Sunday, January 3, 2021

2021 - Book #1 - Sleepless Nights; Elizabeth Hardwick

TITLE/AUTHOR: Sleepless NightsElizabeth Hardwick

PUBLISHER: New York Review Book Classics

YEAR PUBLISHED: 1979 (reprint - 2001)

GENRE: Fiction (partially autobiographical) 

FORMAT: print/trade paperback PP/LENGTH: 128 pp.

SOURCE: my shelves/purchased

SETTING(s): US: Kentucky, NY, Maine, Vermont, CT and Europe


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: An elderly woman writes the story of her life through memories.


BRIEF REVIEW: My first book of 2021, just 128 pages, was not the kind of story I'm normally drawn to, but it was one that I enjoyed reading.  It was written by the author when she was 63 years old and is partially autobiographical.

Intro paragraph --"It is JUNE.  This is what I have decided to do with my life just now.  I will do this work of transformed and even distorted memory and lead this life, the one that I am leading today.  Every morning the blue clock and the crocheted bedspread with its pink and blue and gray squares and diamonds.  How nice it is--this production of a broken old woman in a squalid nursing home.  The niceness and the squalor and sorrow in an apathetic battle--that is what I see.  More beautiful is the table with the telephone, the books and magazines, the Times at the door, the birdsong of rough, grinding trucks in the street."

From her Kentucky childhood, one of nine children to grad school at Columbia in NY we get a feel for the old smoky jazz clubs  of NY and long gone hotels of years passed. Traveling to her large summer home in Maine and to stays in Boston, Vermont, Connecticut and Europe we follow her life, her friends, her experiences in an unsentimental sort of way.  

The story is very visual, the writing excellent, it almost had a dreamlike quality at times. Although the writing style was a bit unconventional, it felt all the more personal to me, like I was an old friend that she was reliving her past experiences with.  I'm happy I started the New Years with this book from my shelves. -- quite, reflective, memorable.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars


MEMORABLE QUOTES: 

"Darwin wrote someplace that suffering of the lower animals throughout time was more than he could bear to think of."

" Divorces and separation - that is one way to get attention. Everyone examines their own state and some say: strange, they were much happier than we are."

On deciding to sell her large home in Maine ----"For the rest of loss, perhaps my memories betray me a little and bleach the darkness of the scene, the agitation of the evenings. I am aware as anyone of the appeal, the power of the negative. Well, we go from one graven image to the next and, say what you will, each house is a shine."

18 comments:

  1. It's fun when you can relate to an old friend!

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  2. The quotes you gave us show the beautiful writing. I would say this is a fortunate beginning to your 2021 reading!

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  3. I've never heard of this book and probably wouldn't have added it to my TBR, but I enjoy unconventional, excellent writing :)

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  4. I think we all hope that our first book of a new year is going to be special...sounds like yours was. Congrats.

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  5. This sounds good, I may get a copy!

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  6. Don't you just love it when your first read of the year is so great? Hope the rest continue as well. I've not read any of her books before but I really like the sound of this one.

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  7. This sounds like something I would really like.

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  8. Glad you had a nice first book of the year. :)

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  9. Sounds like a good one to start the year! Let's hope for many more great ones in 2021.

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  10. It sounds like a good start for the new year.
    All the very best for the New Year

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  11. This writer has had an interesting life full of travels. I bet her book is a good read.

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  12. How interesting. I don't recall ever having heard of this book, but it definitely sounds like one I would enjoy reading.

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  13. Your year is off to a good start! Haven't heard of this one, but it sounds good.

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  14. I'm hoping 63 years old is not *too* elderly ha. This one sounds like a good one to start the year with!

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  15. I love it when the unexpected book ends up being very enjoyable. This does sound very good and reminds me, at least in outward themes, of Summer in Tiffany.

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  16. I've never come across this one but it sounds like a good one to start the year off with. I love a quiet reflective book - especially if it comes along at just the right time.

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  17. Thank you for sharing those quotes! I'm curious about this book, which sounds like a winner. I've never heard of it or the author.

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  18. I have heard about this book for ages but haven't read it. Thank you!

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