Rescued from the Back Shelf: Sigrid Nunez’s The Last of Her Kind

9781429944977
I’ve had a copy of this book for over a decade without once reading a single word it contains.  About time for a rescue mission, wouldn’t you say?

Are you sometimes surprised, dear reader, at what you actually discover when you start browsing among the peaks and vales of your very own TBR mountain?  I’m not referring to that discarded tea cup that went missing a year ago, or the scrap of paper on which you’d written all the passwords to your various online accounts, or even (gasp! ) to the odd little bit of multi-legged organic life (you see, I hold nothing back).  I’m referring, of course, to books!  Notable books from yesteryear’s “best of” and prize lists!  Sales books that were so attractively priced they demanded to be taken home!  Serendipitous books rewarding an afternoon’s ramble in musty old secondhand shops and elbowing others at crowded library book sales!  Impulse books (this category speaks for itself) and books acquired with an eye to impressing your visitors!  Books that you were hot to read after a particularly glowing review by one of you naughty bloggers (names are unnecessary — you know who you are) but that you never actually read because you lost interest before your hard-to-locate copy arrived!  “Mystery” books whose reasons for being on your shelves is now a conundrum that will never be solved!  This “discovery phenomenon” (my own term, for lack of a better) no doubt mystifies organized readers but for book hoarders such as myself, well, let’s say it happens on a fairly regular basis.  This was particularly true in 2020-2021, a period in which I’ve done a massive amount of  packing, repacking, unpacking, shelving and reshelving of massive quantities of books.  Since I’m past the point of embarrassment in this regard (I reached this milestone the first time I repurchased a replacement copy of a book I’d previously discarded), I’ve decided to share my discoveries in “Rescued from the Back Shelf” reviews, which I’ll post every now and then as the spirit moves me.  On the theory that anything I’ve not touched in three years badly needs rescuing, I’ll limit these reviews to books that I haven’t read within three years of the time I acquired them.

As the needle-witted (I adore Georgette Heyer’s use of Regency slang) among you have no doubt concluded by now, my inaugural “Rescued from the Back Shelf” review is Sigrid Nunez’s The Last of Her Kind, which was first published in 2006.  Although I can’t remember the exact details, I had certainly acquired a paperback copy of the novel no later than 2010.  Doing so seemed a good idea at the time.  Nunez, while not as famous as she subsequently became (she didn’t win a National Book Award until many years later), already possessed a substantial literary reputation.  The novel’s reviews were good to excellent and the story seemed atmospheric and character-driven, two things that always heavily influence my reading choices.  On the minus side, however, the novel centered on the 1960s counter culture and its aftermath, a period that’s never particularly attracted me as a setting (how many student radicals and drug trips can you read about in one life time?).  I was also somewhat daunted by its length (almost four hundred pages) which meant a sizable time commitment; as well as several critics who thought the plot rambled a bit.  The claim by at least one reviewer that Last stood “the American Dream” on its head didn’t help; since I’ve always been very resistant to novels about the American Dream (whatever that is), I was logically a little hesitant to embrace any topsy-turvy version of it.  So you see, dear reader, the pros and cons for giving shelf room to this novel were rather evenly balanced.  Although it’s impossible to say with any certainty at this point in time, a combination of impulse and greed most likely tipped the scales, i.e., my local Barnes & Noble had probably placed it on a “3 books for the price of 2” table, which was always located strategically near the check-out line.

In the years that Last subsequently sat on my book shelves, I’d occasionally consider actually reading it, but invariably other, newer and more attractive candidates for reading time claimed my attention (besides, after seven or eight years I thought Last was probably too dated to be anything more than a period piece).  Since the book had been gathering dust for over a decade, it was a logical if heart-rending decision to get rid of it during last year’s ruthless, pre-move cull of my books.  Of course, I only did so after I had put an electronic version on my kindle in case I had any second thoughts!  As fate would have it, during one of those dreadful dry spells between books, I was recently marooned in a medical waiting room, frantically scrolling through my kindle searching for something, anything to read, saw Last for the umpteenth time on the menu and, in the same spirit in which I chose the name of my blog, thought “what the heck!  I might as well read this since I’ve nothing better to do.”  At this point in my narrative, commonsense suggests I should leave you dangling, dear readers, as an incentive for you to finish reading my post.  I’m so enthusiastic about this book, however, that I want to share the good news immediately.  The Last of Her Kind is a wonderful, absorbing, well written and very topical novel.  It says much, and nothing good, about my literary judgment that it too me so long to get around to reading it.

