Oh, hooray! I finally finished a book! I’ve been reading some long ones lately, and it hasn’t helped that I have all those other activities and distractions going on. Speaking of distractions, Cathy J. gave me some fascinating used books and magazines passed along by her daughter. When I sent this photo on to Anita, she squealed via text. Cathy also sent along a VERY 1970s decorating book that may well be my next review.
Oh, Wait, This Is a Book Report
Anyway, the book for this month’s book club is Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (what a mouthful). It’s by Casey Cep, a young woman with a mighty big talent for writing complex plots that you can still follow. Heck, it’s so complex that it’s hard to say what kind of book it is.
It’s almost like a few books all gathered together into one. There’s a crime story involving the black community in a small Alabama town, full of innuendo, unsolved deaths, and much drama. There’s a biography of the author, Harper Lee, including her childhood friendship with Truman Capote and her difficulties writing after To Kill a Mockingbird was published. There are also at least two other biographies hiding in the book, Willie Maxwell and “Big” Tom Radly). And then there’s a book on how to write “true crime” books, including how to do the research, interview people, and ferret out the facts.
The cast of characters in Furious Hours is legion. You meet practically everyone in the small Alabama town and the surrounding area from regular citizens to the law officers and politicians. You meet everyone Harper Lee was ever close to in all her travels and adventures, including, of course, all her colleagues in publishing. And you meet people who have insight into all the above.
I’m usually one of those people who has to write down all the characters in books, so I can keep them straight (I was so glad the book Homegoing had a family tree with names and relationships in it). But Casey Cep made the people in the book come alive so well (and she included subtle reminders of who people were), that I followed all the people as they came into the book, left, and came back again years later.
The person you don’t don’t get to meet in this book is Casey Cep, who prefers to let her words tell you about her. She’s the one who impressed me the most. Her research was impeccable, as far as I could tell, and she carefully clarified any time something she wrote about was not verifiable or when she got conflicting information from sources. That sure made the book more interesting to me!
There’s so much to this book that I wonder if Cep, like Harper Lee, only has one magnum opus in her. I hope not, though. Her reportage is clear, quick-moving, and a lot of fun. It’s amazing that this was her first book!
The Physical Book
I’d like to say a few words about the book, itself. You have probably noticed that I like to read physical books, rather than listening to them or reading on a screen. It’s probably something to do with the age I grew up in, but it’s also because books are a sensory experience to me.
I also like to read hardback books. I KNOW that’s because they were such a luxury when I was young. All we had were the encyclopedias and a lot of paperbacks (Mom read romance novels). I loved her Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, though, because they were hardbacks. (However, I didn’t like the “condensed” parts once I read some of the full versions of books.) I wonder what happened to those books?
Back to my topic, Furious Hours is over 300 pages, so it’s a substantial hardback book. It’s great that there are photos of some of the people and places in the book, too.
However, the book drove me nuts as I was reading it. Why? Well, the pages are really thick. I always felt like I must have been turning two pages instead of one. Second, the book just would not open all the way. I even tried to smoosh it down in a few places, but nope, it would not open wide. If you loosened your grip on it, it would pop shut. I’m sure it’s a good quality and will last a long time, but it sure was hard to read! I did like the quality of the paper on the cover, though. It felt good.
I find it interesting that I kept turning from this book to a large paperback I’m also reading, called Behave. I just love the way that book feels. It opens up so I can read it, the pages feel good, a blend of smooth and a little texture, and there are lots and lots of words on the pages, so I don’t have to turn them so often. (I will say, though, that if you don’t have really good glasses, you’ll have a heck of a time with its footnotes, which are in 6 point type, I swear.)
Should You Read It?
In summary: for a fascinating time learning about crazy crimes and Harper Lee, go out and get a paperback version of Furious Hours! Thanks to Anita for selecting it for our neighborhood book club.