BookBrowse Highlights

It's turning into a very long week so I hope that this issue of BookBrowse Highlights will provide you with a few moments of diversion. Personally, I'm trying to stay distracted by reading Jane Harper's new novel, The Survivors (due out in February) and working on the results of our "Book Clubs in Lockdown" survey that closed recently; we hope to be able to bring you the findings around the end of November.

Our Editor's Choice review this week looks at the most recent novel from acclaimed National Book Award-winning author Sigrid Nunez: What Are You Going Through examines serious questions of mortality in a refreshingly quirky and non-linear style. The accompanying "beyond the book" article features the fascinating French philosopher Simone Weil.

Be sure to check out some other recent articles in our "People, Eras & Events" category as well.

Plus, the latest book news and a new Wordplay!

Very best,
Editor's Choice
What Are You Going Through
by Sigrid Nunez

Shortly into What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez, it becomes clear that the narrator is unreliable or, at the very least, absentminded; she has misled the reader by failing to mention a significant connection she has to another character. What additional details might she be withholding? This question becomes less consequential as the book winds on. The unnamed main character may conceal facts and approach the stories of others with marked bias, but what she shares soon begins to feel more important than what she doesn't, and the limits of her subjectivity begin to seem like the point.

If the novel is about any one thing, it is the narrator's experience of becoming involved in the end-of-life plans of a friend who has terminal cancer, but there are many detours along this main path. Like Nunez's National Book Award-winning novel The FriendWhat Are You Going Through opts out of linear storytelling and follows the whims and quirks of its primary character's mind, sometimes striking out on tangents within tangents in a style that bears similarities to that of Rachel Cusk's Outline trilogy. Just as secondary characters work to reveal the primary one, tangential preoccupations ranging from gender politics to aging and beauty to climate change eventually form the shape of what remains to be addressed: the probing question of how to exist in the midst of death — how to witness the death of a friend, the death of the planet — while still living life with any sense of purpose. ... continued
Beyond the Book: Simone Weil
What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez takes its title from the writing of Simone Weil, an influential French philosopher and intellectual whose work was unusual for incorporating both left-leaning politics and religious traditions.

Weil was born in Paris on February 3, 1909 to agnostic Jewish parents. Her family was well-off and educated; her father practiced medicine and her older brother, Andre, would become a famous mathematician. At a young age, she began to adopt strong moral convictions; when she was five, she refused to consume sugar as a way of showing solidarity with the French troops fighting on the Western Front. She attended Lycée Henry-IV (a highly selective French secondary school), where she was taught by the philosopher Émile Chartier.

Weil went on to study philosophy at the prestigious French graduate school École Normale Supérieure. She earned first place in the Exam for General Philosophy and Logic with a paper on the work of Descartes, beating out fellow student and future well-known author Simone de Beauvoir, who took second. ... continued
Riverhead Books. Novel. 224 pages. Published Sep 8, 2020
BookBrowse Rating: 5/5, Critics' Consensus: 4.6/5
Review and article by Elisabeth Cook
More Recent "People, Eras & Events" Articles

  • The Luddite Protests
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  • The United East India Company
  • The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane
  • The Fusil Gras (Wujigra) in Ethiopia
  • The Johnson-Jeffries Riots
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Solve our Wordplay puzzle to reveal a well-known expression, and be entered to win the book of your choice or a 6-month membership to BookBrowse!

"I Y N P O T Solution, Y P O T P"
The answer to the last Wordplay: I I M B T Give T T R

"It is more blessed to give than to receive"

(When drawing the winner of this Wordplay we also accepted variations on "It is much better to give than to receive.")

Meaning: The spiritual benefits of unselfishness outweigh material possessions

Although the concept is clearly at the heart of much of Jesus's teaching, he is not recorded as having used this expression in any of the four gospels in the New Testament (nor, to the best of our knowledge, in any of the other surviving contemporaneous gospels that were not accepted into the biblical canon.) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lists a number of people who are considered unfortunate and names them blessed (the meek, the merciful and the peacemakers, to name three) but he does not address those who give. ... continued
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Published every Thursday, BookBrowse Highlights is one of BookBrowse's four free newsletters. We also publish Publishing This Week every Sunday; and Book Club News and Librarian News monthly.
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