The novel, which is divided into seven sections and spans a period of approximately thirty years, centers on the very different lives and the intense but uneasy relationship between Georgette George and Dooley Ann Drayton, two women who meet in the late 1960s when they are assigned as freshman roommates at Barnard College, an elite women’s school in New York City.  The episodic structure of the novel reminded me in many respects of time lapse photography, as the considerable time lapses between sections produces what are almost snapshots of each woman’s life at a particular point in time.  There are additional chronological shifts within each section, which give additional information about the characters, how each arrived at that particular juncture in her life and what’s going on in the world around her.  This last is an important point; despite the heavy marketing emphasis on the relationship between the two women, anyone expecting this to be a straight “female friendship” read will be disappointed.  Although I may be alone in this view, I regard Last as an almost sociological novel in the 19th century mold; like the novels of Dickens, Eliot and Trollope, Last says as much about contemporary society as it does about the exploits of its characters.  Nunez tells her story retrospectively through the eyes of a middle-aged Georgette/George (at various times of her life she goes by either and her character is as mutable as her name).  George is the primary point of view character and the first person narrator for most of the novel, which is an informal journal that George is compiling to be read, if at all, by her children after she’s gone (narrating events long after they occurred George freely admits that time may have altered or erased her memory of the facts).  Although George is the story-teller, however, the story largely belongs to Ann, who quickly drops her given name “Dooley” for reasons I’ll explain below.  While George’s consciousness shapes the narration, and determines what facts we do or don’t learn, it is Ann who propels the narration and it is the mystery of her character that keeps the reader hooked until the end.

The two first meet in the fall of 1968, “the year of Tet, the year of the highest number of American casualties in Vietnam,” of the Prague Spring, the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Dr. King, the My Lai massacre and the bloody battle between police and demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  The youth revolt of the 1960s was well underway, at least at elite schools such as Barnard (it would be two years before the Ohio National Guard gunned down students at Kent State).  Nunez does a wonderful job of conveying the dangerous and heady atmosphere of those times.  There’s hardly a significant counter culture event of 1960s America that the novel misses, particularly in the first two and longest of its sections.  Woodstock; Altamont; the music and drug scenes; the increasingly radical student political movement; free love and the clinics dispensing free birth control; the fashions; the first stirrings of the Women’s Liberation movement; the growing student hostility towards police and parental authority — well, it’s all pretty much there in varying degrees.  With a lesser writer this could have been a confused hodgepodge or a boring list of the era’s events  (“Weather Underground?  check.  Acid trips?  check.  Student protests?  Check.  Visit to the free clinic?”  I’m sure you get the idea).  But this is Nunez, with the technical skill and observational powers to bring the era to life.  Yes, the novel is stuffed with events, and dramatic ones at that, but the cities will soon be burning in this watershed era that reshaped many of the country’s cultural norms.

The story that begins in the Barnard College of 1968 subsequently expands to encompass much of the social upheaval of the contemporary American scene.  In 1968, however, George and Ann are simply two new roommates meeting for the first time in a little room in the girls’ dorm.  George (she’s George rather than Georgette during her college days) is a daughter of the underclass hailing from

Upstate:  a small town way up north, near the Canadian border.  Jack Frost country, winter eight months of the year. Oh, those days before the globe had warmed, what winters we had then, what snows.  Drifts halfway up the telephone poles, buried fences, buried cars, roofs caving in under all that weight.  Moneyless.  A world of failing factories and disappearing farms, where much of the best business went to bars.  People drank and drank to keep their bodies warm, their brains numb. * * * Whole families drank themselves to disgrace, to criminal mischief, to early death. * * * Statistically not a high crime area, but a world of everyday brutality:  bar brawls, battered wives . . . acts of violent cruelty even among children. * * *  The savage world of the North Country poor.

