Over the weekend I read two short novels:
The first was The Photograph by Penelope Lively. Interestingly enough, I recall that this was the first book I'd ever heard of by Lively, but somehow I only just now got around to reading it. Here's the synopsis from Amazon: "Penelope Lively’s latest masterpiece opens with a snapshot: Kath, before her death, at an unknown gathering, holding hands with a man who is not her husband. The photograph is in an envelope marked DON’T OPEN—DESTROY. But Kath’s husband does not heed the warning, embarking on a journey of discovery that reveals a tight web of secrets—within marriages, between sisters, and at the heart of an affair. Kath, with her mesmerizing looks and casual ways, moves like a ghost through the memories of everyone who knew her—and a portrait emerges of a woman whose life cannot be understood without plumbing the emotional depths of the people she touched." Lively is a very engaging writer and a genius at creating believable characters; unfortunately, we never fully get to know Kath, although it's made very clear that no one (with the possible exception of one character) ever really knew her. She's long gone, and we are left to piece together who this person was from the recollections of all those she left behind. This was not my favorite Lively book, but I think anything she's written is definitely worth reading.
Next up was That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay, which was absolutely delightful. It tells the story of Eve Petworth and Jackson Cooper, both divorced and looking down the barrel of turning fifty. Eve lives in England, where she doesn't do much of anything but putter about her beautiful country home, gardening, cooking, occasionally volunteering, and dealing with her daughter, who is suffering much more from the loss of Eve's mother than Eve herself. Jack is an American novelist who has written a popular series of books about a smart private investigator who loves to cook (think: Spenser). Eve writes a letter to Jack in praise of a particular line in one of his books that captured her fancy, and they begin a correspondence, mostly about food and cooking, but also, as it turns out, about Life. This is not groundbreaking territory by any means, but it's a charming book, with great warmth and humor. I loved the writing, and the ending was pitch-perfect.