Books I've Read Lately:
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Teatime for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
Teatime for the Traditionally Built is another of those lovable books about the Number One Ladies Detective Agency run by Precious Ramotswe in Botswana. Precious takes a very leisurely approach to her work, but it all gets done.
Wicked I thought was going to be about the nature of good and evil as represented by the Wicked Witch of the West for Frank L Baum's Wizard of OZ series. I've only read The Wizard of Oz, and that was long ago so I couldn't make too many comparisons. In Wicked, the green witch is given a background and a history. Mostly she tries to do good and it all goes wrong and in the end she is quite mad and is happily sewing roc wings onto her monkeys, a thing she would have abhorred in her youth when she was an Animal (as opposed to mere animals - small 'a') rights activist, without the least thought as to what the monkeys, never mind the rocs, might be feeling about it. The best thing about the book is its presentation of Gilda, the good witch, as just the sort of person who would have worn that ridiculous dress in the Judy Garland musical.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami has another character, Watanabe, trying to contend in a world full of things beyond his control. In this case, the thing usually beyond his control is mental illness in the people around him. Early, in his high school years, he had a crush on his best friend's girl friend. At the time, it seemed to him that the trio were only animated when his friend, Kizuki, was with them. Kizuki commits suicide. Years later, he meets Naoko again. During the course of their ensuing friendship, she mentions that her boyfriend had only seemed really animated when Watanabe was there. While developing his friendship with Naoko, Watanabe meets and is pursued by Midori, another young woman with her own problems.
Norwegian Wood is one of those books where the story is slight, but oddly engaging. It's very easy to just let yourself go with the flow of it.