To complete this dismal picture, George’s father disappeared early (a blessing, really, as he was displaying far too much interest in  his pubescent daughter’s physical development); her overworked mother vacillates between indifference and extreme physical violence; one battered sister runs away at the age of fourteen; an older brother returns from Viet Nam addicted to drugs and alcohol; and the two youngest siblings are farmed out to relatives when the family goes on welfare.  George, in short, is only at college through luck, a scholarship and brains and does not possess the upperclass background of a typical Barnard girl.

Miss Dooley Ann Dalton of Connecticut, by contrast, is a golden child of the American aristocracy, gifted with money, lineage and great natural ability.  For many generations her father’s family has owned and operated a surgical supply business and owns valuable medical patents as well; her mother’s family are even older and more distinguished if less financially successful (“Dooley” is a surname of her mother’s family, former owners of many southern plantations and their enslaved workers).  While “Daddy” runs the family business and “Mummy” gives parties providing fodder for the local press, little Dooley Ann wins national essay contests, skips grades in school, writes a children’s book that will be illustrated by an artist friend of her family (and subsequently published) and is even cast as a bit player in a film, thanks to a famous movie director who’s another family friend (he has a summer house adjacent to her family’s on Martha’s Vineyard).  She is also becoming slowing, steadily and irrevocably estranged from her family and her privileged background.  Nunez is very skillful at depicting how that occurs; what sticks in my mind is a scene where Mummy uses role-playing to teach little Dooley the proper way to behave to the family’s servants (“Now let’s say you want to tell Retta [the family’s housekeeper] you’re having friends over after school and you’d like her to bake some brownies.”).  Dooley, who doesn’t realize what’s going on, is heartbroken and humiliated when she gives orders to the family’s housekeeper in “Mummy’s voice” and sees the look of recognition in the woman’s eyes; Dooley “will never forgive herself for playing her mother, for not seeing through the game.”  Long before she arrives at Barnard, Dooley has become “Ann” (using Dooley, a name associated with slave owners was “out of the question”) and is totally estranged from her parents, whom she now addresses as “Sophie” and “Turner.”  Ann knows, despises and rejects every aspect of her parents’ world; she is “capable of loving only what was different from herself.”  She sells her expensive new “college wardrobe” (selected by her mother and envied by George), gives the money to charity and embraces the radical politics then dominating the Barnard campus.  Ann is regarded by her own class and race as a traitor, and is also rejected as an arrogant and ignorant outsider by Barnard’s Black students and the disadvantaged whom she tries to help.  It is a pattern that will repeat itself throughout her life.

At this point, gentle reader, I imagine that you’re asking yourself, “hasn’t this been done before? Two young protagonists from dissimilar backgrounds, learning from their differences and bonding over common experiences, providing a lesson to us all?”  While the theme of ill-assorted companions is admittedly a common one in literature, it’s rare indeed to see it used so skillfully to expose the almost unbridgeable class divides in American culture.  Nunez has an astonishing eye for class differences.  For all her efforts to embrace and achieve a new order of society Ann is both clueless and condescending with respect to the lives of others who have grown up under far less privileged conditions.  Although she treats George with kindness, for example, Ann seems to regard her as more of a “type” than an individual.  Totally oblivious of the implications, she informs George early in their relationship that she had specifically requested a roommate “from a world as different as possible from her own” and was disappointed on finding that George wasn’t Black.  George’s reaction, other than rage, is a resolve to keep her distance, answer questions with silence or lies and thus force Ann “to find someone else to play out her fantasies.”  It never occurs to Ann that the material advantages rejected by herself could be desired by less fortunate others.  With respect to George, Nunez’s eye for class is even more unerring.  George has internalized the idea of failure and her first reaction to any challenge is that success is beyond her reach.  An outstanding student who won a scholarship to one of the country’s most prestigious schools, George literally becomes unable to speak in her classes because of “her fear of not belonging, of not speaking the same language as everyone else.”

For entirely different reasons, both women drop out of school at the end of their sophomore year.  George goes to work as a secretary at a fashionable woman’s magazine and begins to work her way up the masthead.  Ann moves into a communal apartment in Harlem and falls in love with an African-American poet and school teacher who’s also a former campus revolutionary.  The fragile bridge that she and George have built over the chasm of class fails to hold and the two become completely estranged.  One of the novel’s plot arcs is whether they will be able to reconnect and, if so, on what basis.  As George later muses:

I believe you have to reach a certain age before you understand how much life really is like a novel, with patterns and leitmotifs and turning points, and guns that must go off and people who must return before the ending.

