Welcome back to my recap of the books I’ve read this summer! Last week I discussed the best non-fiction books I discovered, and this week, it’s time for fiction. Before I dive in, let me note that I reread C. S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces this summer, and it’s easily my favorite fiction book. However, it deserves it’s own separate post, so I didn’t include it on this list.
My Favorite Fiction Books
- Entwined ~ Heather Dixon
Summary: A retelling of the twelve dancing princesses fairy tale.
What I liked about it: First of all, the twelve dancing princesses is my favorite fairy tale, hands down. Second of all, I adored the family theme that had a prominent place in the story. Watching the girls deal with the loss of their mother and struggling with their feelings toward their father, and watching him learn how to be a father—oh, it was beautiful. Thirdly, I enjoyed the fact that the male protagonists were not perfect. Each had their eccentricities, which made it both humorous and endearingly realistic. And lastly, the balance between darkness and humor was well done. It is a bit darker, or more scary, than other versions of this fairy tale (such as Jessica Day George’s Princess at the Midnight Ball), but there is still plenty of laughter and light.
What I didn’t like: That it was too short? Honestly, it was all very well done.
Quote: Because family. Also, as an oldest child, I could relate to Azalea in many ways, including here.
“You’ll take care of your sisters, and your father? Your whole family? Will you promise, Azalea?”
… “He … doesn’t need anyone,” she mumbled. “He said—he said he couldn’t abide—”
“That was when he needed you more than ever,” said Mother. “And he needs you now. He needs all of you. Please, Azalea. Please promise me.”
Azalea looked into Mother’s eyes, which shone with tears. Something pricked in Azalea’s heart. She remembered all the times she had lashed out at the King with scathing words. How she had taken the oath with burning anger in her chest, and how she had danced out of sheer stubbornness. And now it was her fault that the Keeper would—
Azalea pressed her hands tightly around the handkerchief and clenched her jaw. Her eyes blazed, but not with temper.
“Yes,” she said. “I will. My whole family. I’ll set things right. I promise.”
2. Once Beyond a Time ~ Ann Tatlock
Summary: The tale of how a house that is outside of time helps heal a family struggling from a father’s affair and a son’s disappearance.
What I liked about it: I love this genre—it was a mix of historical fiction (the story takes place in 1968) and fantasy (the ability to travel to different times). I’ve never read anything quite like it. I was impressed that each person in the family had a distinctive voice, even though the first person was used for each. Watching each character search for healing in their lives and discovering how it all fit together as a part of the bigger story was a treat. Most of all, I loved the message of healing, hope, forgiveness, and the God Who lives in an “Eternal Now.” So often, Christian fantasy and fiction is cheesy and preachy, but in this case, the theology and morals felt completely natural. None of the characters were perfect, which was refreshing, but they each grew and learned. It was beautiful to watch.
What I didn’t like: Again, there wasn’t much to not like. One warning is that the father has an affair. It is not depicted (the story is the aftermath of this event) or described graphically, but younger readers may be bothered by the mentioning of it.
“Aren’t you afraid? You and your wife have a child together. Aren’t you afraid of losing her?”
“Yes. Of course I am. I pray she’ll come home.”
“How do you live with it, then?”
H presses his hands together and lifts them to his mouth in thought. Finally he says, “I know that God is with her. Or, if she is killed, I know she will be with God. Either way, God is there. That’s how I live with it. Otherwise, I couldn’t.”
God is with her, or she is with God.
I nod thoughtfully. He turns back to his machine and goes on reading.
3. The Picture of Dorian Gray ~ Oscar Wilde
Summary: What happens when Dorian Gray, an innocent young man with wonderful good looks and a fascinating personality, beholds his portrait and impulsively wishes that it would grow old while he stays young forever.
What I liked about it: First off, Wilde is a fantastic writer. I love his style—his descriptions are fresh and beautiful, for instance. More importantly, the story itself grabbed me. It’s such a fascinating idea—what if your soul was connected to a painting? What if it grew old when you didn’t? What would happen? I also loved the exploration in art and how it is connected to the artist. It is an eerie, tragic book, but it made me think, shook me from my complacency, and challenged me to view art, sin, and life in a whole new way. And lastly, the ending. I did not see it coming, but it was perfect. Shocking and sobering and perfect.
What I didn’t like about it: It is, as I said, creepy at points. It is certainly not a pick-me-up. There is one particularly gruesome scene and another where Dorian goes to an opium den. However, while I did not necessarily enjoy these aspects, they were essential to the story and drove home the point more powerfully.
“The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect. There is a should in each one of us. I know it.”
Now, I’m eager to know: What fiction books did you read and enjoy (or not enjoy!) this summer? Do tell!