are All Welcome Here as I have some of her other books. That one had to be my biggest disappointment of Berg's. I sure hope she hasn't lost her touch!

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  8. I'll have to look for this one and try to dig up a copy of Talk Before Sleep at the library. I had a copy but it got soaked in our recent flood, darn it. It figures that one's your favorite! I hated throwing it away because it sounded so good!

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