After that, dear reader, can there be any doubt on this issue?  How this re-connection is accomplished, however, and the form that it takes, may very well be different from what you’d expect based on the novel’s beginnings.

My fear that the novel would prove too much of a period piece disappeared about halfway through, with the occurrence of an act of violence as topical as an account from this morning’s news.  This act will drastically alter the lives of both women and expand the novel’s scope to include issues of racial justice, political activism and the morality of a penal system in which Lady Justice unfairly tilts the scales against certain offenders.  The story of unequal friendship that began in the little college dorm room has morphed into a powerful examination of American society’s fault lines.

Despite the impression that I fear I’ve conveyed, Last is far from being an unrelentingly grim novel.  George is a wry and cynical narrator with few illusions about her world, but who nevertheless views life with a sense of humor and a surprising amount of charity.  I particularly enjoyed her stint at Visage, a woman’s magazine similar to the ones I devoured at a certain period in my life, replete with makeovers (“We thought Georgette’s long-haired waif look needed an update”), cosmetic tips, recipes for that “Candlelight Dinner for Two” and the occasional serious interview or poem by W.H. Auden.  Even the novel’s darkest aspects are (with one exception) redeemed by humor and a sense of shared humanity.

As I noted near the beginning of this over-long ramble, the mystery (and power) of Ann’s personality provides much of the force and credibility in this powerful novel.  Is Ann a crackpot or a secular saint?  Do her good deeds actually benefit or harm others?  Her rigidity and unwavering values undoubtedly damage herself and arguably others as well; her inability to imagine life through someone else’s eyes does much to wreck her friendship with George.  Ann is a cause of discomfort and a source of irritation to many of those around her.  Yet to a few (a former teacher; George;  a defense attorney; a prison inmate serving a life sentence for a double murder) she’s an unforgettable figure whose touch has altered their lives.  Although Nunez, like the good novelist she is, provides room for each reader to develop his own ideas on this point, she also gives plenty of hints in the form of literary allusions to guide any interpretation of Ann’s character.  The novel is replete with references to The Great Gatsby, who, like Ann, stubornly clung to a perhaps mistaken idealism; Like Gatsby’s Nick Carraway, George both yearns after Ann’s idealism and serves as witness to Ann’s life.  Another character in the novel compares Ann to Simone Weil and George herself sees a likeness between Ann and the Saint Teresa described by Eliot in her prelude to Middlemarch (although Nunez does not make this explicit, I also thought Ann was at least superficially similar to Middlemarch‘s Dorothea Brooks, the rich young lady who came to ill through her desire to do good in the world).

Like any lengthy novel with an episodic structure, particularly one dealing with multiple characters and several major themes, The Last of Her Kind can justly be criticized for sprawling a bit at times.  Since I enjoyed the sprawl, I wasn’t unduly troubled by this feature.  I was admittedly slightly impatient with the section concerning George’s runaway flower child sister who is seriously fixated on Mick Jagger, but even here I consoled myself with the hilarious (if a trifle too long) fan letter she writes to Sir Mick.  My only serious criticism concerns the relatively short section that relates Ann’s affair with the main love of her life.  Although it’s as well written as the rest of the novel, I thought the object of her affections (while psychologically believable) introduced an overly dramatic and unnecessary twist to the plot.

Although there’s a great deal more I could say about this work, I’ll take pity on myself as well as you and will conclude.  If anyone’s read The Last of Her Kind, I’d love to hear your reaction.

26 thoughts on “Rescued from the Back Shelf: Sigrid Nunez’s The Last of Her Kind

  1. I haven’t read the novel, but your review is great. I read my first Nunez just recently–her memoir about Susan Sontag, which I quite liked–and I’ve been curious to try something more substantial of hers. Sounds like a candidate!

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    1. Hi Reese! I’m glad you enjoyed the review, I was honestly amazed that I liked the book so much, as I expected nothing (there was a reason it sat on the shelf for a decade!); even after the first few pages, which I liked, I STILL almost went on to something else. But it just hooked me in; maybe I’m more nostalgic for that period than I like to admit? (I hope not). I really does remind me of those big 19th century novels where the author gives you “a slice of life” (i.e., a sense of the whole culture) against which you see the actions of the characters.
      This was my first Nunez novel but won’t be my last. It’s very nice to have some feedback on the Susan Sontag memoir, which I was just looking at; it seemed interesting but I tend to stay away from memoirs (maybe next year I’ll make a real effort with this genre). The next logical candidate for a Nunez read would be her NBA winner, The Friend, but I’m afraid the dog dies in the end or something bad happens!!! (I’m a regular profile in courage, aren’t I? But I have to be careful about books with animals). I’m thinking either Naked Sleeper or A Feather on the Breath of God.

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      1. I was reading a bunch of Sontag things last fall, including the recent biography, so the Nunez fit into that. It was completely enjoyable and not very long, but it probably did help that I was interested in Sontag at that point. (I’m not much of a memoir person either.) And it did leave me thinking that she might be a writer who was worth looking into for her own stuff, which made this very timely!

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  2. You know, it’s funny. I had never heard of Nunez until a couple of years ago, maybe around the time of the paperback release of The Friend, and now she seems to be cropping up everywhere, largely with very positive reviews. Having never read her, I can’t offer any opinions on the book, but my interest in her work in general has definitely been piqued…

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  3. Hi Jacqui: I’m just up for the day and getting ready to pop over and start reading blogs, yours very much included!
    Isn’t it odd how you suddenly start noticing a previously unknown author? That’s happened to me a couple of times, usually with very good authors. One day you’ve not heard of them, or only vaguely and the next — pop! You’ve read a review, a blog post or there’s a new book being published.
    Because I had Last of her Kind sitting on the shelf, I was vaguely aware of Nunez’s existence, so her name had a familiar ring with she won the National Book Award. That was about it, however. After Last she’s on my “worth checking out list,” so I’ll definitely read at least one more novel, not sure which . . . .

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  4. Sounds like quite a read, and although i’m familiar with the author’s name, I know nothing about her books really. It’s a good idea for a project, that’s for sure – I have so many books which deserve to be rescued from my back shelves!!!

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  5. Like you, I really didn’t know anything about Nunez’s work — I was vaguely familiar with her name, knew her reviews were good and that she’d won the National Book Award for a novel that I had no interest in reading. I’ve now spent a little time looking at what she’s published and can see why Last ending up as a shelf warmer; the subjects Nunez has chosen aren’t quite what I’d chose to read about. It speaks volumes for how good Last was that I liked it despite the subject. It really was a tremendous read. It also made me make some uncomfortable connections between events in the 1960s and current developments, such as Black Lives Matter. Definitely worthwhile in content, incredibly well done and tremendously readable but — maybe it’s now time for some Dean Street Press or an anodyne read by dear Anthony (Trollope, that is).

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  6. This sounds like a great read at long last rescued from the TBR! I have managed to keep mine in acquisition order and am being careful about how much I acquire; when we moved house 15 years ago I made a list of the order and packed that box myself so it stayed good! However my Kindle TBR is another story altogether and there is much that languishes there, esp as I originally put books into categories but haven’t done that for about a decade! Once I’ve conquered Mt NetGalley, maybe that will be my next mini challenge!

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  7. Hi Liz! I admire your system for manging Mount TBR, but it’s one that would work only for those with organized minds (and a fair amount of self-discipline!) For those unfortunates such as myself, with the attention span of a flea and all the self-control of a rambunctious three-year old in a toy, well …… As for contents of the (very) old kindle, my heavens, I wouldn’t know where to start! I’ll eagerly keep an eye on your blog, so if you do come up with a system I’ll hastily “appropriate” it (lol).
    It really IS amazing, isn’t it, the contents of those back shelves? One trend I’m noticing in my case are backlists of favorite authors. I will say that I’m loyal and, if I like a writer, I tend to want to read EVERYTHING s/he has written, which is sometimes a mistake (often, there’s a reason why a writer’s work didn’t take off until that that third or fourth novel!). Right now I’ve several novels by Esther Freud, Barabara Trapido, Susannah Moore and Valerie Martin that need rescuing but since they’re all competing with some very recent and excitting acquisitions, rescue may be a trifle delayed!

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  8. It’s too long since I read this to be able to comment in detail, though I did admire the breadth of your understanding of the book. I like your comparison to 19th c sociological novels, which hadn’t occurred to me at all – isn’t it interesting that it’s much harder to see that with contemporary works than with those of the past? Ann is a fascinating character, but I found the harsh, clean lines of her personality blurred by the sheer mass of detail – I would have liked a tighter book but it would have been a different one. I was reminded of Alissa in Gide’s The Strait Gate, although Alissa is a more extreme character and not at all anchored in the world.
    I hope you do read The Friend. It’s my favourite of all her books – and don’t worry about the dog.

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    1. Hi Gert! So nice that a fellow-Nunez lover stopped by! I’m glad you liked my comparison to those 19th century “slice of life” novels; it’s an aspect of this novel that both makes it rewarding and challenging at the same time. Rewarding, because it makes the story so real, challenging because, as you note, certain things such as Ann’s personality become a bit blurred by the details.
      I must confess, to my shame, that I haven’t read anything by Gide (there are some pretty big gaps in my reading). Now I’m positively agog to check out The Strait Gate.
      I’ve heard, and read, great things about The Friend. Thanks so much for the assurance that I need not worry about the dog. Removing that concern really, really ups the odds that I’ll read it!

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  9. What a pleasure to read your posts again. The excitement is palpable. I knew you had loved the book, and this rescued book and how you talk about books, I don’t tire of reading about you and hope you don’t tire of writing about it when inspiration hits.

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    1. Silvia: thanks for the kind words & glad you enjoyed the post. I did indeed enjoy this book very much, probably because I didn’t expect to (hype can be quite harmful, I think, at times by over-inflating readers’ expectations). I have been reading ABOUT Nunez for several years now, without actually reading anything she’s written. After this novel, however, I’m ready to tackle her backlist, at least in theory!
      I have changed my opinion of DDDM quite drastically, practically in the last few years, largely as a result of reading the many reviews of her work on various book blogs. I’m saving a re-readd of Rebecca for one of those stormy, moody autumnal days when I have an afternoon free of distractions . . . .

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  10. Super interesting, this title that has also changed your view of DDM (I have read three of her titles, Rebecca, The King’s General, Jamaica Inn, and I enjoy her, but your review of this novel is making me see her in a new light.)

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  11. There are books in my TBR that have been there for longer than 20 years now, biding their time. Occasionally I will read one and think why didn’t I read this sooner? Not all books acquired so long ago are now worth reading though, as my tastes have changed and I’ve grown as a reader.

    I’ve read Nunez’s latest two novels. Cried buckets over The Friend which I loved, and enjoyed What Are You Going Through, but didn’t find it different enough to The Friend. I would like to read this one – I’m a child of the 60s, and will read nearly anything set therein. Loved your extensive review.

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    1. Annabel: so glad you enjoyed the review! I really must read “The Friend,” which many think is Nunez’s strongest, particularly as I’ve been assured nothing horrible happens (I’m pretty sensitive on animal issues). If you like the 60s, I’d definitely put “Last of Her Kind” well up on the TBR list. Nunez captures the times perfectly — it’s almost as though a modern day Thackeray was protraying the decade, with a keen eye to its foibles. It’s practically a snapshot of the times.
      Isn’t it amazing to find what’s lurking on the back shelf? You make a very good point regarding how we outgrow certain works that have lingered a bit too long. I had almost consigned “Last of Her Kind” to this category (at this point, the 60s are pretty distant!) until I started reading a few pages preparatory to discarding it. So glad I didn’t — discard it, I mean! Aside from everything else, it’s a great character study of a Dorothea Brooks-like character (Nunez makes the Middlemarch comparison herself, at one point), with a great supporting cast and, believe it or not, lots of humor in spots.

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  12. Thank you Janakay for an extremely enjoyable post and excellent review. You are so very witty and smart. 😀

    I often wish I had kept a list of books I purchased; when, where and WHY. Sometimes I can recall that so and so recommended it or that was the time I was in X city and browsing an interesting second hand shop, etc. But very often, especially now that I am older and my memory isn’t what it once was, I am flummoxed as to how a book came to be on my shelf. Two copies of “Hotel de Dream” by Edmund White? TWO? How did that happen? I actually read it FINALLY this year and didn’t even like it. But for every disappointment, there are more often joys in shelf discovery, as your post underscores.

    I read Nunez’s “The Friend” a couple of years ago and my socks remained firmly on my feet. It was sort of what I am beginning to recognize as a “flaneur” novel; it ambles and meanders; occasionally it shines as it philosophizes but ultimately I find them enjoyable in the moment but easy to forget. I think this comes down to plot. As we have discussed before, I need more narrative than other readers to make a book stick in my brain. Otherwise, it slips down through the sieve and down the drain of my gray matter. But “The Last of Her Kind” sounds like it has plenty of story for me to hang my hat on.

    I will also confirm what Gert Loveday states above, if you want to read “The Friend”, you don’t need to worry. Other than unhappiness at being separated from his human, nothing terrible happens to the Great Dane.

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    1. Hi Ruthiella! So glad you dropped by and thanks so much for the lovely compliment! I’m happy you enjoyed the review, particularly as I really didn’t intend to write it. This book had just been sitting around for so long, and I really expected nothing from it, as I had mentally consigned it to being a period piece, that I think I was positively shocked to enjoy it so much and felt compelled to spread the good news. Isn’t it nice when a surprise turns out to be a pleasant one, particularly as those groaning shelves of mine undoubtedly have more than a few “opps, why did I buy that” duds?
      Speaking of which, I really laughed about your two copies of Edmund White’s “Hotel de Dream,” particularly as I discarded something by him during my Great Book Purge last year. It really IS amazing, what ends up on those shelves, isn’t it? I always tend to be overly optimistic about my energy and ability to read difficult works, so I’ve a fair number of tomes gathering dust (I have not one, but TWO Proust translations. I’m convinced I’ll read them both. One day). Of course, reading book blogs has greatly exacerbated my tendency to accumulate books.
      I love your concept of a “flaneur” novel (sure wish I’d thought of that!). Although “Last” does ramble (if fact, I might even categorize it as a pseudo-flaneur work) I think it does have enough plot to keep you involved. If you’re interested in the 60s, well — that’s a double plus. As I lived through those very fraught times, I probably have less interest in the period than most, but even so I found Nunez’s fictional account very griping. I was particularly taken with her portray of class in American culture, which one seldom sees acknowledged, much less dealt with (having had a brief stint at an Ivy — I felt so displaced I dropped off after a few weeks — I can testify that Nunez is spot on here).
      Thanks for confirming that nothing awful happens to the dog in Nunez’s The Friend. Your assurance, and Gert’s, make it much more likely I’ll read it!

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    1. I really, really must read The Friend, particularly as I have received assurances that nothing horrible happens to the dog (I was traumized as a child by Old Yeller. Black Beauty was another toughie, despite a happy ending). I have a copy of Salvation City and ambitions to try it, but … I’ll probably just read The Friend instead!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t like my To Be Read bookcase at the moment – it’s a hotchpot of things including books I probably won’t read. I want my TBR bookcase to be laden with books I am itching to start – even if it may be years until I get to them. I need to completely reorganise my books, I can see that and get rid of quite a few, which are really only there to fill in the shelves, but I am still waiting for our books to arrive here. When we got an update a few weeks ago, it had been a whole year since they were picked up and they hadn’t even left Europe yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. How frustrating about your books–it must be driving you nuts. I really can’t imagine the trauma of doing without them so long.
    I think everyone’s TBR needs a good shake-out every now & then. Mine came last year, when I did my long distance move. I will say that it was emotionally shattering to get rid of stuff but then I’m a third (at least) generation pack rat. Mom, granny & maternal cousin went for odd bits of dishes and tchotchkes (after all, you never know when you might need another coffee mug, shaped like an ear of corn and inscribed “souvenir of Iowa”). My form of the maternal sickness centers on books! So far it’s o.k., expensive but o.k., as I actually have adequate shelves for the first time in my life. I think, however, I need to go to simply keeping a running list of titles, dipping into it when appropriate.
    Speaking of shelves, I hope your own shelf project turned out to your satisfaction!

    Like

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